June 2010 Dashboard: Economy and Low Gas Prices Take Toll on Hybrid Sales

Sales of hybrid cars fell by 17.5 percent in June, compared to one year ago, while the overall car market grew by more than 14 percent. With gas prices remaining low, consumers looking for a new car were not motivated to spend more money on a fuel-efficient car. At the same time, carmakers were apparently eager to put incentives on conventional models, but not to extend those offers to gas-electric cars.

Ford Fusion Hybrid

2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid

The comparison of June 2010 versus June 2009 underscores the importance of gas prices for greener fuel-efficient cars. A year ago, hybrids saw a bump in hybrid sales along with the usual rise in gas prices at the beginning of the summer. This year, gas prices actually fell. So, despite outrage over the Gulf Oil Spill—which is producing a stronger-than-ever desire for alternatives—consumers apparently are not willing to spend for green.

It all adds up to a fairly dismal scenario for 2010 hybrid sales. Halfway through the year, and we’re on track for the third straight year of declining hybrid sales—although the drop will probably be not as bad as the two previous years. Year-to-date sales stand at 130,000—up by 3 percent. But that’s not likely to last, because hybrid sales jumped with cash-for-clunkers in summer 2009. Clean diesel sales are still way up for the year, but the Jetta TDI was not immune to the economic conditions, with sales falling 18.5 percent compared to one year ago.

Even though the Ford Fusion Hybrid also fell by nearly 20 percent compared to May, it represents a bright spot and perhaps an indication of things to come. 2010 Fusion Hybrid sales are up by 85 percent for the year. Think of the Fusion Hybrid as the mainstreaming of hybrid technology into a popular model. That will develop into a trend as automakers prepare for higher fuel economy standards. To reach those higher MPG levels, which phase in starting in 2012, car companies will need to sell as many hybrids as possible, or face fines. As a result, accessible models, like the Honda Fit Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, or an entire family of Priuses—all in the works—might become very competitively priced, reducing the hybrid premium to perhaps a couple hundred dollars.

If that happens and gas prices jump back to $4 a gallon, hybrids could begin their projected rise to 7 or 8t percent of the market. In June, hybrids represented just 2.2 percent of overall sales. As long as gas prices are low, people are out of work, and the fuel economy mandates haven’t kicked in, hybrid sales are likely to remain lackluster. Time will tell how much impact these same conditions will have on the introduction of the first plug-in vehicles.

June 2010 Hybrid Car Sales Numbers

Hybrids sold in the US (June 2010): 21,679
Hybrid Take-Rate: 2.20%

US hybrid sales for June 2010

Model Units vs. last month vs. June 2009 CYTD vs. CYTD 2009
Toyota Prius 10,998 -22.8% -15.4% 66,039 18.5%
Ford Fusion 2,010 -19.1% -2.3% 10,008 85.0%
Honda Insight 1,491 -22.1% -28.3 10,257 36.3%
Lexus RX450h 1,304 -4.0% 147.4% 7,045 21.5%
Ford Escape 1,260 -3.2% -2.7% 6,121 -14.8%
Toyota Camry 1,097 -24.6% -47.3% 7,634 -41.3%
Toyota Highlander 611 -10.5% -44.4% 3,445 -45.8%
Lexus HS 250h 603 -55.7% n/a 6,492 n/a
Honda Civic 595 -17.0% -62.4% 3,111 -74.8%
Altima 479 -59.0% -28.1% 4,048 27.5%
Mercedes ML450 212 17.1% n/a 636 n/a
Chevy Tahoe 168 -30.3% -33.6% 913 -42.8%
GMC Yukon 132 -31.6% -5.0% 746 -15.8%
BMW X6 128 966.7% n/a 225 n/a
Mercury Mariner 100 23.5% -9.1% 504 -28.9%
Mercury Milan 93 22.4% -50.0% 517 -2.3%
Chevy Silverado 82 -72.6% -2.4% 717 126.9%
Cadillac Escalade 68 -48.1% -56.1% 634 -38.0%
Mercedes S400 63 -37.6% n/a 524 n/a
Mazda Tribute 55 9.8% -36.0% 318 -38.4%
GMC Sierra 38 0.0% -2.6% 246 84.4%
Chevy Malibu 36 -12.2% -92.6% 359 -86.4%
Lexus GS450h 22 -42.1% -18.5% 179 -13.9%
Saturn Vue 14 366.7% -94.1% 47 -96.9%
BMW ActiveHybrid 7 11 n/a n/a 18 n/a
Saturn Aura 5 n/a -91.1% 38 -80.0%
Lexus LS600hL 4 -50.0% -87.1% 52 -66.9%
All hybrids 21,679 -23.1% -17.5% 130,911 3.1%
All vehicles 983,738 -10.8% 14.4% 5,614,023 16.7%

