2010 Toyota PriusEnlarge Photo
We knew all along that the Cash-For-Clunkers program induced July and August car buyers to go for vehicles they might not otherwise have chosen, specifically smaller cars with higher gas mileage. Especially hybrid-electric vehicles from Toyota, Honda, Ford, and others.
But now comes the hybrid hangover: September sales of hybrids plummeted against August totals inflated by those $3,500 and $4,500 clunker credits.
2006 Honda Civic HybridEnlarge Photo
2010 Honda InsightEnlarge Photo
2010 Ford Escape HybridEnlarge Photo
2010 Ford Fusion HybridEnlarge Photo
2009 Nissan Altima HybridEnlarge Photo
Even worse than overall sales
Total U.S. car sales in September fell 41 percent, roughly back to levels from before the Clunkers program. But hybrids fell even more. They were down 48 percent versus August, though only 4 percent lower than last September, just as the car market entered full meltdown.
Year to date, however, hybrids have done better than vehicle sales in general when 2009 is compared to 2008. Hybrids are down 14.5 percent over last year, whereas total vehicle sales fell 22.5 percent.
The 2010 Toyota Prius, which is in short supply globally, fell from 20,000 August sales to 11,000 in September, though the market fell so much that still kept it the ninth best-selling vehicle in the U.S.
Altima Hybrid: 90 percent decline
Other hybrids fared much worse. The low-volume Nissan Altima Hybrid sold a mere 345 units in September, a tenth of its August sales. And the Honda Civic Hybrid fell to just 152 dales, down 79 percent.
So who was the hybrid winner for September? That had to be Ford, whose 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan sold 1,120 copies. Added to 790 Escape Hybrid crossovers, that let Ford barely squeak past Honda's 1,900 into the silver position for hybrid sales.
Insight in trouble?
The 2010 Honda Insight sold just 1,750 units in September, though that still made it the second best-selling hybrid in the U.S. after the long-time champion Toyota Prius. But with just 15,800 sales since it hit showrooms in February, the 2010 Insight is so far lagging against Honda's goal of 80,000 sales in its first year.