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Reported Sales of Hybrids Down 42.8% in December, 10% for 2008

December sales of hybrids were the lowest for that month since 2004. Click to enlarge.

Reported sales of hybrids in the US dropped 42.7% in December 2008 year-on-year to 17,698 units—the lowest December figure since 2004, when there were only four hybrid models on the market. Overall light-duty vehicle sales in the US dropped 35.5% in the month. (Earlier post). For the full year, total reported hybrid sales dropped 10% to 313,781 units, while total light duty vehicle sales were down 18%.

The hybrid percentage share of new vehicles sold dropped to just below 2% (1.97%) in December. For the year, hybrids held a 2.4% share of the new vehicle market.

Monthly hybrid share of new vehicle sales. Click to enlarge.

Toyota. Toyota saw sales of the Prius drop to 7,859 units, down 44.7% from the year before. For the full year, Prius posted 158,884 units, a drop of 12.3% from 2007. Toyota will unveil its third-generation 2010 Prius at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) next week.

Camry Hybrid posted 1,888 units for the month of December, down 62% year-on-year and representing 7.5% of all Camry models sold. Sales of all Camry models dropped 22.6% for the month. For the year, Camry Hybrid posted 46,272 units, a drop of 15.1% from the year before.

Growth in annual new market share of hybrid vehicles (1999-2008) overlaid on the historic growth of new vehicle market share of diesel vehicles (1971-2006). While hybrid market share growth initially began to outpace that of the historical diesel adoption, the growth rate has recently slowed. Click to enlarge.

Sales of the Highlander Hybrid dropped 68.1% to 890 units in December, representing 11.4% of Highlander sales. Sales of all Highlander models dropped 47.1% in the month. Full year sales of the Highlander Hybrid were 19,391 units, down 12.1% from the year before.

The Lexus Rx 400h posted a 28% drop in December sales from the year before to 1,463 units, representing 14.7% of all Rx models. Sales of all Rx models dropped 16.1% in the month. Full year sales of the Rx 400h were 15,200 units, down 12.1% from 2007.

The Lexus GS 450h posted a 62.5% drop in December sales to 51 units, representing 4.3% of all GS models sold. Sales of all GS models dropped 53.5% in the month. Full year sales of the GS 450h were 678 units, down 58.8% from 2007.

The Lexus LS 600h posted a similar 61.2% drop to 50 units in December, representing 3.4% of all LS models sold. Sales of all LS models dropped 55.4% in December. Full year LS 600h sales were 980 units, up 4.6% from 2007. (The LS 600h began reporting sales in August 2007.)

Hybrids as a component of brand sales, December 2008. Click to enlarge.

General Motors. GM moved into second place in terms of total hybrid sales in December, delivering 2,555 GM hybrid vehicles in the month. The two-mode full-size SUVs (Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade) posted 1,729 units, representing 12.7% of combined model sales.

There were 454 Chevrolet Malibu hybrids (2.6% of Malibu sales), 34 Saturn Aura hybrids (1.1% of Aura sales) and 338 Vue hybrids (5.1% of VUE sales) sold in December. In 2008, GM sold a total of 14,439 hybrid vehicles.

Reported hybrid sales as a percentage of total LDV sales by OEM for December. Click to enlarge.

Ford. Ford came in third for the month, with combined sales of the Escape and Mariner hybrids of 1,149 units, a drop of 49.3% for the month and representing 8.1% of all Escape and Mariners sold. Combined Escape and Mariner sales were down 9.1% (a drop in Escape sales being offset by an increase in Mariner sales).

For the full year, Ford sold 19,522 Escape and Mariner hybrids, down 22.2% from 2007.

Honda. December Civic Hybrid sales dropped 67.9% to 1,036 units, representing 6% of all Civic models sold. December Civic sales decreased to 17,302, down 36.4%. Full year sales of the Civic Hybrid were 31,297 units, down 3.9%.

Honda posted one sale for the Accord Hybrid in December, a decrease of 94.2% from the year prior. December Accord sales decreased 28.5%, to 22,348.

Honda will introduce its new 2009 Honda Insight hybrid at NAIAS next week. The Insight is due to go on sale in the spring of 2009.

Nissan. Nissan reported sales of 710 units of the Altima Hybrid in December, a 26.3% drop from the year before, and representing 4.1% of all Altima models sold. Altima sales in December dropped 31.2% to 17,311. units. For all of 2008, Altima Hybrid sold 8,819 units, up 5.1% from 2007. (The Altima Hybrid began reporting sales in February 2007.)

Chrysler. Chrysler reported combined two-mode hybrid SUV (Aspen and Durango) sales of 46 units in December, representing 1.6% of combined Aspen and Durango sales.


The Goracle


Fantastic news!!! The toxic chemicals needed to make the MASSIVE battery packs in hybrids destroy the environment. Lets go to clean, efficient, energy such at algae based biodiesel.



People aren't crazy - the price of gasoline dropped a huge amount, and there are new Prius and Insights on the way.

