Hybrid Sales Hit By Economy, Low Gas Prices

While hybrid sales at Toyota are off 12% for 2008, it still better than the general market that fell 18%.

Published: 08-Jan-2009

Green is for sale. But who’s buying? Seriously, who needs a hybrid? Without question, fuel-saving technology is essential both for automakers who hope to compete in the next decade and for a nation stricken by energy problems. But if you dig through the sales numbers over the past few months, it’s easy to see that more consumers are asking whether the extra cost of a hybrid-electric car is really worth it.

In December, sales of Toyota’s Prius—the standard bearer of all hybrids—fell by a whopping 45%. In November, sales were off 48%. During those two months, gasoline prices plummeted below $2 a gallon. This proves that America hasn’t turned truly green. More likely, they turned red at the pump back in July when gasoline prices topped $4 a gallon. People fled their suvs and bought smaller cars and hybrids like there was a fuel shortage.

But once gasoline prices fell back to levels that Americans have normally paid, they pulled back on hybrid purchases. Toyota has indefinitely delayed its plans for a Prius plant in Mississippi. Toyota isn’t the only company feeling a pinch. Ford’s Escape hybrid and the competing Saturn Vue hybrid both saw sales sink by more than 40% last month. And the hybrid Civic? Off almost 70%. Ouch.

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