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US Sales of Hybrids Drop Year-on-Year in May 2008

Total reported hybrid sales in the US. Click to enlarge.

Reported US sales of hybrids in May 2008 declined 20% from May 2007 to 35,943 units. This drop is largely, but not solely, due to a 37% drop in sales of the Prius to 15,011 units in May 2008 from 24,009 units in May 2007. Toyota characterized the decline as due to “limited availability”.

The May 2008 figures also include sales of the Lexus LS600h and five hybrids from GM (Tahoe and Yukon two-modes, Saturn VUE, Saturn Aura and Chevy Malibu.) All percentage comparisons here are by total sales volume, not by adjusted day sales rate.

Total May 2008 light-duty vehicle sales in the US declined 10.7% to 1,396,965 units, according to Autodata. Reported sales of hybrids represented 2.6% of new vehicle sales—a decrease from the April 2008 high of 3.2% as well as below the 2.88% share of May 2007.

Market share of reported hybrid sales in the US. Click to enlarge.

Toyota Motor. Toyota’s Camry Hybrid posted 5,999 units, a 12% decline from May 2007, representing 11.7% of all Camry’s sold. Total Camry sales increased 2.3% (by total volume) in May 2008 to 51,291 units.

The Highlander Hybrid posted 2,644 units, a decrease of 20% from May 2007, representing 24.4% of all Highlanders sold. Total Highlander sales declined 9.6% in May 2008 year-on-year to 10,841 units

Hybrids as a component of brand sales. Click to enlarge.

Sales of the Lexus Rx 400h rose 23% to 2,155 units, representing 26.7% of all Rx models sold. Total Rx sales dropped 17.5% year-on-year. The GS 450h sold 98 units, a decrease of 46% from May 2007, representing 5.7% of all GX models sold. Total GX sales dropped 24.3% The high-end LS 600h sold 112 units, representing 5.3% of all LS models.

Honda. Sales of the Honda Civic Hybrid climbed 3% to 4,676 units in May 2008, representing 8.8% of all Civics sold. Civic sales in total climbed 33.2% by volume to a record 53,299 units in May 2008.

Hybrids as a percentage of total OEM sales. Click to enlarge.

The Accord Hybrid posted 16 units, a 96% drop from May 2007, representing 0.04% of all Accords sold. Accord sales in total climbed 37% year-on-year to 43,728 units.

Ford. Sales of the hybrid Escape and Mariner dropped 26% in May 2008 to 2,378 units, representing 11.3% of all Escape and Mariner sales. Total Escape and Mariner sales dropped 10% in May 20008 year-on-year to 20,986 units.

Nissan. Sales of the Altima Hybrid almost doubled, climbing 96% to 1,607 units, representing 4.7% of all Altima sales. Total sales of Altima models hit 34,428 units, the best month in the vehicle’s history.

GM. GM reported sales of the two-mode Tahoe and Yukon SUVs of a combined 589 units, representing 5.5% of total Tahoe and Yukon sales. The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid with the GM Hybrid System (Belt Alternator Starter) sold 282 units, representing 1.8% of all Malibus sold. The Saturn VUE Greenline Hybrid sold 340 units, representing 4.1% of total VUE sales. The Saturn Aura sold 36 units, representing 0.7% of total Aura sales.

For the calendar year through the end of May, GM has sold 3,227 hybrid vehicles—i.e., May’s 1,247 units represent 39% of the hybrids sold so far this year.



According to Dailytech, GM sold only 1100 hybrid SUVs the first five months of 2008. Their effort to green wash SUVs is not working.

Healthy Breeze

Sounds like Toyota is depleting Prius inventories in anticipation of the new model year, whenever that arbitrarily arrives.


According to these graphs, the non-hybrid Civic outsold the non-hybrid Camry. The Accord was also very close. I thought the Camry consistently outsold all of them significantly.

The sales are on pace with the number they are planning to send to the US this year (just a few more than the 183800 last year).
Toyota has averaged 16000 per month so far, and that will continue to be the case through the end of the year. No matter what the demand may be, they are maxed out on production and can't increase it until next year.


craziest part about that graph is the number of idiots still buying new non-hybrid tahoes.
who are these people? and i don't buy that whole "i need it to drive my two children around". having children is not something that started in the mid-90's. neither are after school sports. people got by for so long without 8000lbs of monster truck..
i know it's not scientific but i like to observe vehicle occupancy. i've found that regardless of the car size and more or less regardless of the time of day, average occupancy is close to one. why do you need a tahoe to drive yourself around?


Nissan really needs to find a way to sell (at a profit) the Altima Hybrid in more than 8 states. It's a wonderful car, it's sold mostly by word of mouth by happy owners.



