in partnership with Polk

Hybrids Worldwide

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

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

January’s auto sales are typically lackluster, and this month was no exception. Overall vehicle sales were down 24% from last month, and 4.5% lower than sales a year ago. Hybrid sales totaled 17,591 units: 22% lower than last month, but up almost 11% compared to January 2006. In particular, the Prius, Escape Hybrid, and Mariner Hybrid showed gains compared with last January, bringing hybrids to 1.6% of the light vehicle market. Year-to-year sales gains for the Prius may have been stimulated by sales incentives, which were offered for the first time on Toyota’s flagship hybrid this month. January 2007 also marks the first time in seven years that no Honda Insights were shipped, bringing sales of the first hybrid sold in America to a close.

With fewer customers in their showrooms this month, automakers focused instead on future models, unveiling concept vehicles at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. One of the vehicles that received the most attention was GM’s Chevrolet Volt, a series plug-in hybrid. We’re impressed with the Volt’s design, and we applaud GM’s vision. But the problem with vision is that it is often subject to re-vision. Nine years ago, GM unveiled another series-hybrid prototype at NAIAS. That car was based on the EV1 and used a microturbine for battery recharging. Like many concept cars, it never made it into production. Whether the Volt will follow the same path remains to be seen, but its future is far from certain.

The purpose of this dashboard is to examine hybrids that are actually selling, who’s buying them, and where those transactions take place. We include future vehicles only if they have firm launch dates or other indications of a serious commitment by the manufacturer. In 2006, we estimate that GM put 1,500 hybrids in the hands of consumers. Toyota sold ten times that amount. If GM is serious about leading the industry toward the "electrification of the automobile," they have some catching up to do, and they’ll need to take the competition by surprise. That means keeping designs like the Volt secret, forgoing positive PR today for success in the marketplace tomorrow.

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. (January 2007): 17,591

U.S. hybrid sales for January 2007

Model Units vs. 12/06 vs. 1/06
Prius 8,299
Civic 1,783
Accord 248
Camry 2,801
Highlander 1,810
RX400h 1,245
GS450h 167
Escape 1,039
Mariner 199
All hybrids 17,591

U.S. hybrid sales for January 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.

States with the Highest Hybrid Sales

Rank State Registered Hybrids*
1 California 61,663
2 Florida 11,713
3 Texas 11,594
4 New York 10,736
5 Virginia 9,717
6 Illinois 8,613
7 Washington 7,692
8 Pennsylvania 7,652
9 Massachusetts 6,766
10 New Jersey 6,452
11 Maryland 6,222
12 North Carolina 6,161
13 Ohio 5,464
14 Oregon 5,460
15 Colorado 5,119

*2006 Registrations (November 2006 YTD)

States where hybrids are most popular

Rank State Hybrids per 1000 residents*
1 California 1.71
2 Oregon 1.50
3 District of Columbia 1.46
4 Vermont 1.35
5 Virginia 1.28
6 Washington 1.22
7 Hawaii 1.18
8 New Hampshire 1.16
9 Maryland 1.11
10 Colorado 1.10
11 Massachusetts 1.06
12 Connecticut 0.92
13 Delaware 0.89
14 Arizona 0.85
15 New Mexico 0.85

*2006 Registrations (November 2006 YTD)

Metropolitan areas with the highest hybrid sales

Rank Metropolitan Area Hybrids*
1 Los Angeles 28,355
2 San Francisco 18,767
3 New York 12,992
4 Washington, DC 10,511
5 Boston 7,120
6 Chicago 6,908
7 Seattle 6,410
8 Philadelphia 6,231
9 San Diego 4,700
10 Denver 4,467
11 Sacramento 4,416
12 Portland, OR 4,149
13 Phoenix 3,848
14 Dallas/Ft. Worth 3,360
15 Houston 3,288

*2006 Registrations (November 2006 YTD)

Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular

Rank Metropolitan Area Hybrids per 1000 Households*
1 Portland, OR 10.19
2 San Francisco, CA 7.97
3 Monterey, CA 6.30
4 Santa Barbara, CA 5.63
5 Los Angeles 5.12
6 Bend, OR 4.87
7 Washington, DC 4.67
8 San Diego 4.58
9 Charlottesville, VA 4.50
10 Eugene 4.16
11 Seattle 3.77
12 Honolulu 3.63
13 Eureka 3.41
14 Sacramento 3.28
15 Madison, WI 3.22

*2006 Registrations (November 2006 YTD)

Looking Ahead

As we mentioned last month, 10 new hybrid models will be introduced this year, and six of them will come from the Big 3. 2007, it seems, will be the year that Detroit finally gets serious about hybrids. The question many hybrid owners are asking is, what took so long?

One answer may lie in the makeup of cars on the road in the Detroit area. Detroit should be at the forefront of automotive technology innovation: the area is home to the domestic auto industry and hosts events like the North American International Auto Show that showcase future vehicle designs. But as far as hybrids go, the Detroit area is no leader—carbuyers there lag well behind most of the country. In the first 11 months of 2006, residents of metro Detroit bought just over 2,000 hybrids, roughly the same amount that sold in cities half Detroit’s size, such as Raleigh/Durham, NC. In hybrids per capita, Detroit sits at the bottom of the list of major U.S. metropolitan areas, ranking 53rd out of 62 cities. Statewide, the picture is almost as bad: Michigan ranked 44th out of 50 states for hybrid sales per capita in the first eleven months of 2006.

Certainly one reason for Detroit’s low rates of hybrid adoption is the city’s loyalty to domestic auto brands. Many Detroit residents have ties to the Big 3 automakers, and are unlikely to buy any product (hybrid or not) from Toyota or Honda. But even the domestic brand hybrids (hybrid versions of the Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner, and Saturn Vue) aren’t well-supported in Detroit. Last November, residents of the Washington, DC area bought over twice as many hybrids from Ford and GM as residents of the Detroit area did. Among major metropolitan areas where the Ford Escape hybrid is most popular, Detroit isn’t even in the top ten.

Auto executives base their decision to launch a new vehicle on many factors, including market research collected from consumers across the U.S. But the vehicles they see on their morning commutes and in their neighbors’ driveways also influence their perceptions of what is popular and what is not. Six years after the launch of hybrids in the United States, auto executives in Michigan still have almost no exposure to hybrids. In contrast, leaders at Toyota and Honda see five times more hybrids on the roads of their home state, California. Until now, hybrids have been out-of sight, out-of-mind for many Big 3 executives. Sales in 2007 could begin to change their views.