Rising gas prices hike up hybrid, diesel, subcompact vehicle sales in first quarter of 2011

U.S. sales of hybrid, diesel and subcompact vehicles outpaced the automotive industry's overall growth in the first quarter of 2011, according to a report released by Baum and Associates, a firm that specializes in forecasting and market research related to the auto industry. Sales of hybrid vehicles soared upwards by 33.9 percent in the first quarter of 2011, compared to the same period in 2010. Likewise, sales of diesel-engined vehicles shot up by 42.9 percent and sales of subcompact cars rose by 23.3 percent in the first quarter of 2011, compared to the same period last year.

Meanwhile, total sales of light-duty vehicles in first quarter of 2011 grew by just 20.2 percent, resulting in an increased market share of 2.5 percent for hybrids, 0.7 percent for diesel-engined vehicles and 3.5 percent for subcompact cars. In contrast, sales of SUVs rose by a measly 7.2 percent in the first quarter of 2011.

Alan Baum, principal of the market research firm, outlined the company's findings, stating:
The growth rate of small cars and crossovers relative to the overall market growth is very positive, with the small car growth rate almost doubling overall vehicle growth in March. Conversely, SUVs and pickups trail the overall market significantly. For the first quarter, small crossovers double the overall market growth rate. Given these growth rates, market share for small vehicles is impressive, with share declining in SUVs and pickups.
We can thank soaring fuel prices for the boost in hybrid, diesel and subcompact sales, as Baum attributes the shift to more fuel-efficient vehicles to a 30-percent increase in pump prices over the past year.

[Source: Green Car Congress, Baum and Associates (pdf)]

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