November 2010 Dashboard: Most Popular Hybrids Support Entire Market

As we reported a few days ago, hybrid car sales made a slight increase in November compared to a year ago—while the overall auto market jumped by nearly 17 percent. Yet, the real story of the current hybrid market points to the success or failure of individual models, rather than a wholesale evaluation of the technology.

Despite relatively low gas prices and a weak economy—in which consumers are reluctant to spend on extras—the four most popular hybrid models have performed well. The Toyota Prius, Honda Insight, Ford Fusion Hybrid and Lexus RX450h all showed healthy gains compared to last November, and have held their own throughout 2010. Add the Honda CR-Z—which has not been a critical success but has earned sales and loyal customers—to produce a field of successful models.

Meanwhile, hybrid versions of the Toyota Camry, Toyota Highlander, Ford Escape, and Honda Civic have been disappointing. These models are all down between 25 percent and 56 percent in total 2010 sales compared to last year. The additional long list of also-ran hybrids from General Motors, Lexus and BMW have never been big sellers and remain stagnant. Given the drain from that lower majority of hybrid models, the fact that overall hybrid sales are up 2.7 percent for the year shows how popular hybrids models can thrive, even when consumers are not focused on fuel economy.

The situation for diesel-powered cars is different. Nearly all diesel models are significantly up for November compared to a year ago, and have shown solid gains throughout 2010. Diesel sales in 2010 through November are up 40 percent compared to this time a year ago. Again, individual vehicle attributes matter. It just so happens that diesel models are mostly German, luxury, stylish, and fuel-efficient—which have proven to be attractive to consumers in 2010. One diesel model in particular, the Volkswagen Jetta, has found exactly the right formula of cost and benefit, and continues to carry most of the weight for diesels.

So, until gas prices make a run (as they are threatening to do this week), it appears that shoppers are not buying hybrids for hybrids sake. They will evaluate each model just like any other car: for its design, performance, comfort, and overall value. Carmakers beware: it’s not enough to slap on a hybrid badge; it needs to be a great car at a great price. That bodes well for certain models—the upcoming Hyundai Sonata Hybrid comes to mind—and not for many others.

The market for alternative-powered fuel-efficient vehicles is poised for growth in 2011. Even in ho-hum 2010, combined hybrid and clean diesel sales reached 3.5 percent of the market. When the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt hit the market—along with more conventional hybrids—sales of these electrified vehicles could head to 5 percent. And that’s before increased fuel economy regulation begin; before Toyota and Volkswagen in particular begin rolling out a slew of new hybrid models; and before plug-in cars come out in significant numbers.

November 2010 Hybrid Car Sales Numbers

Hybrids sold in the US (November 2010): 20,858
Hybrid Take-Rate: 2.39%

US hybrid sales for November 2010

Model Units vs. last month vs. November 2009 CYTD vs. CYTD 2009
Toyota Prius 10,224 -12.8% 6.3% 125,289 -2.0%
Honda Insight 1,536 -21.8% 9.5% 19,325 2.1%
Ford Fusion 1,396 -15.8% 7.1% 19,328 38.1%
Lexus RX450h 1,293 -7.8% 6.9% 13,578 5.5%
Honda CR-Z 1,024 -27.8% n/a 4,373 n/a
Toyota Camry 983 -17.7% -32.9% 13,356 -37.5%
Lexus HS 250h 788 -0.5% -44.0% 9,542 102.2%
Ford Escape 764 -0.1% -12.6% 10,305 -25.1%
Toyota Highlander 722 -4.5% 0.0% 6,507 -35.3%
Honda Civic 612 -7.6% 151.9% 6,430 -56.1%
Altima 434 -2.0% -13.7% 6,098 -28.4%
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid 392 n/a n/a 768 n/a
Mercury Milan 190 19.5% 95.9% 1,135 -15.2%
Cadillac Escalade 79 -14.1% -26.9% 1,079 -44.2%
Chevy Tahoe 69 4.5% -71.0% 1,301 -56.4%
Mercedes S400 39 -65.8% -84.4% 913 121.1%
Chevy Silverado 38 -89.4% -52.5% 1,757 101.0%
GMC Yukon 65 -25.3% -54.5% 1,100 -32.6%
GMC Sierra 59 78.8% -22.4% 478 7.4%
Mercury Mariner 50 13.6% -41.9% 795 -49.4%
Mazda Tribute 46 -31.3% 35.3% 607 -36.0%
Lexus GS450h 18 -37.9% -51.4% 275 -33.7%
Lexus LS600hL 13 44.4% -13.3% 112 -53.9%
BMW ActivHybrid 7 8 33.3% n/a 76 n/a
BMW X6 9 n/a n/a 242 n/a
Chevy Malibu 7 16.7% -96.7% 400 -90.1%
Saturn Aura 0 n/a -100.0% 50 -86.4%
Mercedes ML450 0 -100.0% -100.0 765 3377.3%
All hybrids 20,858 -13.9% 2.7% 246,033 -7.7%
All vehicles 873,323 -8.1% 16.9% 10,444,044 11.1%