The problem with the Altima Hybrid is the same as for the Civic Hybrid. They're both "place holders." Nissan and Honda want to show that they're in the hybrid game. But Toyota took a strong early lead, so the followers lose money for every car they sell. With high gas prices they could be selling three or more cars for every one they can make.

If, as everybody expects, gas prices stay high, that situation will rectify itself. By 2010 we'll have more hybrid choices. Most GCC posters could see this coming way before the general public. Thus the frustration with the slowness of auto OEMs to commit to hybrids. Finally, I think they got it. But it still takes years to bring out new models. Patience is hard.


The GM 2 mode hybrid is a technological marvel but a marketplace disaster. Part of the problem is the additional cost for the hybrid version is about $8,000. Also, the customers who want hybrids the most are people who buy small and midsize vehicles.



Yeah, people used to drive their kids around in station wagons. Minivans are a better alternative than an SUV today if you want to drive kids around. Most SUV drivers prefer them because they are insecure, and sitting up high makes them feel powerful and invulnerable. Take the Hummer as an extreme example; how insecure would a guy have to be to drive a fake military vehicle?



Your comments are not only incorrect but they are also very adolescent. 'He drives a big truck, he must be compensating'....some people like baseball others like musicals and then some like both. Time to grow up and deal with those anger and jealousy issues.

Minivans are just bad ugly and I hate the way they drive. The new station wagons of descent size are looking better than they used to, shame that they don't get any better mpg's than suv's.

Lets not make excuses, Toyota should have done a better job of meeting demand, the writing has been on the wall for a while now.


I really hate the "SUV = Bad" Stereotype. There are a lot of folks driving around in Pickup Trucks that never haul anything - ever. But no one "picks" on Pickup Trucks. Why? I thinnk in many cases the Picup truck make less sense than an SUV. At least an SUV can haul people and then be reconfigured to haul stuff.

Go to Europe - How do they manage to get along without pickup trucks? Really - no BS - they have almost no full size Pickup trucks, and almost never owned by privater parties.

A lot of people in Europe use Utility Trailers... It is a good solution, but the average US Driver wouldn't know how to safely tow a trailer, so let's not propose that as a soltution, unless we up the level of training, skill, and knowledge required to get a driver's license in the USA.

Are there plenty of people who have SUVs or Pickups who don't need them? Yes - lots. Are there also married couples and single people living in 4+ bedroom homes that don't need them? Yes.

It is all relative. And, no, I do not currently own a pickup or an SUV, but I have owned both in the past when I needed them. When the need went away, so did the vehicle.

MiniVans aren't cool, but many can haul 8 people or a few sheets of plywood and still get 24+ Mpg on the freeway. For many they are a soution.

I think the point is to not be wasteful.

Just as an aside, the Chevrolet Suburban was around long before the term SUV was invented. It is the longest running nameplate in automotive history - GM has built the Chevrolet Suburban every year since 1950something... It has stood the test of time. A purpose built vehicle for a specific market segment.


The link below describes very well, why automakers can't build more hybrids. China has virtually stopped the export of lanthanum, a rare earth metal that you need for NiMH-batteries. It will last until 2010 and 2011 before Lynas and Arafura, two australian companies, will start a rare earth production outside of China. The small Mountain Pass mine in California can't help much to lower the shortage.


Joseph - station wagons blow away SUV's on mileage and there is nothing adolescent about considering the psychologic reasons people buy cars. There is really no getting around it - people buy cars that make them "feel" a certain way. So if people feel important or powerful driving a particular vehicle - so be it.

If certain people "need" to get that feeling from a car - and the practice is wasteful - then expect to get the ire of more reasonable folk. It is not necessarily about anger and jealousy

Driving a wasteful vehicle is a crime for humanity.

"This drop is largely, but not solely, due to a 37% drop in sales of the Prius to 15,011 units in May 2008 from 24,009 units in May 2007. Toyota characterized the decline as due to “limited availability”.

You can't sell what you don't have.

I suspect the holdup is lack of batteries, and lack of raw materials to make the batteries. The problems are mostly due to China cleaning up it's mining practices.
Toyota is a long range planner, and no doubt they have an alternate plan in mind.

Each year, Hybrid monthly production has increased by about 5000 units or so. Sales may go up or down, but supply limitations are the deciding marketing factor.

We can't buy what is not available.

As for GM placing their hybrid technology into unsellable SUV's? Insanity. People who want fuel efficient green technology to show themselves responsible to the environment aren't the ones who want an overcompensating monstrosity to show they can afford to be wasteful.


People generally drive the car that makes them feel good. As a 200 lb, 6 foot 2 inch male, i prefer a larger vehicle. I drove a honda civic for years but have certainly enjoyed my jeep cherokee much, much more.

however, with gas so expensive i wish i had my civic again, and that will probably be my next vehicle. The main reason i bought the jeep was safety...not being able to see ahead of the SUV in front of me.

