October 2009 Hybrid Car Sales Numbers

For October, we offer an abbreviated version of our Hybrid Market Dashboard. The full dashboard, with geo-based data, will return in December.

As we approach the end of 2009—the worst year for overall auto sales in decades—the picture for this year’s hybrid sales becomes clearer. Hybrids are dramatically outperforming the market as a whole. Incentive programs like Cash for Clunkers, as well as factory incentives, uneven inventory, changes in gas prices and new model introductions have skewed sales numbers up and down in recent months. But the auto industry’s movement toward fuel efficiency and hybrids is regaining momentum.

If current trends continue, hybrid sales could end the year relatively flat compared to last year, while the overall market suffers a decline of about 20 percent. These conditions prepare the way for growth in 2010, when Hyundai, Mercedes and BMW (as well as Dodge and Porsche) start selling hybrids—and Honda adds one or two more small hybrids. The new introductions, and potentially higher gas priced, could return hybrids to the steep growth curve experienced from 2000 to 2007, before the economic downturn took its toll.

In October, hybrid sales were up by 22 percent compared to last month, and 11 percent compared to October 2008. Year-to-date hybrids sales remain about 12 percent lower than a year ago.

Incentives & Inventories

All popular hybrids—those that commonly sell more than a few hundred per month—saw gains in October compared to last month. The one exception was sales of the Honda Insight, which were flat. The 2010 Toyota Prius, assisted by a small factory incentive, remained by far the segment leader, accounting for 55 percent of all hybrid sales for the month.

Any remaining question about the Prius fighting off a threat by the 2010 Honda Insight was put to rest. Prius outsold the Honda Insight by a margin of 8 to 1—throwing into question Honda’s ability to offer small affordable hybrids to compete with Toyota and Ford’s rising hybrid program. In fact, there are rumors that Honda will bring back the Honda Accord Hybrid, a midsize sedan to stack up against the Toyota Camry Hybrid and the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

Some analysts believe that the aftershocks of Cash for Clunkers are still being felt: producing a dip in sales in September due to low inventory after Cash for Clunkers boosted hybrid sales and cleared inventory—pushing relative sales up in October when inventories returned. Lack of inventory continues to plague sales of clean diesel cars, which continue to lag behind hybrids. Volkswagen sold 4,008 TDI vehicles in October. That represents an impressive 24 percent of total VW sales, but the field of clean diesels remains uneven.

Factory incentives were mostly applied to slow-selling luxury hybrids: Dealers offered $10,000 on the super pricey 2009 LS 600h L and a similar amount on the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid, as well as pricey hybrid trucks from Chevy and GMC.

The Numbers

Hybrids sold in the US (October 2009): 24,475

US hybrid sales for October 2009

Model Units vs. last month vs. October 2008 CYTD vs. CYTD 2008
Prius 13,496 22.9% 14.3% 118,290 16.9%
Insight 1,739 -0.4% n/a 17,530 n/a
RX400h 1,567 34.2% 154.8% 11,656 -11.1%
HS 250h 1,527 22.9% n/a 3,312 n/a
Camry 1,407 61.4% -49.6% 19,909 -52.8%
Fusion 1,226 9.9% n/a 12,694 n/a
Escape 868 10.3% -51.3% 12,877 -14.0%
Highlander 700 160.2% -31.5% 9,335 -46.9%
Tahoe 391 39.6% 5.1% 2,857 5.7%
Altima 299 -13.3% -46.0% 8,012 3.3%
Civic 239 57.2% -85.3% 14,405 -50.7%
Yukon 215 47.3% 11.4% 1,563 -9.3%
Escalade 186 -1.6% -19.1 1,639 409%
Silverado 167 39.2% n/a 1,163 n/a
Malibu 114 -26.9% -64.9% 3,818 119.6%
Milan 107 -25.7% n/a 1,241 n/a
Mariner 81 11.0% -62.3% 1,486 -27.4%
Vue 56 -37.8% -84.2% 2,336 2.7%
GS450h 39 2.6% 77.3% 378 -35.4%
Aura 30 0.0% 36.4% 339 63.8%
LS600hL 21 75.0% -61.8% 228 -74.5
All hybrids 24,475 22.5% 11.4% 245,109 -12.5%
All vehicles 837,800 12.4% 0.1% 8,652,150 -25.5%