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.


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  • 90 Comments
      Spec
      • 6 Months Ago
      No, I don't think we have hit peak hybrid. We have just hit plateau hybrid like we have hit plateau oil. As soon as gas prices start rising again (which may be very soon due to the Iraq meltdown), hybrid sales will again increase.
      fordskydog
      • 6 Months Ago
      Has Autoblog.com hit peak nonsense?
      amge5.5
      • 6 Months Ago
      Don't worry Hybrids once the new gas tax gets passed you will get a resurgence of buyers.
      Dave
      • 6 Months Ago
      The fact that non-hybrid cars have become significantly more efficient in the last five years surely has had an impact on sales of hybrids as well.
      turbo_awd
      • 6 Months Ago
      You are totally missing out on two reasons: -US hybrid adoption was led, in large part, by Californians who were able to drive on commuter lanes with hybrid vehicles even when only one person was in the car. Notable models: Prius, civic hybrid, insight (I see some 1st and some 2nd gen). But 80%+ Prius, in my experience. -This privilege expired in 2014, IIRC. This means, hybrids are no longer allowed to drive on commuter lanes with only one person in the car in CA. This alone, I would guess, has resulted in a HUGE reduction in hybrid sales over the last 2-4 years in CA, which was always the leader in the US. No one was going to buy a hybrid one year before the commuter lane privilege expired. -Instead, now it's plugin-in hybrids/electrics that get this privilege. I'm sure, as Luc mentioned, you'll see a rise in CA PHEV sales (have considered one myself) Reason 2: some people do not want to buy a Prius, because it could easily get them mistaken as a douchebag driver.. Most days, I'd rather share the road with a riced out Civic CRX than a Prius..
      BipDBo
      • 6 Months Ago
      The stagnation in hybrid sales probably has more to do with conventional engines improving so much in efficiency that they are catching up to the hybrids. At least that's how it read on the sticker. If buyers paid more attention to the city mpg and not just the highway number, there may be more hybrids out there. There's another problem with hybrids. They may have electric motors and a gas engine, but it only has one fuel. You still drive everywhere on gas. Some customers are willing to spend a premium for a marginal difference in efficiency. Traditional hybrids are now seen as obsolete compared to the plug-ins and RE-EVs. I think that a far greater portion of the population will be willing to pay a premium for a plug-in hybrid that enables them to not marginally, but drastically reduce how much gas they use. Right now, that premium is still too high for most customers, but as it goes down, I predict that there will be a resurgence in hybrid sales, and plug-ins will displace the obsolete non-plug-in hybrids.
      modalita
      • 6 Months Ago
      What about how the MPG gap between gas engines and hybrid engines has closed considerably in the last 10 years? You were doing well in a mid-sized car that got 30MPG 10 years ago. Now, most are running 36-38MPG. Same with compacts and many now hover between 38-41MPG. That said, the additional cost of getting into a hybrid becomes harder to justify.
        AM
        • 6 Months Ago
        @modalita
        From MotorTrend: "he takeaway confirms what we knew going in: Hybrids are remarkably sensitive to driving habits, including those intrinsic to our Real MPG test cycle, but also the car's original EPA rating was clearly too high. When the grumbling about the C-Max's 47/47/47 EPA numbers began, Ford countered with "It's winter, the batteries are cold. You'll see its numbers climb as the weather warms." However, by August 2013, Dearborn had reluctantly done an about-face, downgrading the C-Max's numbers to 45 city and 40 highway (43 combined) and sending $550 to grumpy early buyers and $325 to lessees. Read more: http://www.motortrend.com/features/consumer/1401_real_numbers_mpg_101/#ixzz34RdbFxxK
        CoolWaters
        • 6 Months Ago
        @modalita
        The only thing that's changed is the auto industry ONLY using highway mileage, EMPTY highway mileage in their advertising. A hybrid still has a huge Real World MPG advantage.