But the bottom line is the price at the pump. So, i will gladly downsize in order to keep driving. I wish there was an all-electric available!
Can't come soon enough.

Marketing Manager

All I want is a reasonably priced, slightly larger, more powereful Hummer that gets 100 mpg, and I want it now. Is that too much to ask? You engineers really need to get it in gear.

Dagny McKinley

While statistics show people are buying less hybrids, they are also buying less SUV's. The town I'm in is offering set gas prices for two years with a purchase of an SUV. Not sure how they manage that, I think you get a card with the car, that keeps only charges the owner under $3.00 for fill-ups for two years.

Dagny McKinley
organic apparel

Chip K

It's pretty obvious that the May sales dip is due to April's sales. You can't sell cars when you have to get on a waiting list to get them.

Charles S

Isn't it still "adolescent" to say that Minivan is ugly, so that's why people drive SUVs?

In any case, besides the "feel" of driving a vehicle help make purchasing decisions, so are the misconception of exterior size to interior size and safety. More than once people told me that SUV "X" is bigger than SUV "Y" just by looking at the outside of the vehicle, but then only admit that they are wrong when they see the measurements and actually sat inside "X". Same goes for Prius versus the Corolla.

The problem here is that so many have already made up their minds about certain vehicles that they would never even bother to test drive one, in order to make clear judgment in the first place.

If people can truly ignore the vanity factor in purchasing a vehicle, then by "needs" alone, hybrids and minivans should have been top choices for many consumers. But sadly, that is not the case, and that's just the market we have today.

While sales numbers for trucks and SUVs are down, it really still reflect that MOST Americans still prefer trucks and SUVs, but just aren't buying due to poor economic outlook. It may be true that high gas prices is here to stay, likely that every time there is a dip in price, sales of large vehicles will spike with it.


As others have commented, Toyota and Honda can't make the Hybrid's fast enough. Unfortunately, the sales situation is changing faster than production plans can change for these manufacturers (in the short term) - production plans are set a year or more ahead it seems. Toyota increased Prius production by 50% (if memory serves) in 2007 and have annouced they'll do that again for 2009 (going from 300k to 450k or so). With Honda bringing out its 100,000 unit a year new Hybrid in 2009, hopefully things will get in a better position next year - but if oil doesn't come down, maybe not.


having children is not something that started in the mid-90's. neither are after school sports.

Child seats are new. In the 70s we'd pile my two sisters and I plus a few neighbor kids in our mom's Pontiac Catalina. Four kids in back, two up front, whatever. Forget about seat belts this trip, we're only going across town.

Do that today and you get arrested. All kids under age 5-9 (depending on state) must sit in securely buckled car seats. Front seat air bags can turn a fender bender into a fatal accident for a child. Our '98 Camry's back seat had three belts but not enough space for three infant seats, so we had to sell it. Our next-door neighbor's kids go to the same school as ours, but we can't carpool because neither of our minivans hold all seven kids legally. My wife's Honda Pilot crossover theoretically seats eight, but the 3rd row is too narrow for three child seats so we're really limited to our four kids plus one other.

I don't mean to imply people buy full-size SUVs solely because of child-seat laws. But you do need a much bigger vehicle to legally transport a bunch of kids now than 20 years ago.


Maybe Toyota decided to ship more Prius to Europe (high demand as well) instead of the US, since the revenue per Prius due to the significant drop of the Dollar is higher.



good call on the safety issue.

perhaps move to a system where if you drive a vehicle at less than full occupancy you are taxed for the difference between rated/actual? no reason for one person to be commanding an 8-seat behemoth for themselves.

by the way, the average household size per us census is around 2.57 people (we'll round up to 3 for argument's sake). assuming 2 of those are children in child seats, you still don't need anything bigger than a civic to transport them. so my point remains the same.


Tough defending SUVs(& pickups) today, since it is the gas guzzlers that give up $4 & $5 fuel. But those defending GG are in full attack mode calling others babies.

For 30 years I've driven 35, 42, 45 & 75MPG vehicles & wanted more MPG. Because my vehicles were small & agile, I avoided several accidents. My cars would have taken 4 children back & forth to school. If most all others had driven my types of cars, they would have avoided repairs, unhappiness, many trips to the gas station, AND CAUSED the present $4 & $5 fuel not to be.

Last but most important, which GG defenders don't care about, lung, heart, & stroke ailments (other ailments too?) would be in lesser numbers.

GG guzzler defenders are the lost generations because they do not see the future.

Bill Young

For all you SUV bashers:

We have a sailboat that requires a 3500# hitch (2000# boat and 600# trailer). We currently have an old Tahoe to pull the boat. Any better suggestions?

For daily commuting my wife drives a Prius and I just had to scrap my Saturn SC-1 which got 32mpg.


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