In Rising Auto Market, Hybrid Car Sales Remain Flat

Overall auto sales rose 17 percent in November compared to a year ago, while purchases of hybrid gas-electric car increased by just 4 percent. The picture for hybrids gets a little worse when looking at the anticipated tally for 2010—with hybrid sales decreasing by about 7 percent while the overall auto market jumped by at least 10 percent.

Automakers sold 20,858 hybrids in November, the lowest number since February. Every popular hybrid model was down compared to last month, with the Toyota Prius—by far the most popular gas-electric model—dropping from 11,731 sales in October to 10,224 in November, nearly a 13 percent decrease.

Prius in Vineyard

Sales of the Toyota Prius increased by a modest 6 percent compared to a year ago.

However, Prius sales are up by more than 6 percent compared to a year ago. In that light, sales of the Prius were actually a bright spot for Toyota, which saw its overall sales drop by 3 percent compared to November 2009. The company is still smarting from a year of high-profile recalls. Most other major automakers reported significant increases in overall sales, including Ford, which experienced a 24 percent increase compared to a year ago.

We will post the full set of hybrid car sales numbers in the next few days in our monthly hybrid and diesel dashboard.

Low Volume Hybrids Drag Down Hybrid Tally

Like the Prius, other popular hybrid models rose compared to a year ago. The Honda Insight added sales by 9.5 percent, and the Ford Fusion Hybrid jumped by 7 percent. According to Alan Baum, a Michigan-based auto industry analyst who has been running auto market forecasts since the 1980s, the 2010 hybrid market was dragged down by the discontinuation of hybrids from General Motors, and decline in sales of the Honda Civic Hybrid.

Baum sees a brighter picture for hybrids in 2011. “With gas prices on the upswing and the retail market recovering, the market for hybrids and other electric vehicles should recover nicely over the next several months and years,” Baum said. “Of course, the explosion of new product will also be a plus.”

Baum’s forecast for regular hybrids shows steady growth, while electric cars and plug-in hybrids—such as the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt—make their debut. “The large number of new hybrid entrants from many automakers, many of which will be low volume, collectively will provide reasonable growth prospects.” Baum believes that new conventional hybrids hitting the market—as many as a dozen in 2011 alone—will mean growth for regular hybrids, even as some green consumers take the first steps to the next generation of electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

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  • Indigo

    We’re in the midst of the Second Great Depression with no possible relief in sight. So of course the more expensive cars will not sell as well. However, once gas hits $5/gallon (w/ the new Tea Party congress), you’ll see fuel-efficient vehicles pick up in sales.

  • Yegor

    Once again: among other reasons (improved clean diesel cars) lots of people are waiting for plug-ins – they are being delivered to customers this month!!!

    Please include Plug-in sales in your dashboard for the month for December!

  • Brad

    @Yegor – If carmakers report plug-in sales, then we’ll definitely include them. It will be a trickle at first.

    I think Alan Baum’s point is that plug-in cars (e.g. Volt and LEAF) will not affect sales of conventional hybrids. Time will tell.

  • JJJ

    Id be shocked if total plug-in sales for 2010 reach 7,000.

  • Max Reid

    I think the Volt was launched only on November 30, so its sales will be only in single digits.

    The bright spot is that both Prius & Insight have base models which costs $1,500 lesser and so the Hybrid sales should surge in the coming months. Currently the gas prices are $2.9 and soon it will cross $3 when spring starts and we can see the increase in share of Hybrids around that time and also the SUV’s will come down.

  • Anonymous,-continues-production-for-export

    Looks like Civic Sedan (including Hybrid) will be closed in Japan.
    Any idea about whether Civic Hybrid’s future in USA.

    Hatchbacks and Minivans have eaten into the Sedan’s market.
    Makes sense since Sedan’s have very little trunk space.

  • Yegor

    I think Hybrid sales will continue to grow but not as fast as Plug-in sales.
    My point is that the whole fuel efficient market is growing (this year it grew in Clean Diesel).
    People see something that even more fuel efficient than Prius – people are waiting for it.

    Actually this year Hybrids had a stronger competition even from ICE cars – direct injection engines!
    Ford Fiesta: 29/40 MPG
    Hyunday Sonata 24/35 MPG – direct injection engine
    Chevrolet Equinox 22/32 – direct injection engine – Mid size Crossover with the fuel efficiency of Toyota Camry (Equinox sales almost doubled this year to 140,000).

    One more reason – NADA statistics show that this year there was a rapid shift from middle and large cars to crossovers (people want versatility) but there is no much to offer in Hybrid crossovers – Highlander is too expensive, the only one left is Escape – for some reason it does not attract too many sales.

  • Anonymous

    In %age terms, Plugins will grow fast since their base is 0.
    In Unit terms, hybrids will grow.

    Lincoln MKZ is the 1st hybrid which had the 0 price difference between hybrid & non-hybrid model. Thats followed by Prius-I which starts at 21K and then the Insight base model at 18.2 K.

    As the price of hybrids falls, sales will soar.

  • JamesDavis

    I agree with you “Indigo”, but I think total electric cars will out sell all the hybrids together because people is sick and tired of this roller coaster gas prices and oil companies devastating our land and water. “The American People” (Tea Baggers theme song) want to get away from fossil fuels of all kind and especially the gas pumps. Since Huston, Texas put up quick charge stations all over their city, total electric cars will skyrocket in sales all over America and hybrids will fall by the way-side like the regular fossil fuel vehicles are doing now.

  • Anonymous

    Hello Indigo

    Nissan Leaf with 100 miles (160 km) range has battery weighing 600 lb (270 kg), if its range is extended to 300 miles (480 km) then its battery will weigh 1,800 lb (810 kg) and this nearly weigh as much as the vehicle.

    Also having so much battery and driving only 30-40 miles / day means the whole battery is not put to use everyday.

    So plugins and range extenders are the best for now. They have minimal battery and its put to use every day. The next version of Volt will start improving and the cost will come down as competition increases.

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