in partnership with Polk

Hybrids Worldwide

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

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

Hybrid sales in October were up 30 percent compared to last year at this time—once again showing that hybrids can defy the economics of an overall vehicle market that has remained basically flat. Prius sales continue to carry most of the weight. While not as strong as earlier in the year, the number of Priuses added to American roads increased by 50 percent compared to last October.

Sales of the Escape Hybrid and Camry Hybrid also remain strong, posting 25 percent and 35 percent year-over-year increases respectively. The only notable disappointment is the Highlander Hybrid which sold fewer than 600 units. This can be excused considering that the Highlander is in the middle of a model transition.

Gas prices began their current climb in October, which may have had some effect. The prices at the pump have continued to rise in early November. If the price of a barrel of oil break the $100 mark, the real and psychological impact on car buyers could have an even greater impact on hybrid sales from now until the end of the year.

There’s little evidence that the loss of tax credits on Toyota hybrids, which have been dwindling since a year ago, had any effect on October numbers. The new EPA fuel economy numbers issued for 2008 model vehicles, while lower than the previous numbers, leave Toyota and Honda hybrids at the top of the pack. Apparently, the mpg advantage—which can reap benefits as soon as the car leaves the dealership—resonate more to consumers than tax credits that have to wait until next year’s tax season.

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 2007 volumes based on sales-to-date.

Hybrids sold in the U.S. (October 2007): 24,498

US hybrid sales for October 2007

Model Units vs. 9/07 vs. 10/06
Altima 927 22.6% n/a
Prius 13,158 5.3% 50.7%
Civic 2,286 9.3% -0.1%
Accord 243 6.1% -15.3%
Camry 3,511 -16.3% 25.1%
Highlander 596 208.8% -63.7%
RX400h 1,392 42.2% 12.3%
GS450h 71 -1.4% -59.9%
LS600hL 175 -10.7% n/a
Escape 1,817 34.8% 35.3%
Mariner 267 -12.2% 3.1%
Vue 10 -80.4% n/a
Aura 45 -28.6% n/a
All hybrids 24,498 6.6% 30.4%
All vehicles 1,232,080 -6.3% 1.2%

U.S. hybrid sales for October 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 have put over 8,000 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 62,733
2 Florida 12,736
3 New York 12,137
4 Texas 11,971
5 Washington 9,107
6 Illinois 8,970
7 Virginia 8,453
8 Pennsylvania 7,720
9 Massachusetts 6,961
10 Arizona 6,516
11 New Jersey 6,459
12 Maryland 6,172
13 Oregon 6,050
14 North Carolina 5,805
15 Colorado 5,537

*Registrations CYTD August 2007

States where hybrids are most popular

Rank State New Hybrids per 1000 Residents*
1 California 1.736
2 Oregon 1.662
3 Washington 1.448
4 Vermont 1.425
5 District of Columbia 1.330
6 Colorado 1.187
7 Connecticut 1.144
8 New Hampshire 1.137
9 Virginia 1.117
10 Maryland 1.102
11 Arizona 1.097
12 Massachusetts 1.088
13 New Mexico 0.906
14 Nevada 0.897
15 Rhode Island 0.891
  US State Average 0.746

*Registrations CYTD August 2007

Metropolitan areas with the highest hybrid sales

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids*
1 Los Angeles 28,153
2 San Francisco 18,316
3 New York 14,110
4 Washington, DC 9,028
5 Seattle 7,685
6 Boston 7,234
7 Chicago 7,208
8 Philadelphia 6,060
9 Sacramento 5,462
10 Phoenix 5,405
11 Portland, OR 5,025
12 San Diego 5,020
13 Denver 4,859
14 Minneapolis-St. Paul 3,839
15 Dallas-Ft. Worth 3,667

*Registrations CYTD August 2007

Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids per 1000 Households*
1 Portland, OR 12.345
2 San Francisco, CA 7.775
3 Monterey, CA 6.351
4 Santa Barbara, CA 5.323
5 Los Angeles 5.085
6 San Diego 4.892
7 Bend, OR 4.793
8 Charlottesville, VA 4.645
9 Seattle 4.515
10 Sacramento 4.058
11 Washington, DC 4.008
12 Eugene, OR 3.733
13 Palm Springs, CA 3.517
14 Denver 3.433
15 Eureka, CA 3.394
  US Metro Area Average 1.639

*Registrations CYTD August 2007

Looking Ahead

The tidal wave of green car marketing continues unabated, leaving today’s car shoppers with a sense that breakthrough technologies—such as plug-in hybrids or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles—are right around the corner. Meanwhile, new hybrid releases fail to deliver revolution or evolution.

The 2008 Highlander Hybrid is bigger and heavier than the previous model—and no more fuel efficient or speedy. The just-released Chevy Malibu Hybrid carries a $1,800 premium over the conventional model, but provides a negligible gain in fuel efficiency of two mpg in the city and highway. And the next hybrid release, the Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, is the very definition of cognitive dissonance.

Announcements about new dedicated hybrid models, electric drives and biofuel power make a promise that apparently will not be honored for at least two or three years. Press releases about these exciting new hybrid and diesel models, mostly coming out of the major auto shows, almost invariably forecast production beginning at "the end of the decade."

In the meantime, gas-electric vehicles actually arriving to dealership showrooms follow hybrid economics, circa 2003—namely, "hybrids don’t pay for themselves and don’t make sense." It doesn’t help that prestigious news organizations, like the Wall Street Journal, perpetuate the bean-counters approach to hybrids. The Oct. 29, 2007 WSJ story, "The Economics of Hybrids," computes a breakeven period for the Toyota Prius at nearly 18 years. Some journalists still don’t understand that hybrids are about much more than just dollars and cents.

Until new hybrid offerings which capture the zeitgeist—worry about the environment and energy security, combined with the society’s love of high-tech gadgets—the one or two most popular and fuel efficient hybrids will slowly and steadily push the hybrid market ahead. More dramatic increases in hybrid sales numbers are unlikely until "the end of the decade."