Hybrid, plug-in unveilings proliferate; will increased sales ensue?

Ford C-Max Energi – Click above for high-res image gallery

If this year's Detroit Auto Show hasn't convinced you that automakers are increasingly fond of alternative energy vehicles, then perhaps you missed out on the numerous hybrids and plug-ins that took to the stage. In Detroit, Toyota presented an expanded Prius lineup and Ford rolled out its Focus Electric, the C-Max Hybrid and the C-Max Energi. Meanwhile, China-based BYD outlined its U.S. launch schedule for the E6 electric and its plug-in hybrid F3DM. Aside from all of that, Nissan recently launched its battery-powered Leaf and Chevrolet kicked off sales of its plug-in hybrid Volt.

With all of the recent unveilings and launches, it would seem safe to assume that the automotive green scene is heating up, right? Well, U.S. sales of hybrid vehicles declined by 2.4 percent in 2010, accounting for a mere 2.8 percent of total automotive sales. Furthermore, a recent study published by J.D. Power and Associates predicted that:
Combined global sales of hybrid electric vehicles and battery electrics are expected to total 5.2 million units in 2020 or just 7.3 percent of the 70.9 million passenger vehicles forecasted to be sold worldwide by that year.
Even many automakers tend to agree that hybrids and plug-ins appeal to a niche market. However, as technology improves and prices decline, alternative energy vehicles are expected to slowly gain ground in the industry. So, despite the mass of green vehicle debuts, it may take decades for these high-tech autos to make a sizable dent in the mainstream automotive industry.

[Source: AFP]

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