November 2009 Dashboard: 10th Anniverary of US Hybrid Market

For November, we offer an abbreviated version of our Hybrid Market Dashboard. The full dashboard, with geo-based data, will return in December.

The first 19 sales of the original Honda Insight were posted in December 1999. Therefore, November 2009 marks the completion of a full decade of hybrid sales in the United States. Ten years into the market, there are now 1.55 million gas-electric vehicles on US roads, according to our tally.

November 2009 hybrid sales were 2.8 percent of the overall car market, reflecting the technology’s struggle to rise above 3 percent and into the mainstream. Yet, hybrids are well positioned to return to a healthy rate of growth—after being knocked down in the past year, along with the rest of the car market. For the most part, hybrids have fared better than the overall market, although in November, there was a decline of 18.3 percent compared to October. The overall car market saw a smaller decline of 10.8 percent. (Some of the declines can be explained by the fact that there were only 23 selling days in November.)

Still, through November, hybrids are up 21 percent compared to this time last year, while the overall market is essentially flat.

What’s Next?

As we embark upon the beginning of the second decade of US hybrids, certain patterns are evident.

Toyota and the Prius continue to dominate. The “take rate” for the Toyota Highlander Hybrid has been consistently at about 10 percent. Toyota will add more hybrid models, and continue to increase the percentage of hybrid sales of mainstream models such as Camry and Highlander.

Ford appears to be on the rise, with great reviews and steady sales for the Ford Fusion Hybrid. In November, the company bypassed Honda to become the country’s second biggest seller of hybrids. Honda, on the other hand, is struggling with its hybrid program. The new Honda Insight was priced too high to truly become “an affordably hybrid for everyone” and never become a contender for Toyota Prius customers. Instead, the Insight is cannibalizing Civic Hybrid sales, which are 50 percent lower for the year compared to 2008. With more small hybrids, such as the Fit Hybrid and CR-Z hybrid, in the works, the company might have a problem with too many small similarly priced hybrid models.

As evidenced by November numbers, mainstream relatively affordable sedans and small SUVs are the consistent hybrid winners. Luxury models, large SUVs and pickups have been non-starters, which is unfortunately for BMW and Mercedes who are finally arriving to the hybrid party with very expensive, large and powerful vehicles. We don’t yet have a hybrid minivan or a subcompact.

Excitement about plug-in hybrids and electric cars will grab headlines in 2010, while sales will be minimal—focused almost exclusively on enthusiast early adopters. Meanwhile, for automakers who offer them, practical and affordable hybrid sedans and small SUVs will experience more significant growth—and start to make real inroads into the mainstream as the overall auto market recovers in 2010.

November 2009 Hybrid Car Sales Numbers

Hybrids sold in the US (November 2009): 20,003

US hybrid sales for November 2009

Model Units vs. last month vs. November 2008 CYTD vs. CYTD 2008
Prius 9,617 -28.7% 11.1% 127,907 -15.3%
Insight 1,403 -19.3% n/a 18,933 n/a
RX450h 1,210 -22.8% 93.9% 12,866 -6.3%
HS 250h 1,407 -7.9% n/a 4,719 n/a
Camry 1,465 4.1% -32.6% 21,374 -51.8%
Fusion 1,304 6.4% n/a 13,998 n/a
Escape 874 0.7% -26.2% 13,751 -14.9%
Highlander 722 3.1% -20.4% 10,057 -45.6%
Tahoe 241 -38.3% -40.2% 3,098 -0.3%
Altima 503 68.2% 42.5% 8,515 5.0%
Civic 243 1.7% -76.7% 14,648 -51.6%
Yukon 133 -38.3% -30.1% 1,695 -11.4%
Escalade 115 -38.3% -33.6 1,754 254%
Silverado 156 -6.6% n/a 1,319 n/a
Malibu 212 86.0% 8.7% 4,030 108.4%
Milan 97 -9.3% n/a 1,338 n/a
Mariner 86 6.2% -51.1% 1,572 -29.3%
Vue 134 139.3% -59.1% 2,470 -9.5%
GS450h 37 -5.1% -11.9% 415 -33.8%
Aura 29 -3.3% -35.6% 368 46.0%
LS600hL 15 -28.6% -59.5% 243 -73.9
All hybrids 20,003 -18.3% 21.0% 265,112 -10.6%
All vehicles 746,928 -10.8% -0.1% 9,399,078 -24.0%


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  • Anonymous

    Why is there no vouchers for hybrids ? Give $3000.00 for every hybrid. (30 MPG & UP) And eliminate the sales tax on all hybrid cars. Pay for it by a gas tax/oil import tariff.

  • Max Reid

    In Japan, Honda is able to sell around 10,000 Insights evey month. Probably its because Japanese govt is giving some tax rebates on hybrids.

    Insight is just taking away the sales of Civic-Hybrid which costs 2K more and its cargo space is much lesser.

    Surely Honda should reduce the cost of Insight and that will boost its sales. GM & Ford can also offer a hybrid hatchback the same size as Prius.

    GS450h and LS600hL sells very little and Toyota may very well drop those models.

    Prius could not sell more as they sell most of the models in Japan itself. Only when the battery supply increases, Toyota could produce more Prius and bring it to USA.

    Its good as long as they sell somewhere.
    Vue and Aura is gone.

    Yes, having sold 1.55 million hybrids in USA is great.
    As the gas prices increases, hybrid sales could increase as well.

    Its time, automakers drop the gas guzzling hybrids like Tahoe, LS600h etc and concentrate on smaller hybrids like Prius.

  • Anonymous

    Max, I agree. Hybrid or not, a guzzler is a guzzler. Toyota (LS600h) and GM (Escalade) alike, stop making vehicles just for the sake of calling them hybrids.

  • Max Reid

    Well, in this 10 years, not only the hybrid sales have increased, but also the CNG vehicle population has increased from 1 million to 10 million and the flex-fuel vehicles from 1 million to 15 million.

    Parellely, the wind and solar energy usage have increased 10 fold. All these alternative sources have complemented one another and Hybrids lead the charge.

    Hope the next 10 years will see even bigger development with many more Hybrid models entering the market.

  • AC

    Toyota to Sell Plug-In Hybrid in 2011.

    The plug-in Prius would be the first from Toyota to use the powerful lithium-ion battery already used by many of its rivals. The car travels 23.4 kilometers, or 14.5 miles, as an electric vehicle on a single charge before a regular gas-electric hybrid system kicks in. It gets an overall mileage of 57 kilometers a liter, or 134 miles per gallon — exceeding the Prius’s 38 kilometers a liter, according to Toyota.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/business/global/15toyota.html?hp