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Has the auto industry hit peak hybrid?

Thu, 12 Jun 2014

Hybrids are known for their great fuel economy and low emissions, but it looks like given current market conditions, only about three percent of new car consumers are willing to pay the premium for them. A new study from IHS/Polk finds that the hybrid market share among overall US auto sales are falling, despite more models with the technology on sale than ever before.

The study examined new car registrations in March from 2009 through 2014. In that time, the auto industry grew from 24 to 47 hybrid models available to consumers, but market share for the powertrain remained almost stagnant in that time. As of 2009, hybrids held 2.4 percent of the market; it fell slightly to 2.3 percent in 2010 and grew to 3.3 percent in 2013. However, 2014 showed a drop back to 3 percent. Overall hybrid sales have been growing since 2010, but they just aren't keeping up with the total auto market.

According to IHS/Polk, this isn't what you would expect to see. Usually, each new model in the market brings along with it a boost in sales. The growth in hybrid models 2009 to 2014 should have shown a larger increase in share for the segment.

The study also looked at the top hybrid models for each March in terms of their market share in the segment. The Toyota Prius has been the leader every year with a high of 55.29 percent in 2011. It stands at 23.06 percent in 2014, but when the Prius C and Prius V are added it grows to about 37 percent. The Ford Fusion Hybrid had the second-highest share in 2014 at 10.95 percent.

According to Automotive News, the stagnation of hybrid growth comes predominantly from consumers being desensitized to current gas prices. For the most part, they have remained stable for many consumers making the added cost of the models harder to justify.

By Chris Bruce

See also: Toyota working on cars that hover above the roadway, 70% of pickups could use aluminum by 2025, 2015 Ford Transit.