October 2008 Dashboard: Hybrid Sales Up, Despite Economy

in partnership with Polk

Hybrids Worldwide

"Top 5 global hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations CYTD August 2008.

and "Top 5 US hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations CYTD August 2008.

Last month, total sales of cars and trucks fell to 838,592 units, a 32 percent decline from October 2007. With sales hitting levels not seen since the early-1980s recession, the industry is in serious trouble.

All three domestic automakers now face potential cash crises in 2009, and even traditionally strong players like Toyota and BMW are reporting staggering drops in sales and profits. Despite the challenging sales environment, hybrid sales were up slightly from September. In October, 21,978 hybrids were sold in the US—that’s 2.6 percent of total vehicle sales. But hybrids are not immune from the industry downturn: sales have dropped 10 percent from last year, and many models—including the Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid—have seen declines of more than 20 percent.

As the industry strains to cope with lower consumer demand, hybrids face two threats. The first is reduced consumer interest in the face of lower gasoline prices. In October, Edmunds.com, a leading automotive website, reported that hybrid interest had fallen 86 percent since the summer, driven largely by the fall in gasoline prices. By the end of October, the average gas price in the United States was $2.72, nearly a dollar less per gallon than in September. Certainly there are more reasons to buy a hybrid than just the fuel savings, but mainstream consumers’ interest in hybrid technology tends to rise and fall with gas prices. At the moment, interest is low, making it harder for automakers to justify increasing production volumes in the near-term.

The second threat hybrids face is reduced investment by automakers. Currently the Detroit Three are operating in survival mode. Not only are they distracted by their financial issues, they are also actively cutting investment in vehicle programs and R&D efforts. While they insist this cost-cutting will not impact high-profile products such as the Chevrolet Volt, we are already seeing hybrid casualties. Last month, Chrysler announced it would remove its large SUVs, the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango, from its product lineup. Gone too are the hybrid versions, which just began production in August and have yet to reach dealers’ lots. Surely Chrysler would have liked to have preserved its only hybrid offerings, if for no other reason than the positive PR value these vehicles bring. But auto companies are now forced into making hard choices that may include delaying or eliminating some advanced vehicles.

US Sales

Our information is based on hybrid sales as reported by the manufacturers. For each model, this month’s sales are shown compared to sales in the previous month and at the same time last year. We also examine hybrid market share by model and manufacturer. The historical sales graph for top-selling hybrid models shows estimated 2008 volumes based on sales-to-date.

Hybrids sold in the U.S. (October 2008): 21,978

US hybrid sales for October 2008

Model Units vs. last month vs. October 2007 CYTD vs. CYTD 2007
Prius 11,804 8.6% 10.3% 142,365 -5.3%
Camry 2,792 0.3% -20.5% 40,027 -9.8%
Highlander 1,022 11.0% 71.5% 17,594 5.5%
RX400h 615 -17.3% -55.8% 13,113 3.5%
LS600hL 55 17.0% -68.6% 893 n/a
GS450h 22 -24.1% -69.0% 585 -58.5%
Civic 1,621 -19.8% -29.1% 29,218 10.7%
Escape 1,782 100.4% -1.9% 14,965 -14.7%
Mariner 215 112.9% -19.5% 2,047 11.4%
Yukon 193 48.4% n/a 1,819 n/a
Malibu 325 -14.9% n/a 1,739 n/a
Vue 354 20.1% 3,440% 2,401 11.4%
Tahoe 372 41.5% n/a 2,813 n/a
Aura 22 29.0% -51.1% 207 -69.5%
Altima 554 17.9% -40.2% 7,756 24.4%
Escalade 230 152.7% n/a 322 n/a
All hybrids 21,978 5.5% -10.4% 276,611 -3.4%
All vehicles 838,592 -13.1% -31.9% 11,603,855 -14.6%

U.S. hybrid sales for October 2008 by manufacturer and model

United States Sales by Make

U.S. hybrid market historical sales (1999 – 2007 with 2008 forecast)

United States Yearly Sales

Regional Data

Source: R. L. Polk & Co.

