Hybrid Sales in U.S. Jump 49% in 2007

But the hybrid SUV proves to be a sales laggard

By Brendan Moore

09.17.2007

With the Toyota Prius leading the way, sales of new hybrid vehicles increased by 49% the first seven months of 2007, as compared to the same period last year, according to R.L. Polk and Co., an auto industry data company.

Regionally, the Midwest showed strong gains (56.9%) on a proportionate basis; Oklahoma led the growth by individual states with an increase of 143.4%, followed by Minnesota at 97.7% and Arizona at 86.3%. In terms of total volume, the West region outpaces all other regions, with the kingpin of hybrid sales, California, the main reason for the region’s dominance.

But hybrid sales growth was present in every state except for Hawaii, which showed a decrease of 5.3%.

Industry analysts say that greater consumer familiarity with hybrids, the desire by would-be owners to differentiate themselves from other motorists, environmental concerns, the ever-increasing retail price of gasoline and manufacturers’ sales incentives have all combined to push hybrid sales up this year.

Just as an aside, oil futures prices closed at yet another intraday record high today as I type this, at almost $81 a barrel.

And according to today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal; quote: “Goldman Sachs, which in 2005 famously suggested crude oil could spike to $105 a barrel before demand destruction kicked in, on Sunday raised its target for Nymex crude-oil prices for year-end 2007 and 2008, saying crude could end that two-year run as high as $95. Goldman projected oil would end this year at $85 a barrel and would end next year at $95. Goldman analysts warn oil could spike above $90 this year and expect it to average $85 next year. That’s right, average $85.”

But, I digress. Here’s what R.L. Polk had to say in their press release today:

“While the overall U.S. vehicle market is down, hybrids are a bright spot in the automotive industry with this category projected to easily exceed 300,000 vehicles this year,” said Lonnie Miller, Polk’s director of industry analysis. “At this point, hybrids account for more than 2 percent of the total U.S. vehicle market, which is supported by the regional growth we’ve seen.”

Of course, it must be noted that those percentage increases are coming off of a small base to start with; even if sales of hybrids hit 300,000 this calendar year, hybrid sales are still but a fraction of the overall forecast 16.7 million passenger vehicles expected to be sold in the U.S. this year.

Nonetheless, its still impressive growth. And the leader of the hybrid growth is still the Toyota Prius, which holds about 50% of the U.S. hybrid market. Prius sales increased 76.9% over the same period last year.

The Toyota Camry, just introduced last year, was another bright spot for Toyota in terms of sales growth, and now holds 15% of the hybrid market in the U.S. In fact, Toyota and Lexus together own 78% of the hybrid market in the U.S.

It wasn’t all good news for Toyota from a hybrid perspective, though – In an up market, both the Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX400h sales plummeted in every region. They really just fell off a cliff. Highlander registrations were down 24.6%, while the RX400h was down 16.3%. Apparently, consumers did not see the value of an SUV hybrid as readily as they did a sedan.

The highest share of the hybrid market by any non-Toyota hybrid was the Honda Civic with 9.1% of current market share.

For more information on the report, go HERE to R.L. Polk’s website.

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Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting , a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area. He also manages Autosavant Consulting, a separate practice within Cedar Point Consulting. where he advises businesses connected to the auto industry. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://www.cedarpointconsulting.com.

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8 Comments

  1. WHose going to want a hybrid when the diesels finally show up in force in America? The diesels get really great fuel econommy.

  2. A hybrid SUV seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Like a small tsunami or a massive toy poodle.

  3. GM is coming out with their hybrids starting now. A fast start in the market is great, but let’s just wait and see who finishes best. Toyota hardly a technology leader in hybrids, but I will give them their due in that they were there first in the market with a mass-production car.

  4. The GM hybrids so far are a big fat failure. Is there something a lot better coming?

  5. I’m with Skeezix, bring on the diesels. I drove a Ford Focus diesel around the UK for a month at high speeds and still got around 54 mpg from what I could figure. And that was at 80 mph almost constantly. I went slower only when I entered and exited the motorways.

    It’s all about torque, baby.

  6. roadhungry, you’re right that GM’s current hybrids are lame. They are all BAS (belt-alternator-starter “mild” hybrids). This fall, they have full size SUVs (Tahoe and Yukon) with the new two-mode setup (codeveloped with DaimlerChrysler and BMW) that is a “full” hybrid, and which will give about 40% better city fuel economy (think about 20 mpg in the city instead of 14), but highway mileage isn’t much better. After that, they are rolling out a Saturn Vue Greenline with the two-mode system for FWD-based vehicles, which will have similar economy improvements to what it can do in the big SUVs. Finally, they’re rolling out the Chevy Volt with its “e-flex” powertrain, which is basically an electric car that has a small internal combustion engine solely to charge the battery, or it can be plugged in at night. Supposedly the Volt will be able to travel 40 miles on battery power alone, using no gas. Oh yeah, and before the Volt, supposedly they’ll have a plug in hybrid version of the Saturn Vue.

  7. massive toy poodle

    LOL

  8. No need to dis the hybrid setup because you like diesels. The next hybrids will be diesels.

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