Hybrid Car Sales in 2006 increased 26.6% from 2005 to a total of 466,875 units sold in 2006. This is down from the incredible 161.2% jump from 2004 to 2005, but there's more to the story. (All numbers and comparisons exclude the Saturn Vue Greenline as the sales numbers are not available).
At the beginning of 2004, there were only three hybrid cars being sold, the Honda Civic Hybrid, the low production Insight and the Toyota Prius. By the end of 2004, with the late addition of the Ford Escape (and its twin the Mercury Mariner) hybrid and the Honda Accord Hybrid, there were 6 models available. And by the end of 2005, there were eight hybrids on the road. So, by increasing the number of models being sold, hybrids sales increased at a rapid rate. In 2006, only two more models were converted to hybrids (the Camry and Lexus GS 450h), and so we see a much smaller increase in sales.
Toyota and the Prius have dominated
The Prius has overshadowed every other hybrid car, selling 106,871 units (42.5% of the hybrid car market) in 2006. This has helped Toyota completely overshadow their competitors. In 2006, 76.1% of all hybrids (191,742 units) were sold by Toyota or Lexus. In comparison, Honda sold 37,573 units, while Ford sold 22,549 units.
Actually, Toyota has the top three spots for hybrids sold. The Prius was number one by a long shot, but the Toyota Highlander Hybrid came in second. The Toyota Camry Hybrid, which only came out in April of 2006, came in a close third. The fourth place spot fell to the Honda Civic Hybrid, while Ford came in fifth place with 22,549 units with the Ford Escape / Mercury Mariner Hybrid (See the table below for the units sold).
|Hybrid Vehicles||2006 Sales |
|Ford Escape and Mariner||22,549|
|Lexus RX 400h||20,161|
|Lexus GS 450h||1,784|
Honda Hybrid Cars in 2007
Honda hybrid sales have dropped like a stone in the past few months. They tested the market with the Accord hybrid, designing it to take advantage of the performance enhancements, rather than the fuel efficiency a hybrid vehicle can deliver. This misstep led to falling sales and has cost them after they helped lead the way with the introduction of the Insight and the Civic Hybrid.
But Honda is looking to come back in the next year. By cutting production of the Insight (a low production two-seater with little chances of being used by the main stream) and looking to the success of the Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda should be able to overcome this initial mistake. It won't show up in the early numbers, as they have given Toyota too big a lead, but I believe Honda will rally in 2008, if they don't switch almost entirely to diesels.
Ford Backs Off
Ford has backed off its promise to build more hybrids and has decided to go a different direction. By not focusing in on its early success with the Escape, Ford has decided to cede to their competition and focus its attention on other alternative fueled engines (I'm overstating a bit. They are promising a redesigned 2008 Escape Hybrid as well as other hybrid vehicles, they just want a cheaper alternative they have a chance of looking better in). Volvo has made a few splashes in the hybrid news area by opening research facilities or funding hybrid or battery technology, but being European, Volvo tends to think of diesels first.
The Others in 2007
And then there are the others. Nissan and GM are next two big players to enter the hybrid car game. Although DaimlerChrysler and BMW will be coming on as well, I don't expect them to make a big difference.
Nissan is cautiously entering the hybrid field, releasing the Altima Hybrid in only eight states (those with higher standards). The first Nissan hybrid is being built on top of Toyota's Synergy Drive. Nissan is hoping to have their own hybrid technology, but that won't be for a few years. As of now, Nissan clearly doesn't want to play claiming that hybrids lose money, but apparently they don't want to be left out entirely, either. Still, the Altima is a very popular car, and the Altima Hybrid could compete with the Camry Hybrid.
GM Has Been Mild
GM, on the other hand, really wants to get into the act. But they seem to be coming in too late with too little. As of now, they are concentrating their hybrid technology in the Saturn line, having already released the Saturn Vue hybrid (Greenline), which can claim to get the best highway mileage (based on EPA testing) of all hybrid SUVs. Unfortunately, their mild hybrid technology just doesn't compare well with what Toyota has done. (BTW, you should expect to get a lower overall fuel economy when driving the Vue hybrid.)
But Gm is looking to change that with new technology, jointly developed with BMW and DaimlerChrysler. The new dual-mode hybrid engine may make a big difference in the coming year or two. But expect GM to focus in on their trucks and SUVs (or CUVs) with this new technology.
Toyota Will Contine to Win Handily
And so, in 2007, I expect Toyota to continue to dominate the hybrid car market in the US. Despite losing half of its federal tax break, Toyota has beat down all others in the hybrid car industry in sales. Perhaps sales aren't growing as fast as Toyota would like, but with more hybrid models on sale than anyone else, they can continue to reap the benefits of being seen as the 'greenest' car company.
That may change when their tax benefits are cut in half again in March, but I doubt it. The Prius has become synonymous with hybrid and that's not going to change overnight.