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Polk expects 2013 US new vehicle registrations to grow 6.6% to 15.3M; only slight improvement in hybrid category

Polk light vehicle forecast through 2016. Data: Polk. Click to enlarge.

New light vehicle registrations in the US in 2013 are expected to rise 6.6% over 2012 levels to 15.3 million vehicles, according to Polk, a global automotive market intelligence firm. At the same time, Polk analysts forecast North American production volumes to increase to the 15.9 million unit range (an anticipated 2.4% increase from 2012), driven by an improving economy and capacity expansion in the region.

According to Polk’s analysis, new vehicle introductions in 2013 will escalate significantly, with 43 new vehicle introductions in the US planned for the year, up nearly 50% over 2012 levels, along with 60 vehicle redesigns. While the number of available hybrid models in the US will also increase this year, Polk anticipates only a slight improvement in this category from its current level of approximately 2.9% of the overall market.

Reasons for this include the continued significant price differential between hybrids and traditionally-powered vehicles, and the high number of traditionally-powered vehicles that achieve similar mileage targets as those in the hybrid segment.

Polk expects continued recovery in the industry in 2013 and 2014, a positive sign for the US economy. The auto sector is likely to continue to be one of the key sectors that lead the U.S. economic recovery, however, we don’t expect to realize pre-recession levels in the 17 million vehicles range for many years. However, our baseline forecast hinges on Washington’s ability to draft a budget plan that will avoid $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases.

—Anthony Pratt, director of forecasting for the Americas at Polk

The large pickup truck segment, which has declined over the past five years, will likely grow with several important new launches in 2013 and into the 2014 model year, with GM, Toyota and Ford planning to showcase redesigned vehicles in this segment during the next 18-24 months. Increased marketing activity to support these launches, together with a recovering market for new housing starts, which impacts registrations of new pickup trucks within the construction industry, will result in growth in this segment in the coming year, according to Polk.

The mid-size sedan segment will continue to lead the industry, according to Polk. Currently at more than 18.5% of the overall market, the industry’s largest by two percent, Polk anticipates it will continue to grow in the coming year.

The luxury segment in the US also will be one to watch in 2013, according to Polk, as it will see significant launch activity within its compact sedan segment, which currently accounts for 2.9% of the overall industry. In addition, if gas prices continue to decline, Polk analysts expect the small luxury crossover segment will continue to swell.

In addition, non-luxury compact crossover vehicles have grown by more than 50% in the last five years. Additionally, increased competition in this segment has created pricing pressures, which will result in continued growth, according to Polk analysts.

Polk also forecasts the industry will experience continued growth in the compact and subcompact segments, as OEMs are introducing several new models in the coming year.

This anticipated growth is largely based on increasing CAFE requirements and significant new product launch activity in the US, as well as increased interest by younger buyers just coming into the market.

—Tom Libby, lead analyst for North America at Polk

Polk analysts are currently reviewing global light vehicle forecasts with customers through 2023. Polk expects a return to 16 million units in the US by 2015, if not before, barring any unusual activity in the marketplace. The US market last achieved 16 million units in 2007.

Wide regional variation in hybrid and electric powertrains. In December, Polk’s Libby noted that the mix of new vehicle powertrains varies as much among the different regions of the United States as does the mix of makes and models, if not more so.

Polk data shows that the 15 Designated Market Areas (DMAs) with the highest percentage of hybrid powertrains together account for almost 30% of all hybrid registrations nationally, yet these same 15 markets include just 12.5% of all new vehicle registrations. All of the top DMAs are on the West Coast, with 9 in California.

The top 9 DMAs each have a hybrid penetration greater than 6%, while the national penetration is 2.97%. In San Francisco, the market area with the highest hybrid mix, almost one of every 10 new vehicles sold is a hybrid.

These same 15 metropolitan areas have also accounted for 41% of all US electric vehicle registrations through the first 10 months of 2012. Los Angeles and San Francisco by themselves captured slightly more than 25% of all electric vehicle sales nationally during the same time period.

Summary of hybrid and electric vehicle registrations by top and bottom 15 DMAs, Jan-Oct 2012
    Hybrid Electric Total LDV reg.
Top 15 DMAs New registrations 103,348 4,218 1,491,564
% of US new reg. 29.22% 41.00% 12.50%
Bottom 15 DMAs New registrations 5,422 98 787,328
% of US new reg. 1.53% 0.95% 6.60%

At the other end of the spectrum, noted Libby, the 15 market areas with the lowest hybrid concentration delivered just 5,422 hybrids through 10 months. This equates to a hybrid penetration of 1.53%, about one twentieth the hybrid penetration of the top 15 markets.

These markets also totalled only 98 EVs—less than 1% of all electrics. However, these 15 markets sell 6.6% of all new vehicles nationally. These 15 geographical areas are generally in the central region of the country.

These data provide one illustration of why generalizing about the US new vehicle landscape based on one market area can be risky.

—Tom Libby

Click to enlarge. Data: Polk.


Account Deleted

According to 391,000 hybrids and 45,500 plug-ins were sold from Jan to Nov in USA.

Most were sold after June 2012 because of many new and attractive models. I expect hybrids to sell over 500,000 and plugins to do over 100,000 for 2013 in USA. Many new plugins and a much improved and US produced Leaf will be important for USA's 2013 plugin sales.


If the rest of USA catches up with California, the national sales of electrified vehicles (HEV + PHEV + BEV) would almost triple to 8+% to 1,200,000+ in 2013?


"These data provide one illustration of why generalizing about the US new vehicle landscape based on one market area can be risky."

There seems to be an urban:electric drive pattern - compare LA, SF with less urban areas.

With the Prius C at $19k, it would be interesting if the 1.6 kw/H battery could upgrade to ~4Kw/H as a plug-in and still be well under $25K.

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