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US Hybrid Sales in March 2009 Down 44% Year-on-Year; Monthly New Vehicle Market Share of 2.5%

Us hybrid sales 2009.03-1
Reported US sales of hybrids. Click to enlarge.

US sales of hybrids in March 2009 as reported by the automakers dropped 44% by volume year-on-year to 21,433 units; that performance was worse than the total light duty vehicle market, which posted a 36.8% drop by volume for the month compared to March 2008, based on total sales figures from Autodata (earlier post).

Those results represented a 2.5% new vehicle market share for hybrids in March—down from 2.82% in March 2008, but the highest mark so far in 2009. The month also saw the debut of three new hybrids—the Honda Insight and the Ford Fusion and Milan—all of which only came on sale toward the end of the month.

Us hybrid sales 2009.03-2
US hybrids monthly new vehicle market share. Click to enlarge.

Toyota. Sales of the Toyota Prius were off 56.8% by volume from March 2008, down to 8,924 units. Camry Hybrid posted 2,554 units, down 63.1% and representing 9.9% of all Camry sales. Sales of the conventional Camry models were off 31% in March. Highlander Hybrid sold 1,037 units, down 53.7% and representing 19.2% of all Highlanders sold. Sales of conventional Highlander models were down 49%.

Us hybrid sales 2009.03-3
Hybrid sales as a percentage of total light duty vehicle sales by automaker. Click to enlarge.

The RX 400h posted 1,165 units, a 25.8% drop, representing 18.9% of all RX sales. Sales of the conventional RX models were down 19%. The GS 450h sold 42 units, a 35.4% drop, representing 6.7% of all GS sales. Sales of the Conventional GS models were down 64%. The LS 600h L sold 25 units, down 78% and representing 2.9% of all LS models sold. Sales of conventional LS models were down 59%.

Honda. In its partial month debut, the new Honda Insight sold 569 units. The Civic Hybrid posted 2,869 units, down 23.9% year-on-year, and representing 13.9% of all Civics sold. Sales of conventional Civic models were down 54%.

Us hybrid sales 2009.03-4
Sales of hybrid models as a component of total model sales. Click to enlarge.

Ford. In their partial month debut, the new Fusion and Milan hybrids sold a combined 451 units, representing 3.0% of all Fusion and Milan models sold. The Escape and Mariner hybrids sold a combined 1,351 units, down 32.7%, representing 9.3% of all Escape and Mariners sold in the month. Sales of the conventional Escape and Mariner models were down 12%.

GM. GM sold a total of 1,612 hybrids in March:

  • 609 units of the Tahoe, Yukon and Escalade two-mode SUVs (7.3% of total sales)
  • 68 units of the Silverado and Sierra two-mode pickups (0.22% of total sales)
  • 362 units of the Saturn VUE hybrid (10.4% of total sales)
  • 547 units of the Malibu hybrid (3.7% of total sales)
  • 26 units of the Saturn Aura hybrid (1.3% of total sales)

Nissan. Nissan posted 834 units of the Altima Hybrid, a 0.2% increase from March 2008, representing 4.3% of total Altima sales. Sales of the conventional Altima models were down 39%.



So called industry experts more than a year ago predicted that hybrid sales would level off at about 2-3% of vehicle sales. This was before $4 gasoline and the financial meltdown. Interesting....

Nat Pearre

I've got to think that if there is a pause in hybrid sales just now, it is just the calm before the storm. With the new Insight and the Fusion/Milan coming out just after these polls closed, and the new Prius hot on their heels, I would think a lot of potential buyers are waiting to see a bit more choice.

There's a war brewing, and hybrid buyers will be the winners.


In this economy, certain cross-sections of the economy are far more likely to hold off on buying a new car than before. Are these the sections which are more likely to buy hybrids in a stable economy? The segments which are less likely to buy hybrids in a stable economy?

My point is simply that the data may be influenced as much by exogenous factors as the changes in the automobile marketplace.

