in partnership with Polk

Hybrids Worldwide

"Top 5 global hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations January – October 2007.

and "Top 5 US hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations January – October 2007.

The final 2007 hybrid sales numbers have been tallied, and the headline news is the 100,000-unit increase in gas-electric cars purchased in the Unites States. In a year when total light-duty vehicle sales declined by 2.5 percent, hybrid sales grew by 38 percent to 350,000 units compared with 250,00 in 2006.

The story beyond the headline is that 97 percent of the increase came from two vehicles and one carmaker. The Toyota Prius increased sales year-over-year by 74,250 units, while the Toyota Camry added more than 23,000 units. All other hybrids remained almost completely flat or slightly declined. So while automakers like General Motors talked a lot about hybrids in 2007, only Toyota put large volumes of hybrid vehicles on US roads, and only Toyota saw substantial sales growth for its hybrid models.

The other story for the year is the impressive "take rate" of hybrid versions of some cars that offer both gasoline and gas-electric variants—and the failure of others. Nearly one in five Highlanders leaving showroom floors were hybrids. Approximately one in eight Camrys were hybrids; and ratios for Escapes and Civics were approximately 1:9 and 1:10 respectively.

Despite all the hand-wringing about the importance of cars like the Prius that are offered only as hybrids, carmakers can successfully introduce hybrid options in conventional vehicles and slowly increase sales of those hybrid versions.

The key is finding the right hybridization formula—whether or not a hybrid-specific nameplate is involved. Which vehicle gets the hybrid option? What kind of hybrid system, mild or full? Which gas engine is mated to a hybrid drivetrain? What are the overall benefits of the hybrid version?

Toyota succeeded by offering the hybrid option on the four-cylinder Camry—and the Civic Hybrid, also a four-banger, sold relatively well. But full-hybrid systems added to more expensive Lexus luxury sports sedans did poorly, and the Saturn BAS mild hybrid combination barely made a blip. Saturn may have more luck in late 2008 when it introduces the full two-mode hybrid version of the Saturn Vue, which provides a more a significant boost in fuel economy compared with the conventional Vue. The fact that Lexus is having modest success with the hybrid version of the RX400h SUV, despite only a small improvement in mpg, proves that concocting the right hybrid formula is more art than science.

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 final 2007 volumes.

Hybrids sold in the U.S. (December 2007): 30,925

US hybrid sales for December 2007

Model Units vs. 11/07 vs. 12/06
Altima 964 -19.1% n/a
Prius 14,212 -15.1% 53.0%
Civic 3,223 -0.5% 33.8%
Accord 150 -26.5% -58.7%
Camry 4,969 -2.9% 24.1%
Highlander 2,791 8.3% 18.6%
RX400h 2,032 21.4% 2.6%
GS450h 136 36.0% -46.0%
LS600hL 129 -24.1% n/a
Escape 1,989 7.7% 13.8%
Mariner 276 -27.0% 25.5%
Vue 21 0.0% -96.9%
Aura 33 -45.9% n/a
All hybrids 30,925 -7.2% 32.7%
All vehicles 1,390,092 17.8% -2.9%

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

United States Sales by Make

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

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 17,000 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 74,737
2 Florida 15,265
3 New York 14,580
4 Texas 13,909
5 Illinois 10,785
6 Washington 10,785
7 Virginia 10,037
8 Pennsylvania 9,161
9 Massachusetts 8,354
10 Arizona 7,852
11 New Jersey 7,817
12 Maryland 7,345
13 North Carolina 7,026
14 Oregon 6,997
15 Colorado 6,461

*Registrations CYTD October 2007

States where hybrids are most popular

Rank State New Hybrids per 1000 Residents*
1 California 2.068
2 Oregon 1.922
3 Vermont 1.725
4 Washington 1.715
5 District of Columbia 1.646
6 New Hampshire 1.424
7 Connecticut 1.401
8 Colorado 1.385
9 Virginia 1.326
10 Arizona 1.322
11 Maryland 1.312
12 Massachusetts 1.306
13 Rhode Island 1.067
14 Nevada 1.064
15 New Mexico 1.061
US State Average 0.892

*Registrations CYTD October 2007

Metropolitan areas with the highest hybrid sales

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids*
1 Los Angeles 33,450
2 San Francisco 21,964
3 New York 17,105
4 Washington, DC 10,697
5 Seattle 9,110
6 Chicago 8,780
7 Boston 8,746
8 Philadelphia 7,220
9 Phoenix 6,487
10 Sacramento 6,470
11 San Diego 5,975
12 Portland, OR 5,792
13 Denver 5,690
14 Minneapolis-St. Paul 4,648
15 Dallas-Ft. Worth 4,257

*Registrations CYTD October 2007

Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids per 1000 Households*
1 Portland, OR 14.229
2 San Francisco, CA 9.324
3 Monterey, CA 7.681
4 Santa Barbara, CA 6.420
5 Los Angeles 6.042
6 San Diego 5.823
7 Charlottesvilla, VA 5.763
8 Bend, OR 5.512
9 Seattle 5.353
10 Sacramento 4.807
11 Washington, DC 4.749
12 Eugene, OR 4.418
13 Palm Springs, CA 4.141
14 Burlington, VT 4.126
15 Denver 4.021
US Metro Area Average 1.952

*Registrations CYTD October 2007

Looking Ahead

There are three major trends to consider for “alternative autos” in 2008. The first is gas prices. In 2007, interest and sales of hybrids rose and fell in rough correlation with gas prices. May brought the biggest jump at the pumps, and hybrid sales bounced right along. High gas prices, combined with energetic hybrid marketing efforts from Toyota, produced a whopping 47,096 sales for May. That pattern of high gas prices and high hybrid sales repeated itself, albeit more modestly, in November. We are starting out 2008 with record-high oil prices. Could hybrid waiting lines return if gas makes its way to $4 per gallon?

The next factor is General Motors. GM’s plans to introduce a new hybrid every quarter are underway. GM finally has hybrid vehicles to offer, and in a range of sizes from medium to extra large. Will GM provide more sales and marketing support for their available hybrids, or will they focus marketing dollars and television commercials on the Chevy Volt, which is still at least three years away? If the company pushes the available hybrids, then those marketing dollars should be focused on California, the West Coast, and major metropolitan areas, where hybrids still represent the lion’s share of sales.

And the final trend is diesel. A handful of “clean diesel” vehicles from Mercedes, Jeep and Volkswagen will pass stringent California emissions standards so they can be sold in all 50 states. It will be up these companies to convince fuel- and eco-conscious buyers that diesels offer the best combination of performance, efficiency, and overall value. This effort will undoubtedly begin sometime in 2008, but it remains to be seen how aggressive these campaigns will be, and how quickly other automakers, most notably Honda with its Accord Diesel, will join the fray.

Clean diesel probably won’t displace hybrids as the leading green car option. However, the new diesel offerings will provide another solution for consumers seeking high-mpg vehicles. The coexistence of hybrids and diesels in the 2008 marketplace may also teach consumers about another trend: in the future, gains in fuel efficiency will not come from a single technology, but rather from a variety of propulsion systems, each with its own particular advantages.