September 2010 Dashboard: Hybrid Sales Slide, While Clean Diesel Continues Growth

Hybrid sales were up by 10 percent in September, compared to a year ago. But the total year-to-date numbers tell a more accurate picture. So far in 2010, automakers have sold 10 percent fewer gas-electric hybrids, in an overall auto market that has grown by about 10 percent.

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup

Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Edition

The September hybrid sales figures once again prove that sales of fuel-efficient cars, especially hybrids, rise and fall with gas prices. The price of gasoline is modestly up from a year ago—by about $0.25—but consumers usually respond to rapid increases, rather than the nominal price.

While sales of hybrids and small cars are down, vehicles with clean diesel engines showed continued strength. All but one clean diesel model made decisive gains compared to last September, boosting overall clean diesel sales by 124.1 percent compared to a year ago. Volkswagen sold nearly 5,000 Jetta TDI units in September. The availability of the Jetta TDI as a fuel-efficient wagon is unique in the marketplace. This upward trend for diesel could continue, but only to a modest degree, because very few new clean diesel models are on the horizon.

Meanwhile, the number of hybrids on sale in the United States is expected to expand from 27 today to approximately 55 by 2015. If compelling new models are offered, and gas prices rise, the hybrid market could significantly climb. If gas prices remain flat, then it doesn’t bode well for hybrids or the new breed of plug-in cars hitting the market later this year.

The Honda CR-Z, introduced last month, reported its first full month of sales. Between 1,236 units of the CR-Z sporty hybrid coupe, the 1,679 sales of the Insight, and a few Civic Hybrid sales, Honda jumped over Ford to become the second biggest seller of hybrids. Sales of Fusion Hybrid dipped by nearly 45 percent compared to last month. Ford sold its very first units of the Lincoln MKZ hybrid, but we’ll need a full month of sales to establish a benchmark.

The Toyota Prius continues to dominate hybrid sales, even though sales are essentially flat since last month, year-over-year, and year-to-date. This could be considered an accomplishment for Prius, considering the overall downward trend in hybrid sales, and the poor performance of both Toyota Highland Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid, which are both down by about 40 percent for the year.

These figures underscore the desirability of unique hybrid nameplates—like Prius, Insight and CR-Z—and point to a trend in which automakers offer green alternative technology vehicles with a specific brand or badge. Toyota is expected to offer an entire family of Priuses, starting with a crossover version of the Prius next year.

September 2010 Hybrid Car Sales Numbers

Hybrids sold in the US (September 2010): 22,193
Hybrid Take-Rate: 2.31%

US hybrid sales for September 2010

Model Units vs. last month vs. September 2009 CYTD vs. CYTD 2009
Toyota Prius 11,394 -3.4% 3.7% 103,334 -1.4%
Honda Insight 1,679 -17.3% -3.8% 15,824 0.2%
Ford Fusion 1,671 -44.5% 49.7% 16,275 41.9%
Honda CR-Z 1,236 78.1 n/a 1,930 n/a
Lexus RX450h 1,112 -18.8% -4.8% 10,883 7.9%
Toyota Camry 1,104 -5.2% 26.6% 11,179 -39.5%
Ford Escape 793 8.9% 0.8% 8,776 -26.9%
Lexus HS 250h 711 19.7% -42.8% 7,962 346.1%
Honda Civic 667 -12.4% 338.8% 5,156 -63.6%
Toyota Highlander 523 7.6% 94.4% 5,029 -41.8%
Altima 511 79.9% 48.1% 5,221 -32.3%
Chevy Silverado 201 -38.7% 154.4% 1,361 96.7%
Mercury Milan 85 -9.6% -41.0% 786 -30.7%
Chevy Tahoe 85 3.4% -69.6% 1,166 -50.4%
Mercedes S400 83 -1.2% 76.6% 760 1001.4%
Cadillac Escalade 82 -6,8% -56.6% 908 -44.6%
Mazda Tribute 53 -3.6% 89.3% 494 -43.5%
Mercury Mariner 49 -21.0% -46.2% 701 -50.1%
GMC Yukon 48 -36.8% -67.1% 948 -25.6%
GMC Sierra 31 -39.2% -24.4% 386 27.0%
Mercedes ML450 24 -69.6% n/a 763 n/a
Lexus GS450h 18 20.0% -52.6% 228 -32.7%
BMW ActivHybrid 7 9 -65.4% n/a 62 n/a
Lincoln MKZ Hybrid 10 n/a n/a 10 n/a
Lexus LS600hL 9 -40.0% -25.0% 90 -56.5%
Chevy Malibu 2 -83.3% -98.7% 387 -89.6%
BMW X6 2 -33.3% n/a 233 n/a
Saturn Aura 1 -66.7% -96.7% 46 -85.1%
All hybrids 22,193 -7.5% 10.7% 200,947 -9.3%
All vehicles 958,966 -3.9% 28.5% 8,620,557 10.3%