Curious where hybrid buyers live? We present the data in two ways. First, we list the 15 cities and states that boast the largest numbers of new hybrids on their roads within the past year. For example, residents in the New York City area put over 19,000 new hybrids on the road in 2007. Second, we adjust for population and look at hybrids per person (in states) or per household (in metro areas.) This lets us include cities like Portland, OR: a city that has fewer overall vehicles (and thus fewer hybrids) but has more hybrids per capita than anywhere else.

States with the Highest Hybrid Sales

Rank State New Hybrids*
1 California 58,223
2 New York 13,052
3 Texas 12,332
4 Florida 12,291
5 Illinois 9,340
6 Virginia 7,881
7 Washington 7,802
8 Pennsylvania 7,356
9 Arizona 7,085
10 Massachusetts 6,838
11 New Jersey 6,759
12 Maryland 6,759
13 North Carolina 5,612
14 Ohio 5,538
15 Colorado 4,779

*Registrations CYTD August 2008

States where hybrids are most popular

Rank State New Hybrids per 1000 Residents*
1 California 1.611
2 District of Columbia 1.542
3 Oregon 1.288
4 Washington 1.241
5 Vermont 1.225
6 Arizona 1.193
7 Connecticut 1.189
8 New Hampshire 1.102
9 Massachusetts 1.069
10 Virginia 1.041
11 Maryland 1.027
12 Colorado 1.024
13 Nevada 0.977
14 Hawaii 0.928
15 Alaska 0.878
US State Average 0.747

*Registrations CYTD August 2008

Metropolitan areas with the highest hybrid sales

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids*
1 Los Angeles 26,077
2 San Francisco 16,120
3 New York 15,487
4 Washington, DC 8,232
5 Chicago 7,409
6 Boston 7,008
7 Seattle 6,445
8 Phoenix 6,050
9 Philadelphia 5,894
10 San Diego 5,231
11 Sacramento 5,194
12 Denver 4,208
13 Portland, OR 3,919
14 Dallas-Ft. Worth 3,729
15 Minneapolis-St. Paul 3,710

*Registrations CYTD August 2008

Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids per 1000 Households*
1 Portland, OR 9.628
2 San Francisco 6.843
3 Santa Barbara, CA 5.413
4 Monterrey, CA 5.402
5 San Diego 5.098
6 Los Angeles 4.697
7 Charlottesville, VA 4.029
8 Sacramento, CA 3.859
9 Seattle 3.787
10 Washington, DC 3.655
11 Phoenix 3.644
12 Palm Springs, CA 3.566
13 Helena, MT 3.410
14 Eugene, OR 3.206
15 Eureka, CA 3.154
  US Metro Area Average 1.655

*Registrations CYTD August 2008

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More Hybrid News...

  • Flexdew

    Bring on the Insight for 09
    Too many righteous Prius owners out there, lets shake it up

  • Neil


    I agree with you – I recently rented a Prius and I was not impressed by its mileage – it was merely 3 MPG more than the Honda Civic Hybrid I own and love. The Prius just seems unneccessarily weird. Also this website has a love affair with the Prius and posts it on every single page while practially ignoring Honda.

    Honda does need to get with the program – they are in 3rd place for the first time I can recall – now behind Ford. Next year’s model should help, but will probably be overshadowed by all the publicity given to the ’09 Prius coming out shortly thereafter.

  • Bryce

    why is the hybrid escalade not included in GM’s total hybrid output?

    Honda does well, better than Toyota I feel (especially when it comes to interiors) Sadly though, they have actually moved to 4th behind Toyota, Ford, and GM. (the writers of this article forgot to put in the escalade numbers which would up their market share about 1.5% I think putting them at about 9%.

