Hybrids Account for 1% of Car Sales

The press is all atwitter at news that hybrid sales are booming.

YHybrid Car Sales Soar in U.S. in 2004 (AP)

The lure of the Toyota Prius and other hybrid cars helped drive healthy sales of electric and alternative-powered vehicles last year, according to new data that shows the hybrid market has grown by 960 percent since 2000. New hybrid vehicle registrations totaled 83,153 in 2004, an 81 percent increase over the year before, according to data released Monday by R.L. Polk & Co., a Southfield-based firm that collects and interprets automotive data. Even though hybrids still represent less than 1 percent of the 17 million new vehicles sold in 2004, major automakers are planning to introduce about a dozen new hybrids during the next three years.

Lonnie Miller, director of analytical solutions for Polk, said federal and state tax credits for fuel-efficient vehicles have helped spur hybrid sales. More people also are buying into the idea that driving a hybrid is socially responsible. “What’s different about this than other types of vehicles is that hybrids are about what people want to give back and what they want to feel they’re doing with their vehicles,” Miller said.

What nonsense. Presumably, people were socially responsible in 2003, too. More people are buying hybrids because they’ve finally more-or-less caught up to regular cars as reliable transportation and offer several advantages like lower gasoline bills and the ability to drive in carpool lanes alone.

The fact that these cars are finally catering to the demands of American consumers other than the granola munching, sandal wearing hippy holdover crowd is the key:

Toyota Motor Corp., which was the first automaker to commercially mass-produce and sell hybrid cars, continues to dominate the market. The Toyota Prius, which went on sale in the United States in 2000, occupied 64 percent of the U.S. hybrid market last year, with 53,761 new Prius cars registered, Polk said. Toyota is on track to double Prius sales again this year. The company sold 22,880 Prius cars in the first three months of the year, more than double the number it sold in the first three months of 2004, according to Autodata Corp. Toyota has said it plans to produce 100,000 Prius cars for the North American market this year.

The Honda Civic hybrid was second with 31 percent market share. Honda Motor Co. also sold several hundred Accord and Insight hybrids, which each commanded 1 percent of the market. Ford sold 2,566 Escape hybrid sport utility vehicles, or about 3 percent of the market, Polk said.

Automakers are introducing hybrid versions of several models this year, including the Lexus RX400h, Mercury Mariner and Toyota Highlander SUVs. General Motors Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG already sell hybrid pickups, but the system they use is less fuel efficient.

The manufacturers have realized that if the perfect is the enemy of the good, this technology would fail. So, they’ve introduced the kinds of cars Americans actually want to drive but with hybrid engines. What a concept!

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    So when is the Hummer Hybrid (H squared) coming out?

    I’m not sure the Prius is the kind of car people want to drive if it didn’t have a hybrid engine.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Well, hybrids combined are only 1% of sales. Economy cars in general aren’t hugely popular these days. But the Escape, Lexus, Accord, and others should appeal to far more people.

  3. Baby Peanut says:

    Just keep concentrating as hard as you can on the idea that hybrids are clean. That way you won’t notice the huge lead-acid batteries you have to throw away after five years or so. We all love lead so much because we want to be more retarded that way we can remember the fact that hybrids are clean, clean, clean.

  4. Hal says:

    Um, b. peanut, they’re NMH and lithium ion. Toyota has a comprehensive battery recycling program in place and has been recycling nickel-metal hydride batteries since the RAV4 Electric Vehicle was introduced in 1998. Every part of the battery, from the precious metals to the plastic, plates, steel case and the wiring, is recycled. To ensure that batteries come back to Toyota, each battery has a phone number on it to call for recycling information and dealers are paid a $200 “bounty” for each battery.

    But bravo on the classic right wing attack against environmentalism and conservation of any kind.

  5. Sam says:

    Baby Peanut: The Honda Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius uses NiMH batteries, I’d expect most of the other practical hybrids are as well. What I’m wondering about is the huge battery replacement bills people will see a few years down the line… (googling, it looks like Honda expects the battery to last around 10 years, and GM intends to use lead-acid for its hybrids…)