November 2010 Clean Diesel Car Sales Numbers

Clean Diesels sold in the US (November 2010): 7,268
Diesel Take-Rate: 0.83%

US clean diesel sales for November 2010

Model Units vs. last month vs. November 2009 CYTD vs. CYTD 2009
Volkswagen Jetta 3,544 -21.2% 7.1% 40,382 13.2%
BMW X5 770 2.8% 2.8% 7,123 106.2%
Audi A3 539 86.5% 217.1% 3,213 1609.0
Audi Q7 457 59.2% 97.8% 2,990 65.8%
Volkswagen Golf 445 -6.5% 111.9 5,037 1445.1%
Mercedes GL320 362 2.3% 63.8% 3,186 37.2%
BMW 335d 358 32.1% 24.3% 3,377 161.8%
Mercedes E320 284 25.1% 816.1% 622 -48.2%
Mercedes ML320 218 -26.6% 44.4% 2,354 -17.1%
Jeep Cherokee 220 13.4% 254.8% 1,437 55.4%
VW Touareg 47 -48.4% -68.5% 1,403 56.4%
Mercedes R320 24 -35.1% 14.3% 326 -2.7%
All clean diesels 7,268 -7.2% 30.0% 71,450 39.4%
All vehicles 873,323 -8.1% 16.9% 10,444,044 11.1%


View Past Dashboards:
  • Max Reid

    Looks at this guys.
    Prius sold 297,563 units in Japan from Jan-Nov this year. And it sold 21,400 in November in Japan taking the top position for 18th straight month. If they sell another 3,000 it will overtake Corolla record of highest sale / year set in 1990.

    http://www.autonews.com/article/20101207/BLOG06/101209853/-1

    Coming to US market, I believe that with Prius (Package I) and Insight (Base model), the sales should increase next year along with Lexus CT200h.

    Still Honda could launch 4-seater version of CR-Z. Meanwhile Civic is phased out in Japan along with Hybrid. So what happens to Civic Hybrid here is in question.

  • Anonymous

    So nearly 420,000 Prius is sold in Japan & USA this year so far.
    Also it seems 35,000 units were sold in Europe from Jan-Sep 2010.
    So 455,000 + we sold so far this year.
    http://www.reliableplant.com/Read/26882/Toyota-worldwide-Prius-sales

    It may fall short of 500,000, still its a great track record.
    Honda could repeat the same with Insight if they cut the price by $2K instead of tinkering with unwanted models like CR-Z (which hardly sold) and Civic-H (which will anyway be phased out in Japan).

    If the gas prices increase, many of the gas guzzling Hybrids with V8 engines may fall by the wayside while those with V4 engines like Prius, Insight, Fusion, Escape may increase.

  • Anonymous

    Gas prices are $2.95 / gallon, it may even exceed $3.2 by spring.

    I dont think many customers will jump into hybrids, since hybrids are also expensive.

    So why not every automaker produce 1 model with V4 engine as 5-seater hatchback just like Prius and price it at less than 20K. This could slowly become their bread & butter machine while it brings an affordable car for the masses.

    Investing in bigger vehicles like LS600h, GS450h, ML450, X6 will not bring their ROI since the sales of these vehicles are so low as you can see from the above table.

  • Charles

    Anonymous, I think Ford and Chevy are going to be close to your suggestion with the new Ford Focus and Chevy Cruze. The Eco version of the Cruze is rated at 28/42MPG and Ford has hinted at 30/40 MPG for the Focus. For some stupid reason the Cruze is only going to be a sedan in the US. So a hatchback Focus with an I4 engine should come close to your request.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    Gas prices dictate hybrid sales. Let’s not kid ourselves. Put a floor of $5 per gallon in this country and watch what happens….

    MrEnergyCzar

  • Yegor

    Who is going to be the second greenest automaker this year?
    Will Ford finally be able to beat one of the most prominent with history of decades of fuel efficiency the famous Honda?
    Year to date:
    Ford: 19,328 + 10,305 + 768 = 30,401
    Honda: 19,325 + 4,373 + 6,430 = 30,128

  • Yegor

    This year Hybrids took a blow from the new gasoline technology – “direct injection” – it can be almost as efficient as diesel.
    Let us compare
    Ford Escape Hybrid 34/31 MPG at $29,900
    Toyota Highlander 28/28 MPG at $37,290
    and
    Chevrolet Equinox 22/32 MPG at only $22,745

    Chevrolet Equinox is much bigger than Escape but has better highway fuel efficiency!
    Chevrolet Equinox is almost as big as Toyota Highlander, has almost the same fuel efficiency but $15,000 less!
    Not a wonder that Escape and Highlander sales down by 25% and 35% respectively while Equinox sales are up by 73% to a whooping 127,215!

    “direct injection” production is going to grow and hopefully next year make its way into Hybrids – then Hybrids sales will catch up.

  • Charles

    Yegor a small correction, you left out the Mercury sales:

    Ford: 19,328 + 10,305 + 768 + 1135 + 795 = 32,331
    Honda: 19,325 + 4,373 + 6,430 = 30,128

    You may want to add the Mazda Tribute at 607 to the Ford total (32,938). After all Ford makes it for Mazda.

