in partnership with Polk

Hybrids Worldwide

“Top 5 global hybrid markets” and “Top 5 US hybrid markets” based on vehicle registrations January – February 2007.

April was a lousy month for auto sales. Compared with the previous month, unit sales fell 13% and hybrid sales, after breaking records in March, dropped by 18%. So the market is sinking, and hybrids are sinking faster, right? Not so fast. Compared with a year ago, hybrid sales are up 30% while the overall market is down by 8%. A lot of this growth is due to the Camry Hybrid, which was barely on the market a year ago. But even if the Camry Hybrid is removed, hybrid sales still show a 10% increase over April 2006.

The Prius remains a strong seller, posting its second-highest sales ever of 13,056 units. Since April’s results come on the heels of the Prius’ remarkable March sales, they look less impressive, but April proves that Toyota can maintain interest in its hybrids despite shrinking tax credits. Additional incentives on its hybrid models helped, as did rising gas prices, which averaged $2.89 per gallon in April, up nearly 30 cents per gallon from March.

As always, the hybrid market had some underperformers as well. Compared to sales a year ago, the Highlander, Escape, and RX400h all saw sales declines of over 35%. Sales of conventional versions of all three models slipped as well, but by far less. The Highlander and RX may see increased interest as they are redesigned in the coming 12 months. However, the Escape, which received freshened styling this model year, hasn’t seen a bump in sales as a result.

One new hybrid model entered the market this month and another scheduled its departure. Both products were from GM. The Aura Green Line became available in April as 42 units were shipped to Saturn dealers. Meanwhile, production of the Vue Green Line ended in March. GM shipped 939 Vue Green Lines in April, but we can expect sales to drop off sharply until a redesigned version enters production later this year.

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 2006 volumes based on sales-to-date.

Hybrids sold in the U.S. (April 2007): 28,330

U.S. hybrid sales for April 2007

Model Units vs. 3/07 vs. 4/06
Altima 483 4.5%
Prius 13,056 -31.8% 58.6%
Civic 2,855 1.5% -7.5%
Accord 318 -17.4% -48.2%
Camry 4,410 -14.3% 5027.9
Highlander 2,394 -4.3% -36.5%
RX400h 1,384 -5.9% -38.4%
GS450h 174 -3.9% 23.4
Escape 1,890 -13.3% -37.8%
Mariner 385 11.9% 1.0%
Vue 939 n/a n/a
Aura 42 n/a n/a
All hybrids 28,330 -18.2% 30.5%
All vehicles 1,338,836 -13.2% -7.6%

U.S. hybrid sales for April 2007 by manufacturer and model

United States Sales by Make

U.S. hybrid market historical sales (1999 – 2006) with 2007 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 10,000 new hybrids on the road in 2006. 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.

Monthly Update: Does this month’s registration data look low? It’s because we’ve reset the data, and have started posting 2007 registration numbers. So far, we just have numbers for two months: January and February 2007. As more data comes in, these numbers will grow to reflect registrations during the 2007 calendar year.

States with the Highest Hybrid Sales

Rank State New Hybrids*
1 California 11,584
2 Florida 2,241
3 New York 2,047
4 Texas 2,044
5 Washington 1,736
6 Virginia 1,599
7 Illinois 1,508
8 Pennsylvania 1,365
9 Massachusetts 1,340
10 Oregon 1,160
11 New Jersey 1,145
12 Maryland 1,111
13 North Carolina 1,040
14 Colorado 1,038
15 Arizona 953

*Registrations CYTD February 2007

States where hybrids are most popular

Rank State New Hybrids per 1000 Residents*
1 California 0.3206
2 Oregon 0.3186
3 District of Columbia 0.2888
4 Vermont 0.2873
5 Washington 0.2761
6 Colorado 0.2225
7 Connecticut 0.2137
8 Virginia 0.2113
9 Massachusetts 0.2094
10 New Hampshire 0.2054
11 Maryland 0.1984
12 Nevada 0.1677
13 Hawaii 0.1639
14 Arizona 0.1605
15 New Mexico 0.1576
  US State Average 0.1436

*Registrations CYTD February 2007

Metropolitan areas with the highest hybrid sales

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids*
1 Los Angeles 5,133
2 San Francisco 3,531
3 New York 2,515
4 Washington, DC 1,733
5 Seattle 1,531
6 Boston 1,390
7 Chicago 1,228
8 Philadelphia 1,140
9 Sacramento 1,024
10 Portland, OR 952
11 Denver 914
12 San Diego 891
13 Phoenix 769
14 Minneapolis/St. Paul 631
15 Dallas-Ft. Worth 616

*Registrations CYTD February 2007

Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids per 1000 Households*
1 Portland, OR 2.339
2 San Francisco, CA 1.499
3 Monterey, CA 1.302
4 Santa Barbara, CA 1.003
5 Los Angeles 0.927
6 Seattle 0.900
7 San Diego 0.868
8 Bend, OR 0.848
9 Washington, DC 0.769
10 Sacramento, CA 0.761
11 Eugene, OR 0.737
12 Charlottesville, VA 0.731
13 Denver 0.646
14 Burlington, VT 0.617
15 Eureka, CA 0.617
  US Metro Area Average 0.386

*Registrations CYTD February 2007

Looking Ahead

Toyota’s 75% share of the hybrid market speaks for itself, but this month’s announcement about the new Lexus hybrid, the LS600h L, makes you wonder about the company. Does it really make sense to use hybrid technology in a 438 horsepower luxury car that costs over $100,000 and gets 21 miles to the gallon?

Sure, Toyota can apply their hybrid technology in whatever vehicle they want. They’ve been saying for several years that they plan to offer hybrid powertrains throughout their product line. And we understand the positioning of this Lexus—it offers the same horsepower as the V-12-powered BMW 760Li, but with 40% better fuel economy and SULEV emissions (and a $20K lower price tag). Unlike those who buy the BMW, LS600h L owners also get to tell the world that they own a hybrid. And therein lies the issue.

For many buyers, the hybrid powertrain is more than just another fuel-saving device. Sure people like getting higher mileage, but a lot of them also like what getting higher mileage represents: conserving resources, doing less harm to the environment, being smarter about household budgets, giving less support to oil companies, or embracing new technology. This list is not exhaustive, but you get the idea—hybrids say something that other cars don’t. We haven’t seen many user groups popping up for people who are especially enthusiastic about cylinder deactivation or direct injection gasoline engines. These are fuel-saving technologies too, but they don’t really excite people like hybrid technology does. Markets live and die over this kind of excitement.

As more hybrids like the LS600h L come on the market, the ideas that hybrids stand for will begin to change. Optimists are suggesting that the flagship Lexus will give hybrids a classier, high-end image. But this Lexus (and the upcoming HEMI-hybrid version of the Chrysler Aspen) might also turn hybrid powertrains into just another fuel-saving technology. Maybe this change is inevitable, but if and when it comes, sales of cars like the Prius could suffer as hybrids lose the unique significance they currently hold for buyers.

Of course, we have to keep things in perspective. Lexus expects to sell about 2,000 units of the LS600h L in the coming year, while Toyota plans to sell about 3,000 Priuses each week. So while the Lexus may send a confusing message about hybrid technology, it is greatly outnumbered by cars drive home a clear message.