September 2010 Clean Diesel Car Sales Numbers

Clean Diesels sold in the US (September 2010): 8,075
Diesel Take-Rate: 0.84%

US clean diesel sales for September 2010

Model Units vs. last month vs. September 2009 CYTD vs. CYTD 2009
Volkswagen Jetta 4,841 14.0% 96.7% 32,338 12.6%
BMW X5 695 24.1% 878.9% 5,604 144.2%
Volkswagen Golf 435 -7.8% n/a 4,116 n/a
Mercedes GL320 413 7.8% 227.8% 2,470 34.0%
Audi Q7 328 -11.6% 16.7% 2,246 73.0%
Mercedes ML320 363 35.4% 26.9% 1,839 -25.4%
BMW 335d 307 -10.0% 802.9% 2,748 202.6%
Audi A3 307 -9.2% n/a 2,385 n/a
Jeep Cherokee 218 70.3% 94.6% 963 20.7%
VW Touareg 118 -2.5% 38.8% 1,265 146.1%
Mercedes R320 49 63.3% 157.9% 265 -11.7%
Mercedes E320 1 -98.4% -99.2% 111 -90.1%
All clean diesels 8,075 10.3% 124.1% 56,350 40.0%
All vehicles 958,966 -3.9% 28.5% 8,620,557 10.3%

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  • DBadger

    I think an important number is average mile per galon on all new sales.
    I am sure this number is going up steadily every month.
    While it may be discouraging to see hybrid sales numbers lower than were they should be, I would not expect any different when the economy is struggling. People are making choices every day to buy a sedan instead of a truck, a smaller SUV instead of a larger one, even a civic instead of camry.
    If there is a average mpg for all cars sold per month, hybrid or not, this number would be quite representative of changing tastes and choices.

  • Yegor

    Thank you for the numbers!

  • Anonymous

    As expected sales of CR-Z did not increase much compared to the previous month. Its time for Honda to bring the Japanese version of CR-Z which is 4-seater and gives more mileage.

    Its not just the hybrid sales thats low, the overall vehicle sales which used to be around 1.3 million million fell to just 1 million in the last few months. People are finding any vehicle being expensive and costly to operate. Probably they are using their current vehicles longer.

    Unless some affordable hybrids that lowers the cost of ownership comes to the market, this low sales trend will continue.

    We should soon get into the flex-fuels and bi-fuels.
    In a years time, many hybrid models that we see above may be gone.

  • Heags

    Has there been any analysis of the used hybrid market? I am wondering if there is a growing used hybrid market that may be impacting sales of new cars.

  • Anonymous

    So far Prius led the overall sales in Japan because of subsidy for high-mileage vehicles. Last month the subsidy ended and soon the prius sales there may decline.

    Infact last month, the sales of regular vehicles (cars, vans, buses & trucks) fell 4% while the mini-vehicles (660 cc v3 engine) increased 4%.

    So people there will start moving to smaller fuel efficient cars instead of hybrids. If the automakers did not cut the price of hybrids, for sure the hybrid sales will go down.

  • Shines

    CR-Z sales rank 4th among all hybrids in its 2nd month of sales! Why would they bother with a 4 seater especially when the back seats wouldn’t be big enough for anyone over the age of 12. I had a VW Karman Ghia back in the early 70s. It was a 4 seat sports car. An adult sitting in back would have his head between his knees because of the lack of space. A few years later my friend bought a 240Z. When 3 of us went for a ride, one of us climbed in the back of the hatch. It wasn’t much less comfortable than sitting in the too small seats of my Karman… I’m sure a third adult (young adult) could fit in that 10 cubic foot space behind the front seats in the CR-Z ;-D

  • Yegor

    Yep, $3 per gallon is not enough to boost Hybrids sales. According to website Fusion Hybrid will save $500 a year in comparison to regular Fusion. Fusion Hybrid is $7,500 more expensive so it will take 15 years to return the investment. Fusion Hybrid is also less versatile because of its trunk-salon access. Many people do not think about fuel price future 🙁

    Unfortunately, this year marks the first year when Hybrid sales did not grow 🙁 The market has stabilized. Bad economy is slowing sales too.