June 2010 Clean Diesel Car Sales Numbers

Clean Diesels sold in the US (June 2010): 6,886
Diesel Take-Rate: 0.70%

US clean diesel sales for June 2010

n/a
Model Units vs. last month vs. June 2009 CYTD vs. CYTD 2009
Volkswagen Jetta 4,056 -6.7% -18.5% 19,682 17.5%
Volkswagen Golf 638 6.7% n/a 2,799 n/a
BMW X5 638 3.1% 194.0% 3,894 135.3%
BMW 335d 356 72.0% 304.5% 1,544 217.0%
Mercedes GL320 289 -7.1% 107.9% 1,496 13.0%
Audi A3 259 9.3% 1,546 n/a n/a
Audi Q7 246 12.3% 21.8% 1,300 61.5%
Mercedes ML320 226 2.7% -66.2% 1,011 -50.8%
Volkswagen Touareg 96 -19.3% -1.0% 909 341.3%
Jeep Cherokee 58 -10.8% -19.4% 509 10.2%
Mercedes R320 20 42.9% -70.1% 174 -34.3%
Mercedes E320 4 -20.0% -96.2% 46 -92.3%
All clean diesels 6,886 -1.1% 3.8% 34,910 41.9%
All vehicles 983,738 -10.8% 14.4% 5,614,023 16.7%


View Past Dashboards:
  • JamesDavis

    If you price the hybrids thousands of dollars more than the fossil fuel vehicles…of course sales are going to go down. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out, or if you build the hybrids so ugly that people will be embarrassed to be seen getting into them…sales are going to go down. If you do not provide the hybrid for people to buy…sales are going to go down. If you do not put them on the market, people are not going to buy them. You people sound as stupid as those old car dealership advertisements that use to plague the TV’s that always made you shake your head and walk away.

    You are playing the same old games GM played with the electric car almost 40 years ago. You are going to keep goofing around until foreign made hybrids and electrics are going to flood the market and you are going to be begging for tax payer dollars again to keep your ungrateful heads above water.

  • Anonymous

    i believe there is a conscious effort by big oil companies to keep the prices low in order to halt the anti-gas/hybrid movement… years ago any hint of oil supply problems are reasons for big oil to jack up the price and cash in at the pump. now we have an epic crisis at the gulf, yet prices of gas remains relatively unchanged.

    this notion is further supported by the fact in ontario canada, where gas prices saw an overnight 8 cent/L jump because of the new HST tax. gas prices are now hedged downward to almost pre-HST prices.

    one may attribute these lower prices to bad economy and lower demands. while this is one of the many factors, i’d suggest something more complex and cynical. the ability of big oil to control prices is well documented by opec actions. there is a price to be paid by this strategy of course… they are making few billions less here and there, which is really a drop in the bucket in the overall scheme of things when considering survival of the industry is at stake.

  • Charles

    The Fusion is a high spot only falling a small amount from June of 2009, but the other main stream cars (Camry and Altima) fell like a rock. To me this looks like the Fusion is capturing sales from the Camry and Altima. This would make sense, since the Fusion/Milans are rated at higher MPGs, and J. D. Power and Consumer Reports both like their reliability.

    My thought is that hybrid buyers are data driven. Hybrid owners want a reliable high MPG car. The Prius dominates because it is very reliable and has the best MPGs. The Fusion is starting to dominate the sedan market (please do not tell me the Prius hatchback is a sedan, it is not no mater what the EPA says) because it is very reliable and has the best MPGs in its class.

    A side note, in this months Consumer Reports the only family cars that had both excellent reliability and safety were the Fusion/Milans (4 cylinder, hybrids and 6 cylinder 2 wheel drive) and the Prius.

  • Bob Wilson

    I remain a fan of the Dashboard report but remain curious about the sort order of the hybrids. Once the June sales were sorted, a clustering became clear, three groups. The 10k Prius remains at top; a 1k group; a middle hundreds group; and at ~200 and below, the under performing group. Just a suggestion for future reports.

    One other hypothesis is we may be seeing in hybrid sales the harbinger of an economic slow-down and or loss of consumer confidence. This is not the type of news one wants to hear but facts and data don’t care.

    Bob Wilson
    Huntsville, AL

  • Old Man Crowder

    JamesDavis! Who peed on your Cheerios??

    Yes, hybrid sales are down, but can we not consider this a simple market cycle? Sales go up. Sales go down. This month, they’re down. Big deal.

    And if my Grade 3 math is correct, the ugly expensive Prius outsold all other hybrids combined.

  • DutchInChicago

    There are a lot of people who would normally buy a Prius who are holding out for a Volt or a Leaf right now. I know I am. I could explain some of the drop in sales.

  • Yegor

    Thank you very much for the numbers!
    Yes hybrid sales are a little bit down. It could mean nothing or indeed the economy is very bad so people are trying to save as much money as they could while the price of gas is relatively low.

