Study: Hybrid sales may have peaked
Consumers have adjusted to higher fuel prices and gas-powered cars are more efficient, causing hybrid technology to lose its luster.
Gas prices have been a deciding factor in hybrid sales since the fuel-efficient vehicles first arrived in showrooms. But as drivers grow accustomed to higher prices at the pump and more hybrids have become available -- although the premium paid for the technology hasn’t varied much -- hybrid sales may have plateaued.
A new analysis from the Automotive News Data Center and IHS/Polk predicts that hybrid sales may be ebbing in terms of market share and volume -- even with high gas prices as the new norm.
"People have realigned their budgets to $4 gas and they are making it work," AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan told Automotive News. He added that a big jump in gas prices could make more buyers reflexively consider hybrids. But according to AAA, the national average price of gasoline this summer is predicted to be between $3.55 and $3.70 per gallon.
Because of this, "hybrids are not all that compelling at the moment," Sullivan said.
- Toyota betting on hydrogen over batteries for EVs
- Photos: Luxury hybrid and electric cars
- 2014 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid: First drive review
“It's a financial situation," IHS Automotive analyst Tom Libby told Automotive News. "The hybrid price premium is not offset by the gas savings, and consumers are making a rational decision. The more gas prices stay static, the more consumers adjust and move back toward what they are more comfortable with."
And what they’re comfortable with are traditional gasoline-fueled cars, which are more fuel efficient than ever. This makes it even more difficult to justify paying a higher price for a hybrid, with the idea of recouping the cost over several years via fuel savings.
Alternative-fuel vehicle sales in the U.S. more than doubled from 274,749 in 2010 to 594,485 in 2013, according to the Automotive News Data Center. But this group also includes plug-in hybrids, battery electric and natural gas vehicles, and came at a time when overall car sales rose sharply from a decline during 2008 and 2009.
An IHS/Polk study revealed that although the number of hybrid models on the U.S. market almost doubled in the past five years -- from 24 in 2009 to 47 currently -- the market share of the segment compared with overall vehicle sales has fallen. IHS/Polk said that the hybrid share dropped from 2009 to 2010, when it hit 2.5 percent, and again so far from 2013 to 2014, where it stands now at about 3.5 percent. Compared with the surge in total car sales, hybrids should be selling in much higher numbers -- but they're not.
The Toyota Prius -- the poster child for hybrid technology -- just had its best sales in two years for the month of May. But Automotive News said this was due more to pent-up demand after the long winter than with a gasoline price surge.
And it also could be because of the highest incentives Toyota has ever offered on the Prius: $2,334 per unit. Although four different vehicles are now badged as a Prius, Automotive News pointed out that sales of the models were down 1 percent last year.
Other automakers are also offering strong incentives on hybrids. Lincoln is pushing the MKZ Hybrid by pricing it the same as the gas-powered MKZ, while Hyundai is currently offering a $2,000 “bonus cash” on the 2014 Sonata Hybrid.
AutoPacific’s Sullivan said another reason for the slowdown in demand is that the green credibility of driving a hybrid has lost some of its luster. "We're not seeing so much, 'rah-rah, Mother Earth.' The Prius V has not come close to meeting sales expectations and the regular Prius is aging. Consumers are moving on."
[Source: Automotive News]
Wow...! Our family can barely afford the high gas prices....
And there is No Way we can afford a NEW car...Our best effort is to
keep buying Used cars..? America has changed..and its Not for the Better folks...
I notice the headline used words "may have peaked". Later in article Newcoumb states:
"Alternative-fuel vehicle sales in the U.S. more than doubled from 274,749 in 2010 to 594,485 in 2013, according to the Automotive News Data Center."
Almost all of these are not "plug-in" hybrids and regular hybrids like the Prius are not alternative fuel vehicles. He also pints out that models available have increased from 24 to 47. There are really only about 15 true hybrids; the rest are expensive marketing gimmicks that make no economic sense.
The biggest reason hybrids have cooled off a bit is because car manufactures have squeezed higher mpg out of ICE vehicles. Ford is going to make the new F150 out of aluminum and many cars are shedding weight. However, with both lighter weight AND hybrid technology, mpg can reach the lofty goals Obama set by 2020. The hybrids are here to stay; the price premium will continue to fall; gas prices will inevitably continue to rise. 95% of all Prius made are still on the road commanding high resale value.
Then there is the political factor. Most hybrid owners tend to be environmentalists and believers in human caused climate change along with wanting to spend less on gas and avoid "oil wars". The GOP and Big Oil have done an effective job planting doubts about climate change in the public's mind. Most tea party people feel threatened by change...any change. If it's not in the Bible or Constitution it must be suspect. The only reason they probably didn't feel threatened by the automatic transmission in the 50s is because Big Oil blessed it.
I'll wait 10-20 years for the expertise to circulate out into the general auto repair world.
EXPLORE NEW CARS
MORE ON MSN AUTOS
ABOUT EXHAUST NOTES
Cars are cool, and here at MSN Autos we love everything about them, but we also know they're more than simply speed and style: a car is an essential tool, a much-needed accessory to help you get through your day-to-day life. What you drive is also one of the most important investments you can make, so we'll help you navigate your way through the car buying and ownership experiences. We strive to be your daily destination for news, notes, tips and tricks from across the automotive world. So whether it's through original content from our world-class journalists or the latest buzz from the far corners of the Web, Exhaust Notes helps you make sense of your automotive world.
Have a story idea? Tip us off at email@example.com.