in partnership with Polk

Hybrids Worldwide

"Expected 2006 global hybrid sales" based on vehicle registration trends through December 2006.

"Top 5 global hybrid markets" and "Top 5 US hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations CYTD December 2006.

Last month, Toyota finally began marketing the Prius like a regular car. The company increased availability, launched an advertising campaign, and implemented incentives in some markets. The results were impressive: monthly Prius sales hit 12,227 units, the highest monthly tally ever. That moved the Prius to the number nine slot in the list of top ten bestselling cars in the U.S. in February. It remains to be seen whether Toyota can continue this sales pace, but those who still view the Prius as a niche vehicle with limited appeal may want to reconsider. Ditto for those who insist that fuel savings or government incentives are the only reasons people buy hybrids. Last month’s record Prius sales occurred in a period of moderate gas prices, and after the reduction in federal tax credits for Toyota hybrid vehicles as well as elimination of HOV privileges for new hybrids in California.

High Prius sales lifted hybrids to 1.89% of the U.S. vehicle market, their highest penetration yet. When compared with a month earlier, nearly every model posted gains. In general, the hybrid market looks healthy, showing 36% growth in an overall light vehicle market that is contracting slightly. But year-to-year sales trends reveal more mixed performance. Comparing the first two months of 2006 with the first two months of 2007, sales of both Toyota’s hybrid SUVs are off almost 25%, as are sales of the Honda Civic Hybrid. The Highlander Hybrid and Lexus 400h boast the highest take rates among hybrid vehicles (17.5% and 19%, respectively), but their sales have fallen to roughly half of their past peak levels. We’re eager to see whether Toyota can transfer the success of the Prius in its other hybrid offerings during the coming months.

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. (February 2007): 23,746

U.S. hybrid sales for February 2007

Model Units vs. 1/07 vs. 2/06
Altima 206
Prius 12,227
Civic 1,924
Accord 312
Camry 3,332
Highlander 1,892
RX400h 1,249
GS450h 160
Escape 1,464
Mariner 232
Vue 748
All hybrids 23,746

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

United States Sales by Make

U.S. hybrid market historical sales (1999 – 2006)

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: The final 2006 data is in. 254,545 new hybrids were put on the road in the United States last year. Among states, California finished first in 2006 with the most new hybrid registrations as well as the highest number of new hybrids registered per capita. Among metropolitan areas, Los Angeles boasted the highest number of new hybrids on the road, while Portland, Oregon had the most new hybrids registered per household.

States with the Highest Hybrid Sales

Rank State Registered Hybrids*
1 California 67,533
2 Florida 12,900
3 Texas 12,550
4 New York 11,634
5 Virginia 10,424
6 Illinois 9,495
7 Washington 8,650
8 Pennsylvania 8,407
9 Massachusetts 7,365
10 New Jersey 7,021
11 Maryland 6,885
12 North Carolina 6,649
13 Oregon 5,998
14 Ohio 5,961
15 Colorado 5,667

*2006 Registrations (December 2006 YTD)

States where hybrids are most popular

Rank State Hybrids per 1000 residents*
1 California 1.87
2 Oregon 1.65
3 District of Columbia 1.61
4 Vermont 1.45
5 Virginia 1.38
6 Washington 1.38
7 Hawaii 1.26
8 New Hampshire 1.30
9 Maryland 1.23
10 Colorado 1.21
11 Massachusetts 1.15
12 Connecticut 1.03
13 Delaware 0.96
14 New Mexico 0.94
15 Arizona 0.93

*2006 Registrations (December 2006 YTD)

Metropolitan areas with the highest hybrid sales

Rank Metropolitan Area Hybrids*
1 Los Angeles 30,989
2 San Francisco 20,625
3 New York 14,200
4 Washington, DC 11,405
5 Boston 7,795
6 Chicago 7,622
7 Seattle 7,244
8 Philadelphia 6,848
9 San Diego 5,131
10 Denver 4,954
11 Sacramento 4,923
12 Portland, OR 4,555
13 Phoenix 4,223
14 Dallas/Ft. Worth 3,652
15 Atlanta 3,559

*2006 Registrations (December 2006 YTD)

Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular

Rank Metropolitan Area Hybrids per 1000 Households*
1 Portland, OR 11.19
2 San Francisco, CA 8.76
3 Monterey, CA 6.83
4 Santa Barbara, CA 6.08
5 Los Angeles 5.60
6 Bend, OR 5.35
7 Washington, DC 5.06
8 San Diego 5.00
9 Charlottesville, VA 4.87
10 Eugene 4.64
11 Seattle 4.26
12 Honolulu 3.86
13 Eureka 3.67
14 Sacramento 3.66
15 Denver 3.50

*2006 Registrations (December 2006 YTD)

Looking Ahead

In February, the EPA announced its revised fuel economy testing procedures. Effective beginning in the 2008 model year, the revised tests include two additional evaluations that assess vehicle performance while driving at higher speeds and while using air conditioning. The new procedures will result in lower mileage ratings for all vehicles, including hybrids. The Toyota Prius, for example, will see its combined fuel economy rating drop from 55 MPG to 46 MPG, a reduction of 16%. Ratings of other hybrids, such as the Camry Hybrid, fall as well, but by a slightly smaller percentage (13%).

Will potential hybrid buyers be turned off by lower EPA ratings? It remains to be seen. While roughly 80% of U.S. households know something about hybrids, only a small number of them have actually shopped for one. That means a lot of people haven’t paid much attention to the fuel economy ratings for a specific hybrid model in a given year. If these consumers shop for hybrids in the future, they may never know that the vehicles had higher mileage ratings in the past. So while the changes to EPA ratings may be a big deal to those of us who watch hybrids closely, many consumers may never notice.

There is some concern, however, about the symbolic value of high MPG. Many consumers don’t think in terms of percentage changes in fuel economy—they think just about the MPG number. Reducing the Prius’ MPG from 55 to 46 seems like a more drastic change than reducing the average car’s MPG from 25 to 21. In fact, both represent a change of about 16%. So while the new ratings only slightly alter the fuel efficiency advantage of hybrid models relative to conventional vehicles, they disproportionately lop off more miles per gallon from hybrid models. For some buyers, this could rub some of the sheen off the hybrid halo.