What is sad is the small numbers of some models being purchased - the development must cost a fortune on a per unit basis.

I guess you would want modular hybridization to spread the costs as much as possible.


People are on strike for higher fuel economy.

By now, Prius should be all plug-ins with a battery capable of 100 miles and 100 mpg.

Car-makers are going to have to start giving people what they want.


Toyota sells 9% of it's December in hybrids, with the others at 1%. Yearly sales of hybrids are off 10%, while the LDV fleet is off 18% - cold comfort. If the Prius was priced to make a profit, the situation would even be worse.

Real progress in transportation efficiency will take bold action on the part of the US Congress; and I just don't see that happening until the price of gas goes way up again. The market doesn't produce efficient transportation by itself. Regulation is required.

Patriotic economic proactivity (a desire to not send trillions overseas) hasn't been seen in the States in half a century. I only hope that the new US Congress can see itself as a body without limits.


People are not buying hybrids because they need to be ordered and sold at full price or even markup. No special low interest deals of leases. Therefore, only the most motivated will do so. It would be interested to know how many are repeat buys or lease, I would wager there are quite a few.


It's really very simple.
1. Economy crash = fewer cars purchased
2. Economy crash = fewer people who can afford the upfront hybrid premium
3. Lower gas prices + longer time to recover that premium.

Hybrids generally do NOT have to be ordered (unless they are in short supply, which currently they are not)

People are not "on strike" for higher fuel economy (except for a few of GCC type readers).

The NiMH batteries are not particularly toxic. Sure, you hear about this one really bad Ni mine in Russia, but you can find horrible pollution in many industries. Also, most Ni is used to make stainless steel ! So why aren't you complaining about how bad your stainless steel silverware or fridge is for the environment?

Besides, hybrid batteries are most certainly recycled/reused when it or the car dies (Toyota pays a couple hundred bucks for a dead battery, not that there are many).

Diesel exhaust soot is a proven carcinogenic, on the other hand.

Algea biodiesel is a nice concept, but you can't exactly go out and buy it at your local gas station. Keep dreaming.


If gas were highly taxed like in the EU, we would have money for infrastructure improvements like high speed trains and autobahns. We would also have average mpg of over 45 like over there. When gas drops to $1.50 who in their right mind would buy a hybrid? And who would want a hybrid if we had cheaper low emmission diesels like the EU Ford Focus that gets over 65 mpg?

The Goracle has been drinking the anti-hybrid Goolaide. The vast majority of nickel, even within the automotive industry, is used not for hybrid batteries, but for stainless steel and chrome. Haven't heard a big outcry about how damaging chrome bumpers are for the environment or how they can't be recycled.

For JC, I cannot believe people think Toyota would make over a million Prius and sell them at a loss, apparently as a publicity stunt. Perhaps the first few thousand were sold at a loss, but that's true of most new cars. As for patriotism, I'd rather send a one-time payment to Japan than send money to OPEC every week. It's not the lucrative camel dung industry that's financing al Qaeda.

Gas prices are on the way back up. As soon as the new Insight and Prius models are available, I expect these numbers to shoot back up.


We lose money on every hybrid that's sold but make it up on volume.


I wonder, how much does Toyota have to pay for each Prius to Texaco Ovonics in royalties for using NiMH batteries?


Third generation 2010 Prius is not a plug-in. I wonder if the NiMH patent has something to do with that?

Andrey Levin


Toyota pays to Cobasys (joint venture between Chevron-Texaco and ECD) about 4% of assembled battery price, or about 65$ per Prius.

Ni-Mh batteries have about 70% efficiency of charge/discharge, very high rate of self-discharge at elevated temperatures, could be sustainable cycled only for no more of 1/3 of capacity, and have low specific energy density (50 Wh/kg). Simply put, you have to charge it three times more electricity than it will deliver to the wheels, and one ton battery will be able to deliver only about 7 KWh to the wheels.

Conspiracy theories are fun, I agree.


Can you explain the technical success of the Rav4 EV?

Stan Peterson

Who said the RAV4-EV was successful?

Andrey Levin

Both EV1 and RAV4 BEVs were technically successful – as demonstration platforms (both initially developed with Ni-Cd batteries). However, shortcomings of their batteries made them unfit to commercial mass production. Pure electric vehicles were built by enthusiasts for more than a century, and there are tens of thousand enthusiasts who are satisfied with performance of even lead-acid batteried vehicles.

Helicopters are also highly successful, but no one imagine helicopters to become mainstream of personal transportation.


Gas prices will eventually go back up.
And new Insight and Prius models and the Volt will be available.
But when HEV and BEV sales shoot back up, are we talking shoot up from 2% to 6%?
2% is nothing, 6% is not much.
If $4.50/g gas gets us only to 6% of sales, think how long it will take EVs to get to even 3% of the cars on the road.
This is not good.


As soon as the Honda Insight 60mpg car comes out
@ $18.5k, hybrid sales will skyrocket, cheap gas
or no.

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