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Hybrid Sales Slump in Face of Increased Competition

A funny thing happened along the way (back) to $4 per gallon gasoline. The hybrid car is no longer the darling it once was. An excellent article from Peter Valdes-Dapena at CNNMoney spells it out: the sale of hybrid cars in the USA peaked back in 2008.

Take a look at the list of the best gas mileage cars sold in America. The plethora of choices have cut into the hybrids’ market share. An abundance of vehicles with competing technology – namely clean diesel and high-efficiency gasoline engines – have diminished the hybrids lock on the field.

While the hybrids may dominate the high-MPG charts, the cost of hybrid technology can work against its favor with drivers of limited means (as well as those with the ability to perform slightly more advanced mathematical equations). Increased monthly payment costs need to be justified by savings at the pump, week-after-week. If the savings aren’t there, fewer sales will be made.

To compound the dilemma (for hybrid manufacturers), truly eco-conscious consumers have an increasing array of electric vehicle choices, starting with the pure-electric Nissan Leaf, and extended-range electric Chevy Volt. The upcoming release of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Coda Sedan and Electric Ford Focus will pull more existing (and potential) Prius owners away from Toyota, even with the entry of the Plug-in Prius.

With traditional hybrid incentives fading away and the falling price of gasoline over the past weeks, hybrid sales face a tough road ahead. The launch of the larger Prius V and smaller Prius C will surely capture a significant portion of Toyota’s existing audience. But will they lure new buyers into the fold?

Technologies once considered the exclusive domain of the hybrid, like stop-start, are gradually being implemented by mainstream vehicles. Although GM once went out of its way to promote the Malibu Hybrid as a hybrid, the 2012 Buick LaCrosse eAssist uses a similar stop/start system … without invoking the H word.

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