    CAFE standards has to be changed even when people buy fuel efficient cars they tend to drive more because fuel cost are less expensive – the only way to fight this is to to increase fuel price.

  • KeiJidosha

    Aren’t there 20,000 people waiting to buy a Nissan LEAF? What’s the backorder on the Chevy Volt? Wouldn’t these be Hybrid customers?

  • Yegor

    Yes, it is true many potential Hybrid customers are now waiting for Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt. And Clean Diesels are eating into Hybrids share too.
    I guess I just wanted Hybrids market share to grow faster 🙂

  • Russ

    I think part of the reason hybrid sales are not increasing as much is because of the distribution of hybrids among vehicle sizes. Most of the new hybrids are mid to small size sedans or sub-compacts.

    I for example, would like to purchase a hybrid. I however, like suv’s. Not huge suv’s, but mid-size, that can easily hold 4-5 people and stuff in the back. This segment is empty of hybrids except for the Highlander, which is extremely expensive for the hybrid version, or the Escape. Where are the reasonably priced hybrid options for the married couples with 2 kids, who might be in sports or other activities?
    The current price for a 2011 Ford Escape Hybrid is $29,865 for the base model.
    The current price for the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is $37,290 for the base model.
    The family that I listed above isn’t going to settle for a smaller car, because it doesn’t fit their needs. I would venture to say that this family size represents a large portion of families in the United States. Target a market with a product they can use and afford, instead of targeting them with something that really doesn’t fit their needs, or costs so much more that the break-even point is unreachable. If you do this, then I would say the hybrid take rate increases dramatically.

  • Max Reid

    So we have to pay the heavy premium for a hybrid to the automaker or pay more to OPEC. Best thing is a small hatchback which is affordable and gets good mileage.

    More smaller hatches are hitting the market.

    For many families who have 2 kids, 4-seater CR-Z may be good enough, provided it gets better mileage than Insight.

  • Max Reid

    These 3 months will be critical

    EPA will decide whether to allow E15 for vehicles from MY-2007, if allowed, it will give a big boost for Ethanol and Flex-fuel vehicles.

    Volt hits the market as the Worlds first plug-in hybrid.

    Leaf comes to market as the somewhat affordable EV and expect to see EV chargers popping up and the dawn of the whole new world.

  • usbseawolf2000

    Tax credit incentive for Prius ran out back in 2007. The tax credit for Jetta TDI should start to phase out soon as it hits 60,000. Once it ran out, we’ll see how the sales go.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t the Lincoln MKZ priced the same for both regular and Hybrid models? Would be interesting to see how the hybrid sales compare to non-hybrid sales. Since there is no price difference.

  • av

    It would be interesting to see what percentage of each model’s sales is their diesel (or hybrid) counterpart. It looks like up to 50% of Jetta/A3/etc. sales are diesels, while only a scant percentage of Camrys, Fusions, and SUVs are hybrids.

  • veek

    -Well, hang in there. Hybrids, clean diesels, and probably electrics continue to establish themselves and are no longer niche vehicles. Month to month fluctuations are inevitable and it’s too early to say if this is a long-term trend. For example, I suspect hybrid owners are keeping their cars longer than average, which would imply fewer purchases of newer ones. Owner satisfaction with existing hybrids does seem high, and that’s encouraging. Of course, pricing is a major consideration that has kept people from buying.
    -On the other hand, demand for fuel-efficient cars seems disappointing. Recently we’ve heard a lot of hype about how 70+% of Americans want 60 mpg cars, and this is misleading since most Americans are not realistically putting their money on the table for fuel-efficient cars that are available right now. I think it’s time to put those misleading statistics out to pasture and face reality. High efficiency requires some sacrifice, both now and in the future — perhaps more capital support for technology, an ability to accept less power and luxury, or higher costs for fuel-inefficient vehicles.