  • Yegor

    Japan June sales are still going strong and far surpassing USA:
    Top sellers:
    Prius – 31,876
    Insight – 3,726
    CR-Z – 3,714

  • Invisible

    Well, Agent009 from autolies is stealing articles again.

  • Dom

    I said it last month and I’ll say it again… I find it extremely interesting to discover that the 2nd best selling so-called “green” car is not a hybrid, but the diesel Jetta, outselling Ford Fusion, 2 to 1 this month. Nothing against the Fusion, but I like the TDIs much more. Thanks again for adding clean diesel to this dashboard… I never had an interest in reading it before that…

  • Max Reid

    Yes – Fusion consistently outsells Camry & Altima despite being 1K + costlier. Its MPG is also much higher.

    Prius has sold 31K + in Japan capturing more than 10% of their market excluding minivehicle sales.

    There are 27 hybrid models listed above, but they could capture only 2.2 % of the market.

    While Prius alone captured nearly 1/2 of hybrid sales, Fusion, Insight and few other models could take atleast 1,000 + in sales.

    What the market needs is a Prius like smaller vehicle from Ford which could have 50 MPG.

    So Honda sold only 3,714 units of CR-Z in Japan. In US, they are launching the 2-seater version with 39 MPG. I dont think it will sell much.

    With Malibu, Vue & Aura – I think only the 2009 model inventory is being sold and by the end of this year, those 3 along with Mariner & Milan will be phased out. We dont know what is the direction of LS600h with 4 units being sold.

    All automakers should rethink their hybrid strategy.

  • Max Reid

    Toyota has sold 2.5 million hybrid vehicles. So all companies put together would have sold 3 million + hybrid vehicles. Great.

    Meanwhile the other AFVs like flexfuel, CNG & LPG vehicles have crossed 40 million + worldwide.

    Expect AFVs to take a bigger bite of the gasolene / diesel market.

  • W-Lloyd

    I am certain that if the 1993 Geo Metro XFI, 1970′s Honda Civic, or the 1980′s Chevy Sprint all of which attained over 50mpg were to be placed back in the market, they would dominate sales. They were all priced at the low end. Granted these are small cars, but in Europe they have cars that approach and attain 50mpg and they are much bigger than those.

    What happened to the Volkswagen 100mpg car? Would be a top seller today. It was also low end, and it burned clean diesel. This was just about 10 years ago.

  • Robert A.

    Thanks for posting these interesting reports & info! I’ve pulled together a bunch of the data and plotted it in a way I think makes it much easier to ‘grok’, and wanted to share the graph:

    http://robslink.com/SAS/democd47/hybrids.htm

    You can click on he bar segments (or the legend color-chips) to drilldown, and click the month number directly below the bars to go to that month’s hybridcars.com report!

  • Max Reid

    W-Lloyd

    Those vehicles of 1990′s were not only smaller, but also light weight and does not have so much emission controls, such vehicles are there in China today.

    Anyway, these Hybrids & Diesels sell only in few 1000′s. But the Flexfuel vehicles which run on E85, there are 8 million in USA.

    Unfortunately the fuel is expensive and so many dont care to buy it.

  • Yegor

    Robert A.,
    Nice graphs, thanks.

  • James Hea

    The BP Gulf crisis points to the fact that the price of gas does not reflect the true cost of delivering fossil fuel to our gas tanks. The cost of pollution, environmental damage, etc. needs to be reflected in the price at the pump. The government needs to establish a floor price of a barrel of oil so that industry can justify its investments in alternative energy transportation. The floor price should reflect the real costs of consumption or at least match the European prices where fuel economy is so far ahead of North America’s.

    There are talks of peak oil. That we’ve reached it or that it’s coming soon. When that reality finally hits, then we’ll all be moaning why didn’t the government do more, etc. We need to step up and demand alternate energy solutions in our transportation. Until then, the oil producing companies will continue to play us like puppets by up and lowering the price of oil until we’re completely desensitized and addicted.

  • Jason Armstrong

    Robert A., Thanks for the graphs. Have you thought of using line graphs in addition to the bar graphs?

    James Hea, As you discuss , the latest trend in “green” energy rhetoric is how pollution, environmental damage, health problems, the oil gusher, etc are not included in the product price we pay at the pump or the price we pay for electricity for that matter. These effects are known as externalities and they exist in EVERY industry. They are nothing more than the risks of using a particular product, in this case gasoline. Society in general has accepted these risks for the benefits of personal freedom, independence and mobility as well as low-cost transportation of goods that cheap gasoline/diesel provides. Having the government artificially set a price floor (via a tax mechanism) will only hurt the economy and individual freedom. Allowing the market for energy products to work without damaging government intervention is the best solution.

  • Max Reid

    Robert A – Thanks for the graphs.

    I still recall the month when 45,000 hybrids were sold. Automakers bumped up the prices of hybrids and their sales were low.

    Anyway on the other side, nearly 12 million Natgas vehicles were used worldwide. There is much faster growth in this sector.