While Tesla Motors has shown it’s possible to eke out a profit in the electric car market, Ford is proving that hybrids are where the real money is.
In the first five months of 2013, Ford has already surpassed its full-year hybrid sales record, the automaker announced today.
In 2010, the company’s best hybrid sales year to date, it sold 35,496 of the vehicles. Between January and May of 2013, it is projected to sell 37,000.
In that same stretch, Americans bought just 13,594 pure electric cars overall, according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association. They bought 163,915 hybrids.
Pushed by federal fuel efficiency requirements, automakers are working to sell more hybrids and electrics, but selling the former is a lot easier.
Hybrids tend to be less expensive than electrics, and have another key advantage: They don’t run out of juice on the road. Drivers don’t suffer range anxiety. They can fill their tank at any gas station and keep rolling.
Most first-time drivers are surprised by how much hybrids feel like conventional cars, Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and market analyst at Kelley Blue Book, told Business Insider. “A percentage have been convinced” to become owners.
Ford builds five hybrid models using the same powertrain, a common tactic to reduce development and production costs. Four of those cars have EPA ratings of more than 40 miles per gallon, although in Consumer Reports testing, the C-MAX and Fusion hybrids fell about 20% short of their promised 47 mpg marks.
While Toyota still leads in hybrid sales, Ford is gaining ground, it says. In April, it had 15.5% of US market share. More than 60% of Fusion and C-MAX hybrid sales are conquests — buyers who previously owned another brand — and most of those are from Toyota, according to Ford.
“We’re hearing from our dealers they literally can’t keep our hybrids in stock,” C.J. O’Donnell, Ford electrification group marketing manager, said in a release.
What remains to be seen, Nerad said, is whether these sales number stay as high once government subsidies and price breaks offered by automakers expire.
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