    -As any physician can tell you, this is frustrating. You can give people excellent technology and information, and you can clearly demonstrate the long-term benefits and provide incentives, but getting people to change their behavior in healthy ways often seems an insurmountable obstacle.

  • Anonymous

    In Japan, Prius and other hybrids got subsidy until September 7, 2010. Since that has expired, the sales of this car will fall in October 2010.

    Prius sold 27,249 units in Japan in September 2010.

    Actually Toyota has got base model Prius which costs only 22K and does not have a cruise control, but they never launched it in US.

  • Boston

    +1 from me for the clean diesel statistics. Picked up 2011 BMW X5 diesel 2 weeks ago. It’s amazing car!

  • hybriderix

    hybridcar .es

  • Greg

    Those sales numbers are truly revealing. The first thing that sticks out is how much the Prius dominates sales over every other car in the list (hybrid and diesel), but that’s not too surprising.

    The real surprise, however, is that the VW Jetta TDI stands frimly in 2nd place (hybrid and diesel). This is not the trend where I live. Most people in the rural southeast don’t even know that diesel cars are even built for the U.S. You should see the looks I get at the diesel pump, and I’ve seen only three, new diesel Jettas around my home (all ’05s and ’06s), I’ve not seen a single, new Jetta TDI (2009-2010). Those are distinguishable by the blue “I” in TDI. I’ve seen only one in the south, and none in my area, and I’ve not seen a single, new diesel of any other variety; only Jettas and Jetta SportWagens. Conversely, I’m surrounded by Prius 2s and Prius 3s and have seen several, other hybrids.

    I would have thought that the little diesel TDI surely towered over all other diesel sales (not including heavy trucks), but I would never have guessed that it more than doubles the sales of the Honda Insight, which is number two for hybrid sales.

  • gregsfc

    I don’t think certifying E15 conjures up many good feelings for most Americans. I think the whole ethanol thing is something that is totally subsidized by our governments, and that most Americans want to stay as far removed from ethanol as possible for several reasons:

    1. Ethanol contains only a little more than 70% of the energy density as gasoline, and for every 5% increase of ethanol in the blend, drivers can expect to lose 1% fuel economy. If a car takes E85, it’ll most likely use 25% more fuel to drive the same number of miles. How does that make sense to most drivers, even if it’s cheaper per gallon?

    2. Ethanol is perceived as bad for fuel systems and the evidence is pretty strong that this is true for small engines. People don’t like having to worry about whether there is an ethanol blend in the gas used for their yard machines. People believe that if it’s bad for their mowers, it must be bad for their cars.

    3. Ethanol cannot be blended with gas and then used in pipelines; not even in low blends. At least with biodiesel, low blends can be piped.

    4. People realize that this whole ethanol scheme is a bad idea. It doesn’t make sense to pay farmers to grow corn, turn it into an inferior fuel with an inferior distribution system, so that it can be used to put in an inferior engine (spark ignition). There have to be better choices, and there are. We have signs all over my town “100% gasoline; no ethanol”. My Jetta TDI gets 47 mpg hwy. and 46 running B20. The gas version of the Jetta (Jetta 2.5) gets around 30 mpg hwy and a driver could expect to get 28.5 mpg running a blend of E20. So the difference for running the same car on equally-performing engines (diesel versus gas), on equal percentage renewable blend is 17.5 mpg. Percentage wise, the diesel (running biodiesel blend) gets about 61% better hwy mileage than a gas Jetta running the same blend in ethanol.

    As for electric cars, I’m all for them, but when I say electric, I think electric motors, not this elaborate scheme of powering by massive, expensive batteries and expanding the electric grid, but with fuel cells using the most dense fuels (diesel, boideisel, and/or natural gas).

  • JakePDX

    Thanks, as always, for the great info. I would love it if you brought back the information on new hybrid car registrations by State and City.

  • agahi

    hi.very informative. i will send my freinds. thank you.

  • altonalvin

    A hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) is a type of hybrid vehicle and electric vehicle which combines a conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) propulsion system with an electric propulsion system. The presence of the electric powertrain is intended to achieve either better fuel economy than a conventional vehicle, or better performance. forum los angeles