Planet Gore

Gas Shock Drives Uptick in Hybrid Sales

Al Gore bought a hybrid Mercury Mariner in 2007 to combat global warming. Hybrid sales didn’t budge. George Bush decreed 35 mpg cars in late 2007. Hybrid shoppers yawned. Barack Obama decreed electric vehicles were the future in 2009. Hybrid sales tanked. For over a decade, hybrid sales haven’t crawled above 3 percent of the market despite the addition of dozens of new models to dealers’ lots and Congressional edicts forcing manufacturers to build more fuel efficient gas-electrics.

Only twice have sales risen significantly above 3 percent market share. And both times they followed sustained gas prices near $4 a gallon.

Hybrid-electric sales hit a record 3.7 percent of market share in April, eclipsing the previous record of 3.3 percent in July, 2008. Consumers pay a lot more attention to market signals than they do to political hot air.

Yet, despite dozens of new vehicles in the market including the much-hyped Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf (and many others simply to meet federal edicts), one vehicle continued to dominate the niche segment with over 70 percent of hybrid sales according to Autodata: The Toyota Prius (and its cousins, the Prius C and V) accounted for 32,000 of the 44,000 hybrid-electrics sold.

Henry Payne — Henry Payne is the auto critic for the Detroit News.

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