US hybrid vehicle sales have been holding steady for a while now — a bit more than 2% of US new vehicle sales, and the Toyota Prius has been about half that amount, sometimes more. Toyota does well in hybrids with the Prius and Camry, and a few Lexus hybrid models. Yet, the numbers are not impressive in this market. (Chart comes from Hybridcars.com)
There are a lot of people interested in hybrids and electric vehicles, but they’re still staying away, except for long-time loyal fans. Here’s what I see affecting the market:
1. Small cars with great fuel economy — 35 mpg, and several of them more than 40, at least on the highway. You can get into these cars at about $15,000 to $20,000, and they’re well made, reliable, fuel efficient cars.
2. Hybrids don’t carry the appeal of plug-in electric vehicles for those fascinated with the green tech benefits. Getting 45 to 50 miles per gallon is honorable, and seeing all the cool stuff happening under the hood on your dashboard display is educational, but it’s not enough to justify the extra cost, for many people.
3. High end consumers have a fascination with luxury hybrids and variations of them. They might pay $5K more for a hybrid Lexus if they get much better mileage and its getting positive reviews and word of mouth.
4. I would say that plug-in hybrids and having more affordable and versatile hybrid systems available at dealerships will raise the public acceptance and support.
5. Rising gas prices are of course the biggest factor — when those prices shoot up, like in August 2008, so do sales of hybrids.