NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hybrid Cars' Share of Sales Stalls

June 27, 2011

Despite months of high gas prices, a bevy of new fuel-stingy cars with conventional gas engines may be eating into sales of pricier gas-electric hybrids, reports USA Today.

Sales of high-mileage, high-value conventional compacts such as the Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze are hot, while hybrid sales have stagnated.

  • The hybrid share of U.S. auto sales peaked at 3.6 percent in July 2009, says.
  • Last month, it was 1.6 percent, depressed also by production cuts for some models due to the Japan disaster, but not enough to account for the entire drop.

The new conventionally powered cars use various strategies to boost gas mileage to near hybrid levels -- without the batteries and electric motors that can add $6,000 on average to a vehicle's cost, according to J.D. Power and Associates.

"Even with the fuel savings, it doesn't make sense to buy a hybrid" for many buyers, says Power senior manager Mike Omotoso.  "This year, we had $4 gas (in many cities), but we saw the introduction of compacts that get 40 miles per gallon (mpg).  All of these cars are considerably cheaper than hybrids."

  • While the nation's top-selling hybrid, the Toyota Prius, has a 50 mpg combined rating, other hybrid sedans get less -- Ford's Fusion hybrid gets 41 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway; Hyundai's Sonata hybrid gets 35 city and 40 highway.
  • Meanwhile, all Elantras and at least some Focus, Chevy Cruze and Honda Civic models are rated at 40 mpg or more on the highway.

Source: Chris Woodyard, "Hybrid Cars' Share of Sales Stalls," USA Today, June 21, 2011.

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