in partnership with Polk

Hybrids Worldwide

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

In February, the Toyota Prius hit a new sales high of 12,227 units, and we were impressed. This month, we’re just plain stunned. The Prius hit another all-time high, selling 19,156 units in March, a 57% increase over February.

To put this volume in perspective, consider this: this month Prius sales exceeded the sales volume of entire brands such as Subaru, Mercury, and Cadillac. Camry Hybrid sales also were at record-high levels, rising 54% from last month to 5,144 units. Even the Highlander Hybrid, which is nearing the end of its model run, had respectable sales of 2,501 units, 32% above February levels. With these sales results, Toyota seems well-positioned to meet its target of increasing North American hybrid sales by 50% over 2006 levels.

As we mentioned last month, the rise in Toyota hybrid sales is due partly to the company’s marketing efforts. In addition to their advertising campaign for the Prius, Toyota offered discounted financing on both the Prius and the Highlander Hybrid and, in some areas, had dealer incentives in place as well (as much as $400/unit on the Prius, and $2000 on the Highlander Hybrid). Sales were also buoyed by rising gas prices, which went up by $.28 per gallon in March, as well as a general uptick in vehicle sales this month. As a result, all hybrid models showed sales gains over February’s numbers, and hybrids rose to 2.25% of total light-duty vehicle sales.

Most hybrids showed year-over-year gains as well, with two exceptions: the Accord Hybrid and the Lexus RX400h. Sales of both models have slid during the past year, proof perhaps that today’s hybrid buyers demand a noticeable improvement in fuel economy when buying a hybrid model. Consumers may also have grown tired of both designs. A new 2008 Accord arrives at the end of this year, although it is unclear whether Honda will continue to offer a hybrid model or will opt for a clean diesel powerplant instead. A reworked RX is planned for next spring as a 2009 model, and while Toyota has not released details about the hybrid model, the RX lineup will undoubtedly include one. Assuming both the Accord and RX have new hybrid versions, the question for both is whether they can incorporate lessons learned from successful models such as the Prius and Camry Hybrid. If so, they could be major contributors to future growth in the hybrid market.

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. (March 2007): 34,636

U.S. hybrid sales for March 2007

Model Units vs. 2/07 vs. 3/06
Altima 462 124.3%
Prius 19,156 56.7% 141.8%
Civic 2,813 46.2% 26.0%
Accord 385 23.4% -33.7%
Camry 5,144 54.4% n/a
Highlander 2,501 32.2% -16.3%
RX400h 1,471 17.8% -40.4%
GS450h 181 13.1% n/a
Escape 2,179 48.8% 51.2%
Mariner 344 48.3% 51.2%
Vue n/a n/a n/a
All hybrids 34,636 45.9% 93.9%

U.S. hybrid sales for March 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: 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 a single month: January 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 Registered Hybrids*
1 California 5,202
2 Florida 1,020
3 New York 871
4 Virginia 723
5 Washington 720
6 Illinois 680
7 Pennsylvania 665
8 Texas 642
9 New Jersey 543
10 Maryland 532
11 Massachusetts 529
12 Oregon 487
13 Arizona 486
14 Colorado 458
15 North Carolina 438

*January 2007 Registrations

States where hybrids are most popular

Rank State Hybrids per 1000 residents*
1 District of Columbia 0.153
2 California 0.144
3 Oregon 0.134
4 Vermont 0.124
5 Washington 0.115
6 Connecticut 0.110
7 Colorado 0.098
8 Virginia 0.096
9 Maryland 0.095
10 Hawaii 0.095
11 New Hampshire 0.083
12 Massachusetts 0.083
13 Arizona 0.082
14 New Mexico 0.078
15 Maine 0.076

*January 2007 Registrations

Metropolitan areas with the highest hybrid sales

Rank Metropolitan Area Hybrids*
1 Los Angeles 2,348
2 San Francisco 1,606
3 New York 1,181
4 Washington, DC 796
5 Seattle 625
6 Chicago 566
7 Boston 559
8 Philadelphia 529
9 Sacramento 451
10 Denver 404
11 Phoenix 402
12 Portland, OR 394
13 San Diego 382
14 Minneapolis/St. Paul 315
15 Baltimore 256

*January 2007 Registrations

Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular

Rank Metropolitan Area Hybrids per 1000 Households*
1 Portland, OR 0.968
2 San Francisco, CA 0.682
3 Monterey, CA 0.537
4 Los Angeles 0.424
5 Charlottesville, VA 0.416
6 Santa Barbara, CA 0.401
7 Eugene, OR 0.384
8 San Diego 0.372
9 Bend, OR 0.369
10 Seattle 0.367
11 Washington, DC 0.353
12 Sacramento 0.335
13 Palm Springs, CA 0.301
14 Honolulu 0.292
15 Denver 0.285

*January 2007 Registrations

Looking Ahead

The leap in Toyota Prius sales during the past two months makes us wonder about the potential of hybrids in the U.S. market. Is there a latent market for hybrids that is just now being tapped through Toyota’s marketing efforts? Two summers ago, the Polk Center for Automotive Studies explored consumer attitudes toward hybrid technology. Polk’s findings suggest that this may be the case.

In Polk’s sample of 307 U.S. consumers, awareness of hybrid technology was high: 97% had heard of hybrid vehicles. More importantly, 78% said they were willing to consider buying a hybrid. For most potential buyers, saving money on gasoline was the primary reason for considering hybrid technology. This means that before many people get serious about hybrids, the cost of hybrid technology must come down or the price of gas must go up.

But 30% of the group said they were attracted to hybrids for other reasons, including the environmental benefits and the appeal of new technology. This may not sound like a substantial amount, but a 30% “hybrid segment” represents a significant portion of the new vehicle market. If 30% of U.S. carbuyers opted for a hybrid last year, hybrid sales would have hit almost five million units. So even without major changes in gasoline prices or cost reductions in hybrid technology, the potential hybrid vehicle market may be much larger than many analysts have predicted.

Of course, the number of hybrid offerings must expand before this market can be realized: nearly 60% of participants in the Polk study recommended that every vehicle model also offer a hybrid version. This advice seems to fit well with Toyota’s long-term plans of incorporating hybrid drivetrains across all of its popular vehicle offerings. In the meantime, the company’s aggressive marketing of its current hybrid models seems to be drawing in more of the buyers in the 30% “hybrid segment” of the market. With just 2.25% of buyers currently opting for hybrids, there is plenty of room for growth.