in partnership with Polk

Hybrids Worldwide

"Top 5 global hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations CYTD August 2008.

and "Top 5 US hybrid markets" based on vehicle registrations CYTD August 2008.

Last month, total sales of cars and trucks fell to 838,592 units, a 32 percent decline from October 2007. With sales hitting levels not seen since the early-1980s recession, the industry is in serious trouble.

All three domestic automakers now face potential cash crises in 2009, and even traditionally strong players like Toyota and BMW are reporting staggering drops in sales and profits. Despite the challenging sales environment, hybrid sales were up slightly from September. In October, 21,978 hybrids were sold in the US—that’s 2.6 percent of total vehicle sales. But hybrids are not immune from the industry downturn: sales have dropped 10 percent from last year, and many models—including the Honda Civic Hybrid and Toyota Camry Hybrid—have seen declines of more than 20 percent.

As the industry strains to cope with lower consumer demand, hybrids face two threats. The first is reduced consumer interest in the face of lower gasoline prices. In October, Edmunds.com, a leading automotive website, reported that hybrid interest had fallen 86 percent since the summer, driven largely by the fall in gasoline prices. By the end of October, the average gas price in the United States was $2.72, nearly a dollar less per gallon than in September. Certainly there are more reasons to buy a hybrid than just the fuel savings, but mainstream consumers’ interest in hybrid technology tends to rise and fall with gas prices. At the moment, interest is low, making it harder for automakers to justify increasing production volumes in the near-term.

The second threat hybrids face is reduced investment by automakers. Currently the Detroit Three are operating in survival mode. Not only are they distracted by their financial issues, they are also actively cutting investment in vehicle programs and R&D efforts. While they insist this cost-cutting will not impact high-profile products such as the Chevrolet Volt, we are already seeing hybrid casualties. Last month, Chrysler announced it would remove its large SUVs, the Chrysler Aspen and Dodge Durango, from its product lineup. Gone too are the hybrid versions, which just began production in August and have yet to reach dealers’ lots. Surely Chrysler would have liked to have preserved its only hybrid offerings, if for no other reason than the positive PR value these vehicles bring. But auto companies are now forced into making hard choices that may include delaying or eliminating some advanced vehicles.

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 2008 volumes based on sales-to-date.

Hybrids sold in the U.S. (October 2008): 21,978

US hybrid sales for October 2008

Model Units vs. last month vs. October 2007 CYTD vs. CYTD 2007
Prius 11,804 8.6% 10.3% 142,365 -5.3%
Camry 2,792 0.3% -20.5% 40,027 -9.8%
Highlander 1,022 11.0% 71.5% 17,594 5.5%
RX400h 615 -17.3% -55.8% 13,113 3.5%
LS600hL 55 17.0% -68.6% 893 n/a
GS450h 22 -24.1% -69.0% 585 -58.5%
Civic 1,621 -19.8% -29.1% 29,218 10.7%
Escape 1,782 100.4% -1.9% 14,965 -14.7%
Mariner 215 112.9% -19.5% 2,047 11.4%
Yukon 193 48.4% n/a 1,819 n/a
Malibu 325 -14.9% n/a 1,739 n/a
Vue 354 20.1% 3,440% 2,401 11.4%
Tahoe 372 41.5% n/a 2,813 n/a
Aura 22 29.0% -51.1% 207 -69.5%
Altima 554 17.9% -40.2% 7,756 24.4%
Escalade 230 152.7% n/a 322 n/a
All hybrids 21,978 5.5% -10.4% 276,611 -3.4%
All vehicles 838,592 -13.1% -31.9% 11,603,855 -14.6%

U.S. hybrid sales for October 2008 by manufacturer and model

United States Sales by Make

U.S. hybrid market historical sales (1999 – 2007 with 2008 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 put over 19,000 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 58,223
2 New York 13,052
3 Texas 12,332
4 Florida 12,291
5 Illinois 9,340
6 Virginia 7,881
7 Washington 7,802
8 Pennsylvania 7,356
9 Arizona 7,085
10 Massachusetts 6,838
11 New Jersey 6,759
12 Maryland 6,759
13 North Carolina 5,612
14 Ohio 5,538
15 Colorado 4,779

*Registrations CYTD August 2008

States where hybrids are most popular

Rank State New Hybrids per 1000 Residents*
1 California 1.611
2 District of Columbia 1.542
3 Oregon 1.288
4 Washington 1.241
5 Vermont 1.225
6 Arizona 1.193
7 Connecticut 1.189
8 New Hampshire 1.102
9 Massachusetts 1.069
10 Virginia 1.041
11 Maryland 1.027
12 Colorado 1.024
13 Nevada 0.977
14 Hawaii 0.928
15 Alaska 0.878
US State Average 0.747

*Registrations CYTD August 2008

Metropolitan areas with the highest hybrid sales

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids*
1 Los Angeles 26,077
2 San Francisco 16,120
3 New York 15,487
4 Washington, DC 8,232
5 Chicago 7,409
6 Boston 7,008
7 Seattle 6,445
8 Phoenix 6,050
9 Philadelphia 5,894
10 San Diego 5,231
11 Sacramento 5,194
12 Denver 4,208
13 Portland, OR 3,919
14 Dallas-Ft. Worth 3,729
15 Minneapolis-St. Paul 3,710

*Registrations CYTD August 2008

Metropolitan areas where hybrids are most popular

Rank Metropolitan Area New Hybrids per 1000 Households*
1 Portland, OR 9.628
2 San Francisco 6.843
3 Santa Barbara, CA 5.413
4 Monterrey, CA 5.402
5 San Diego 5.098
6 Los Angeles 4.697
7 Charlottesville, VA 4.029
8 Sacramento, CA 3.859
9 Seattle 3.787
10 Washington, DC 3.655
11 Phoenix 3.644
12 Palm Springs, CA 3.566
13 Helena, MT 3.410
14 Eugene, OR 3.206
15 Eureka, CA 3.154
  US Metro Area Average 1.655

*Registrations CYTD August 2008