US hybrid petro-electric sales in November shrank 53 per cent from a year earlier, compared with a 37 per cent drop overall, according to Autodata, a market-research firm. December sales, to be announced on Monday, are to show a similar trend.
Sales of most hybrid models have dropped sharply. Demand for Toyota’s Prius hatchback, the top-selling hybrid, fell by almost half in November from a year earlier. The Camry sedan was down 57 per cent, and the Ford Escape crossover 35 per cent.
The setback has been pronounced for larger models, touted as much for performance as fuel economy. Sales of the Lexus RX400 sport-utility vehicle are now little more than a third of the level a year ago.
Edmunds.com, an online motor service, reports that searches for hybrids on its websites are running at less than a quarter of their peak in May.
The maths was never there on hybrids. Even with gas near its peak, it was still an indulgence and a way for drivers to signal their higher environmental consciousness. That’s not a criticism of the cars or the drivers, just a factual statement about where a chunk of the value was. If the economy were still humming, but oil had fallen to where it is, sales would be holding up a lot better because the desire to be greener-than-thou exists at all times. Given that nobody was making money on hybrids yet (or very little), and now they’re really not making any money, Detroit will be in an even tighter bind as it attempts to reconcile green-ness with a return to profitability.
(HT: Yves Smith)