Hybrid vehicle sales jumped high in the first two months of 2013 – up 32 percent compared with the same period of 2012, according to Autodata Corp. A long-term forecast by Gartner Inc. is even more optimistic – while the market share for US new vehicle sales has grown to four percent for hybrids, that figure could double by the end of this decade.
Why is that? Increasing gasoline prices, more evidence of reliability and a wider selection of hybrid vehicle offerings have sweetened the deal. The diversity of offerings helps – from the cheaper, entry-level Toyota Prius C to the competitive Ford Fusion Hybrid and the expensive, 949-horsepower LaFerrari. Subaru has finally entered the hybrid market with its XV Crosstrek Hybrid crossover. Nissan made a splash at the New York Auto Show with its 2014 Pathfinder Hybrid after being out of that segment for several years.
The Toyota Prius hybrid has been the flagship of hybrids since its US introduction in 2000. It did see some softening of sales in March, but it had gained the top spot in California new vehicle sales for 2012. The Prius is gaining a reputation for being reliable and owners are hanging on to them – Toyota says that 90 percent of the Prius vehicles it's sold as still on the road.
Of course, the higher sticker prices for hybrids compared to their fuel-efficient, non-hybrid competitors continues to impede hybrid sales. The Toyota Camry hybrid, for example, costs about $3,500 more than the gasoline-only Camry. At current gas prices, it could take almost five years to break even on the initial cost.