September 2009 Dashboard: End of Clunkers Hurts Hybrids

in partnership with Polk

Analysis of September 2009 Sales Numbers

Hybrids Worldwide

"Top 5 global hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations CYTD July 2009.

"Top 5 US hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations CYTD July 2009.

The hybrid market disproportionally benefited from the Cash For Clunkers program in July and August, and therefore disproportionally fell in September. The overall vehicle market dropped by about 41 percent, and hybrids plunged by about 48 percent.

That’s when looking at the numbers compared to last month. It’s not nearly as dismal when comparing the numbers to September 2008—hybrids fell by 4 percent compared to one year ago, when the auto market was in full slide. Comparing cumulative year-to-date sales to this point last year, hybrid sales fell by 14.5 percent while conventional car sales fell by 22.5 percent. The Seasonally Adjusted Sales Rate (SAAR) in September dropped back down to 9.22 million units, from 14.09 million units in August.

The Toyota Prius fell precipitously from nearly 20,000 units in August to about 11,000 units in September. But there was a silver-ish lining in the dark clouds: the Prius was the 9th most popular vehicle in the United States last month, showing that a hybrid car with the right traits can be popular despite a bad economy and low gas prices. Prius sales were actually up by 1 percent compared to a year ago. We’re not saying that Prius, or any other hybrid model or any hybrid brand, escaped the misery—but the Prius’s numbers underline how the end of Cash for Clunkers pulled the rug out from the entire automotive market.

Several vehicles suffered terribly in September. Nissan Altima Hybrid sales crashed by nearly 90 percent; the Honda Civic Hybrid fell by nearly 79 percent, with Honda sadly managing to sell merely 152 Civic Hybrids. GM sold more Cadillac Escalade Hybrids than Honda sold Civic Hybrids. The Civic Hybrid’s poor showing, along with mediocre sales of the Honda Insight —which has failed to capture the magic and mystique of the Prius—allowed Ford to edge past Honda to become the No. 2 seller of gas-electric vehicles in September.

The relative strength of the Prius, combined with the company’s stronger stable of seven Toyota and Lexus hybrids, further etched Toyota Motor Co. as the leader in the hybrid market selling more than 7 out of every 10 hybrids in September.

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 US (September 2009): 19,997

US hybrid sales for September 2009

Model Units vs. last month vs. September 2008 CYTD vs. CYTD 2008
Prius 10,984 -41.8% 1.0% 104,794 19.7%
Insight 1,746 -58.7% n/a 15,791 n/a
HS250h 1,242 128.7% n/a 1,785 n/a
RX400h 1,168 -33.4% 57.0% 10,089 -19.3%
Fusion 1,116 -52.6% n/a 11,468 n/a
Camry 872 -58.8% 68.7% 18,502 -53.1%
Escape 787 -54.0% -11.5% 12,009 -8.9%
Altima 345 -89.1% -26.6% 7,713 7.1%
Tahoe 280 26.1% -56.0% 2,466 5.8%
Highlander 269 -67.8% -70.8% 8,635 -47.9%
Escalade 189 -11.7% 107.7% 1,453 n/a
Civic 152 -78.8% -92.5% 14,166 -48.7%
Malibu 156 -64.6% -59.2% 3,704 162.0%
Yukon 146 15.9% -61.0% 1,348 12.0%
Milan 144 -40.0% n/a 1,134 n/a
Silverado 120 -46.9% n/a 996 n/a
Mariner 91 -76.7% -9.9% 1,405 -23.3%
Vue 90 -78.3% -79.7% 2,280 11.4%
GS450h 38 -20.8% 31.0% 339 -39.8%
Aura 30 -53.8% -3.2% 309 67.0%
LS600hL 12 20.0% -74.5% 207 -75.3
All hybrids 19,977 -48.4% -4.1% 220,634 -14.5%
All vehicles 745,516 -40.9% -22.8% 7,814,350 -27.5%

US hybrid sales for June 2009 by manufacturer and model

United States Sales by Make

U.S. hybrid market historical sales (1999 – 2009)

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 33,241
2 New York 9,203
3 Texas 9,075
4 Florida 8,789
5 Washington 6,941
6 Illinois 6,667
7 New Jersey 5,916
8 Virginia 5,886
9 Pennsylvania 5,386
10 Massachusetts 5,241
11 Ohio 4,470
12 Maryland 4,389
13 Michigan 3,849
14 Arizona 3,532
15 North Carolina 3,427

*Registrations CYTD July 2009

States where hybrids are most popular

Rank State New Hybrids per 1000 Residents*
1 District of Columbia 3.02
2 Washington 1.10
3 California 0.92
4 Vermont 0.90
5 Massachusetts 0.82
6 Maryland 0.78
7 Virginia 0.78
8 New Hampshire 0.72
9 Connecticut 0.72
10 Colorado 0.69
11 New Jersey 0.68
12 Oregon 0.61
13 Arizona 0.59
14 New Mexico 0.57
15 Hawaii 0.53
US State Average 0.54

*Registrations CYTD July 2009

Metropolitan areas with the highest hybrid sales

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids*
1 Los Angeles 16,074
2 New York 11,818
3 San Francisco 9,409
4 Washington, DC 7,480
5 Seattle 5,718
6 Chicago 5,364
7 Boston 5,328
8 Philadelphia 4,333
9 Dallas-Ft. Worth 3,031
10 Phoenix 2,877
11 Denver 2,799
12 San Diego 2,709
13 Sacramento 2,382
14 Atlanta 2,342
15 Detroit 2,305

*Registrations CYTD July 2009

Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids per 1000 Households*
1 Portland, OR 4.95
2 San Francisco 3.99
3 Helena, MT 3.60
4 Seatlle 3.36
5 Washington, DC 3.32
6 Los Angeles 2.90
7 Santa Barbara, CA 2.70
8 San Diego, CA 2.64
9 Monterey, CA 2.62
10 Charlottesville, VA 2.38
11 Austin, TX 2.34
12 Boston 2.24
13 Lafayette, IN 2.12
14 Baltimore 2.09
15 Burlington, VT 2.08
  US Metro Area Average 1.07

*Registrations CYTD July 2009


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  • Victor Solis

    Thanks for the great insights into the Hybrid market. I see that the new Lexus hybrid the HS 250h climbed to third in monthly sales, not bad for the second month on the market. That does however mean that they had a positive month to month change from 543 to 1242 units.

  • Robert0123

    It’s good that so many Americans dumped clunkers for hybrids, but I hope the ‘green’ trend will continue through the recession.

  • Charles

    With the Milan only 8 sales behind the Civic hybrid, I wonder how long Honda will stick with the Civic hybrid. I think the Fusion and HS 250h cost the Camry a few sales.

    I do not understand buying the Insight over the Prius or the HS 250h over the Milan, but it is not my money. The cost of the Prius is just not that much over the Insight for a much better car. The performance of the HS 250h is about the same as the Milan, and the Milan has better MPG rating. I guess some people like the gadgets a whole lot.

  • Fred_H

    I think you forgot to update the title:
    “US hybrid sales for June 2009 by manufacturer and model”
    to September.