According to automotive news, hybrid car sales were down 9.8% for 2008 over 2007. The surprising part is how drastic they feel that is. (Hybrid sales in U.S. slip 9.9% in 2008 - Automotive News)
U.S. Hybrid Vehicle SalesThe percentages and N's here are all misleading. Chrysler started selling, but almost immediately retired their two-mode hybrids after just a couple of months. The general drop in oversized SUVs, hybrids or not, oversized or not, pushed Chrysler into dropping their production.
Source: Automotive News Data Center, companies and National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Company 2008 2007 % change Chrysler LLC 81 - - Ford Motor Co. 19522 25108 -22.2% General Motors 14439 5175 179.0% American Honda 31495 35980 -12.5% Nissan N.A. 8819 8388 5.1% Toyota Motor Sales 241405 275779 -12.5% Total 315761 350430 -9.9%
GM started sellling their oversized hybrid SUVs, got past their recall issues from earlier on their mild hybrids, and just hadn't sold that many hybrids the year before.
Nissan started selling their hybrid Nissan in February of last year in limited numbers. Seeing that number go up by 5% is still pretty good considering the downturn in the overall market.
Honda, Toyota and Ford tell you the real story in hybrid car sales since, except for the introduction of the LS 600h L in 2007, has had a stable number of hybrids being sold in 2007 and in 2008. Ford was the big loser, probably because they sell the Hybrid Escape Hybrid, an SUV which began suffering in sales before Toyota and Honda hybrid sales began to suffer. That may have been due to the age of the model, the introduction of multiple other hybrid SUVs, and the high cost of gas making any SUV unpalatable.
Toyota and Honda were both down 12.5%. Ask the other car companies if they would take a 12.5% drop in their sales from last year. I'm betting they wish their sales had only dropped by that amount. And note that the Prius is still one of the top 10 cars being sold in the U.S. That shows people are still interested in the higher fuel economy the Prius can give, plus the green image it imparts. And that is despite the anticipation of a new generation of Prius, plus the introduction of the Ford Fusion Hybrid and the new Honda Insight coming in the next months. That situation certainly kept some buyers on the sidelines while they try to figure out which of the three hybrids they want to buy in 2009, rather than buying the Prius in 2008.
Putting that aside, I agree for the other reason noted in the autonews article for the drop in sales. The overall economy was most likely the biggest contributor. Add in the drop in gas prices to the other reasons I noted above as the end of the year approached and you can understand why sales dropped the way they did. You should also note how sales were limited to availability in the beginning part of the year. If Toyota and Honda had been able to increase production at the beginning of the year, they probably would have come out even for 2008 against 2007.