    This is good. The market is getting more and more competitive. : )

  • Roger Brooks

    I’m waiting for the next generation Prius and the new Insight, both due out in the Spring of 2009. I will definitely be buying one of these two cars.

  • Bryce

    the new prius won’t be out until 2010 my friend.

  • WompaStompa

    My wife drives a 2008 Prius and I drive a 2007 Civic Hybrid. I consistently get better mileage than she does. During the summer, I average 53-55 MPG while she gets around 48 MPG. Now that the weather has turned colder, I’m currently around 46 MPG and she is in the low 40s.

  • sirja

    Can somebody please give the main motivations to own a hybrid car? Why have You chosen a hybrid car?

    This question might seem very stupid, but I’d highly value your answer (eg first 3 things coming in to your mind), since I’m currently working with an innovation project dealing with sustainability.


  • Collin Burnell

    Hey sirja!

    Well, you’ve come to the right place!

    Most of us are Hybrid drivers and Hybrid lovers (Hmmm!, that could be read wrong).

    Three things for me:
    1. LESS POLLUTION… most Hybrids produce 30 to as much as 50% less pollution (C02, NO, Particulate Matter, Soot, Mercury, etc., etc.) Than ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles.

    2. Great Fuel Economy… My Nissan Altima Hybrid has the power of the V6 (maybe more) and gets 34MPG Highway AND City and I get 550 miles on a tank of gas (occasionally 600).

    3. Makes a statement… Just like a Hummer say’s “I don’t give a crap!!”, a Hybrid say’s “I DO care… about clean air, about keeping dollars in America not OPEC, about the mess we are going to leave our children, about the future of Humanity, I care!”

  • Bryce

    1. Oil independence
    2. Money savings for my person
    3. Cleaner air

    In that order of importance too.

  • bill cosworth

    Toyota Needs to go out of business.

    File for Chapter 11.

    I am so tired of the Japanese car companies.

    Sanyo limits the amount of bat tires ford can use on there escape hybrids just so the Japanese can make more money here in the US.

    All along not allowing us to sell cars in japan.

  • dman

    your driving habits may be different. My wife does a lot of jack rabbit starts and quik stops. I get much better gas milage in her car than she does.

  • Datsun1200Coupe

    The Nissan Altima Hybrid is just a great car. I average 700 miles per tank and 35.7mpg on first 10,000 miles with no repairs. Damn quick. Can’t go back to a regular vehicle as you give up nothing… In CT there was no sales tax and with Fed credit I paid only $800 more than a regular Nissan 2.5L with sales tax. SO its better and cheaper to boot!

  • DJB

    We need a carbon tax to raise the price of gasoline. This will protect the environment by encouraging more responsible behavior. Until we’re all environmentalists (a slow process that involves improving our education system), we have to do this, otherwise there will be no stopping the climate crisis.

    We need to stop thinking about transportation in terms of which car we will buy and instead ask ourselves: why drive at all? We know how to build human settlements that require no, or minimal driving.

    1) Live closer to work
    2) Prioritize your transportation like this: walk, bike, transit, car.

  • Bryce

    I would rather walk or drive……those damn bikers are so inconsiderate. They don’t have any rules, so I have seen them run down more people than I have ever seen a car do. transit is just mind-numbingly annoying in its failure to provide quick and economic transportation. walking has never failed me, and neither has my car. : )

  • Delroy

    Any data about for UK sales?

  • Anonymous

    Delroy, If you are looking for UK data – the only place I know of is through R. L. Polk. It looks like they have the registration data accross the world.


    The new common rail diesel and gas engines of european makers (Fiat, VW Daimler) are getting same mileages, Passat, Bluetec etc are products of over 40 MPG right now, same guys will have next year models with smaller high efficiency engine in hybrids, MPG will be then in the 50´s MPG range, that is ok for oil in the 150 US mark, problem is climate not economy of gas.

  • Jon

    Does anybody know how I can reach the sale figures of Prius for Missouri state?

    Any help is appreciated…

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