Hybrid Car Review

Also, the waiting lists become very important when you compare to last year. Last year in March, sales dropped in the overall market by 12%, but hybrid car sales increased. It wasn't until May that the economy caught up to hybrid car sales.

Which means Toyota et al were finally catching up on their waiting lists even as the marketplace began to tank. That kept hybrid sales going strong even as the rest of the marketplace dropped. Which means you're comparing this years numbers to a (sort of) false high from last year.


I think all cars may be hybrid eventually. Then we go on to other types of vehicles. It is just that hybrids are more expensive. You are trading more hardware for more mileage and without a higher gas tax, that incentive comes and goes.


I agree with Nat and Stomy - the sales profile changes when the economy changes.

Certain vehicles are used in business. There will always be replacement sales for them. Pickups, vans, and some SUVs are in that catagory.

And there are sedans provided to employees by the company. The company wants to minimize total costs and a Prius may not meet that test.

If not for government agencies with a policy of buying hybrids the percentages might very well be worse.

OTOH, very few private buyers really need a new sedan. So I believe that during a bad economy the sedan buyers will either be those who can buy what they want above $30K, or those who are buying transportation below $20K.

The dominant hybrid, the Prius is right in that bad $20K-$30K range now. Few buyers of sedans, relatively low fuel costs, a new model already announced, and competitors about to deliver their own hybrids.

Why wouldn't someone interested in a medium cost hybrid wait?

Now look at the Lexus offerings. Hybrid percents of 19.8% for the RX400 and 6.7% for the GS. There is no problem selling a hybrid to more prosperous buyers.


Hybrids account for:
9.9% of Camry sales.
19.2% of Highlander sales
18.9% of RX sales
2.9% of LS model sales
13.9% of Civics sold
3.0% of Fusion and Milan sales
9.3% of Escape and Mariner sales
7.3% of Tahoe, Yukon and Escalade sales
0.22% of Silverado and Sierra sales
10.4% of Saturn VUE sales
3.7% of Malibu sales
1.3% of Saturn Aura sales
4.3% of Altima sales

There’s no good news here. Except maybe that people are careful with their money.

“2.5% new vehicle market share for hybrids in March—down from 2.82% in March 2008”

12 years after the EV1 and 10 years of Prius production, it is clear that hybrids are going nowhere; until battery prices come down. Like down 50%.

Gas prices alone won’t be enough to do much more than drive improvements in ICE engines.

Looks like GM’s decision to make the Volt was very smart.
As the only one of it's kind on our roads, it will bring some "green high tech" glory and snare the elite green high dollar buyers (but will make little or no money).

An American version of the Prius would have been much, much worse. The Prius is not a cash cow for Toyota and an American version would be a real ho hum big money looser.

Now then, what’s Obama gonna do with GM?
"Restructure"? Yah, right.

Pour money on it ? Sounds consistent.

At least the flower children have finally quit saying “GM did not make cars people want.”

paul in hampden

You wrote:

12 years after the EV1 and 10 years of Prius production, it is clear that hybrids are going nowhere; until battery prices come down. Like down 50%

The numbers don't say that at all. They say given a CHOICE somewhere around 8% of buyers would opt for a hybrid when offered for the model they are looking for. If most vehicles had a hybrid option you would see many more hybrids!

That does not include the Insight or the Prius in which 100% of the buyers are getting a hybrid.

Wait till the new Prius has a full month of sales. I predict slightly greater then 3% of all cars sold will be hybrid and that number will slowly rise to 4% (a new high) as production ramps up.


You can spin many things into this -interpret it many ways.

What saddens me, is that the bottom line remains.

After more than 10 years, sales of hybrids are at 2.5%.


I would like to see something like wheel motors that people could retrofit on to their existing vehicles and make them part time EVs and full time PHEVs. For maybe 1/4th the price of a new vehicle, they could cut their fuel consumption in half.

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