Friday, February 12, 2010

January 2010 Dashboard: Hybrids Continue to Beat the Overall Market

Sales of hybrid gas-electric cars outperformed the overall market in January�showing an 11 percent gain compared to January 2009. The overall market was essentially flat compared to one year ago. The red down arrows all over this month�"s Hybrid Market Dashboard result from a 31 percent dip in sales compared to December, when dealers were clearing inventory and offering year-end incentives. Post-holiday sales in January usually show a dip.

Prius continues to carry the weight for the whole hybrid market, representing about half of all hybrid sales. Just about every other model fell year-over-year. The rise in Prius sales�4.5 percent compared to a year ago�was enough to lift the entire market by the 11 percent. Low gas prices, around $2.75 as a national average, aren�"t providing any boost for hybrid sales.

Even though the Toyota brand and the Prius�"s image suffered blows in the past few weeks, we don�"t expect January�"s pattern to significantly change for most of this year. Consumers appear to be distinguishing between Toyota�"s large recall for unintended acceleration and the company�"s much smaller �Ssoftware upgrade⬝ to improve the Prius�"s brake feel. More important for hybrid-oriented consumers, there�"s still little competition for the Prius. The Ford Fusion Hybrid continues to rack up awards, including the Car of the Year at January�"s Detroit auto show, but its success will probably mean stealing a few Camry Hybrid sales and higher take rates for the hybrid version of the Fusion, rather than any erasing of Prius�"s lead.

Nonetheless, Ford maintained its position as the second biggest seller of hybrids in the US. The company is pursuing the industry�"s most consistent and well-articulated strategy for higher fuel efficiency, starting with more efficient gas engines all the way to pure electric vehicles. That will pay off in the long run, but no new Ford hybrid introductions are planned for this year and production of current hybrid models are not expected to significantly increase.

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