      Larry Litmanen
      • 6 Months Ago
      Hybrid market is really all about one car. If Toyota will improve the next Prius and make it even better and give it a big boost in MPGs the hybrid market will grow. Secondly everyone who says that regular engines are catching on are wrong, if you live in a big city with constant stop and go traffic you are not getting high MPGs with a regular car. That environment is perfect for a hybrid because it allows it to use braking energy to recharge the battery.
        graphikzking
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Larry Litmanen
        Many hybrid people are moving to EV's. Is the Volt considered an EV or hybrid? It gets pretty sketchy. Stop/Start on the engines would greatly help standard cars in the city without adding very much cost at all. The air quality would be TREMENDOUSLY better downtown and it would be much quieter as well since half the cars the engines would be off at any one time. Would benefit EVERYONE!
        ScottT
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Larry Litmanen
        Except most people who live in the city do most of their driving outside of the city. NYC is probably the one exception and that's probably debatable. I live in the city and my "in city" commute is typically a 3/4 of a mile to the interstate one way with about 6 traffic lights/stop signs or 8 blocks the other way with exactly 5 traffic lights to the highway. I don't know anyone who has a car in the city that does most of their driving in the city. I'm sure there are exceptions, but usually it's easier to walk, bike or take a cab. And even if you did drive a car, the financial benefit would probably be mininal to most. You're mileage may be poor, but it's not like you're typical drive is going to be 10 miles.
      CH
      • 6 Months Ago
      "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." That's self contradictory and a misrepresentation of the IHS/Polk data and conclusion. The overall trend from 2009 to 2014 is one of increasing market share. There are only two years with a year-over-year decline in market share, 2010 and 2014. Market share has increased by a net 25%, which is hardly stagnation or not "keeping up with the total auto market." A single year-over-year decrease in market share is not a trend. It's quite common to have some years with decreases in market share in segments with an overall tread of increasing market share, and vice versa. The point that IHS/Polk made is that market share doesn't always keep pace with increases in the number of models offered, which isn't particularly insightful. There is no good reason to expect the number of people who want a particular type of vehicle (for example, minivans) to double simply because the number of available models has doubled. More choice can simply mean the same or a smaller volume spread over a larger number of models, for example.
      2 wheeled menace
      • 6 Months Ago
      Peak hybrid? nope. We are probably a few months away from hearing about the new and improved 2015 prius, which will bring another crazy sales boom for the new model. This is a huge seller and leads the segment. It's like saying that the videogame industry is sagging due to their sales numbers being poor.... right before the release of a new playstation or xbox. C'mon now. Yeah, it's more complicated than that ( steady gas prices, non-hybrid models getting better fuel economy, etc ), but let's revisit this situation when the 2015 prius comes about.
      JB
      • 6 Months Ago
      Hybrids are the wrong IMAGE for some buyers. Since the fuel taxes are subsidies and the cost of oil is subsidies by the government and military, gas guzzlers are being subsidized. Right size the cost of the roads and fuel and the invisible hand of the market will correct everything: more efficient driving, carpooling, transit, less sprawl, less traffic and better health.
        SloopJohnB
        • 6 Months Ago
        @JB
        Good point. I've also supported raising the fuel tax $.50 per year until the average cost at the pump hits $6.00 per gallon. The advantage would be to rapidly improve the highway trust fund level and reduce gasoline consumption. $.50 per year is noise level compared to the normal volatility of gasoline prices.
          Larry Litmanen
          • 6 Months Ago
          @SloopJohnB
          Ummmm ISIS is about to overrun Iraq, $6 will be here in no time.
          ScottT
          • 6 Months Ago
          @SloopJohnB
          If you are driving 50-60 miles round trip to a minimum wage job, then you may want to sit down and think about making a change.
          Kuro Houou
          • 6 Months Ago
          @SloopJohnB
          $6 a gallon would really hurt a lot of people, you figure if you make minimum wage or little more then that and travel 50-60 miles round trip for work, you spend at least 12 dollars a day on gas, that's 1/8th your pay, and that's just driving to and from work.
      mitytitywhitey
      • 6 Months Ago
      The other side of the statistic is that mild hybrid tech is being incorporated into almost every vehicle.
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