    I do think that Ford is picking up sales from the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima hybrids. As the Fusion has beat both in many quality surveys and most real world and EPA MPG figures.

    As more hybrids enter the family sedan market, it will be interesting to see if the pie is split more ways or if the pie grows. I really hope it grows.

  • Anonymous

    Dear editor:

    ” the fact that overall hybrid sales are up 2.7 percent for the year shows “

    For the year? I think overall hybrid sales for the ‘year’ dropped 7.7%, didn’t it?

  • Yegor

    Charles,
    Thank you! You are right – I missed Mercury sales.

    In this case there is no way that Honda will catch up with Ford (unless Honda will offer something like $3,000 cash discounts) and Ford will finally beat Honda to the second greenest car maker place!

  • Anonymous

    @Charles:

    EPA rating for Cruze eco:-
    28 mpg city / 42 mpg highway (manual)
    26 mpg city / 37 mpg highway (automatic)

    Unfortunately, GM clearly miss the boat for 90% buyers who drive auto in the U.S., EPA 26/37 is nothing to brag about.

    BTW, Cruze eco is outragiously expensive, just build a 6 A/T base model at their web site, MSRP: $19,625.

  • Anonymous

    I think Mr Mulally and Messrs. Whitacre/Akerson (most of it prob. would have taken place before Akerson stepped in but anyway) should give a big hug to the President/U.S. government:
    Obama Administration buys a quarter of all hybrids sold by Ford, GM
    (http://green.autoblog.com/2010/11/24/obama-administration-buys-a-quarter-of-all-hybrids-sold-by-ford/).

  • Anonymous

    Too bad the U.S. taxpayers’ money is spent on buying foreign-made cars like Ford Fusion hybrid.

  • Anonymous

    “Honda could repeat the same with Insight if they cut the price by $2K instead of tinkering with unwanted models like CR-Z (which hardly sold) and Civic-H (which will anyway be phased out in Japan)”

    Eh? I think CR-Z sold almost 4,500 in a little more than three months’ time. At that rate, it seems it’s going to sell as many as Ford Fusion hybrid’s non-federal governmental sales.
    (There’s a poster above that said the U.S. government is buying one quarter of hybrids from Ford.)

  • Anonymous

    @Yegor,

    Hi. According to Edmunds:
    “Our main reservation concerns the 2LT’s elevated price, which pits the Equinox squarely against Toyota’s excellent four-cylinder Venza and Highlander models, as well as Subaru’s redesigned Outback. Heck, you can get a well-equipped Toyota RAV4 V6 Sport for less than this four-cylinder Equinox, and like the Highlander, the RAV has an available third-row seat. Even the base Equinox is a bit pricey, listing for about $1,200 more than an entry-level Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester. ”

    Doesn’t sound like it’s really as price competitive as you said.

    Furthermore,
    ” the power doesn’t really arrive until about 5,000 rpm, where a noticeable second wind kicks in. The six-speed automatic’s EPA-friendly programming results in premature upshifts and reluctant downshifts, even when “Eco” mode is not activated, and a heavy foot doesn’t mitigate these tendencies as much as we’d like. “

    It looks like GM has seriously compromised Equinox’s real world performance to maximize its EPA rating.

  • Yegor

    @Anonymous,

    Yes, I think that GM played a trick with EPA test. According fueleconomy.gov website people get out of Chevy Equinox 24.2 MPG on average. That is about the same what people get from the same size 4-cylinder Toyota Venza but Chevy Equinox rated 22/32 EPA MPG when Toyota Venza rated 21/28 EPA MPG only.

    EPA test needs to be improved to catch this kind of staff :(

  • Yegor

    Still people look at EPA sticker (not fueleconomy.gov) and this is what drives their decisions. That is why Chevy Equinox sales are so huge this year.

  • Anonymous

    Selling 4500 CR-Zs in 3 months is not a big deal. Handful of old CR-X enthusiasts bought this earlier and now its sales are declining. I bet Honda can never get ROI on the development of this model.

    Thats why I said that they better concentrate on Insight.
    The new base model Insight at 18.2K will steal all sales of CR-Z and Civic-H.

  • Max Reid

    Another silent trend is happening in the auto industry.

    Car based CUV sales are slowly increasing. All CUV sales are more than the sales of mid-size sedan segment.

    Its high time, price of Escape Hybrid is lowered to offer a better price to consumers. It will be better if Honda can launch Hybrid CR-V, since its the best selling CUV.

  • Jason Armstrong

    So YTD hybrid sales are down 7.7%, but weekly gasoline prices have been higher all year when compared to 2009 (a weekly average of 43 cents/gallon higher for regular Year to date through Dec. 13th that’s 18% higher YTD) and finally the author of this article believes lower sales have to do with the choices of and sales prices of hybrid vehicles rather than the cost of gasoline.

    I own a hybrid because it’s a wise economical decision for my situation, but I just don’t understand some of the commentary where it appears we have people actively cheering for higher gasoline prices? For what? So hybrid sales increase? We’re all worse off including the economy if gas prices are higher.

    Focus on the quality and economy of a hybrid rather than the sales volumes or dreams of and wishes for drastically higher gasoline prices.