2013 Ford F-150 LariatEnlarge Photo
Texans really like their trucks. It's one of life's constants--the sun will always rise, politicians will always lie, Texans will always buy trucks.
That doesn't mean Texan car buyers aren't open to new ideas though, and though it may come as a surprise, hybrid sales are actually increasing at quite a rate in the Lone Star State.
My San Antonio reports that Ford, Toyota and GM are all seeing huge increases in the sales of their hybrid and plug-in models, in response to climbing gas prices.
In the Houston region--covering all Texas cities south of and including Austin, Ford has seen sales of electric and hybrid vehicles rise by 236 percent between 2011 and 2012.
That's no doubt partly down to new models like the C-Max and Fusion hybrid ranges, but still impressive considering the departure of the old Escape Hybrid.
For one Texan dealer, Jordan Ford, demand is so high they can't keep up. "Right now, our biggest holdup on selling (hybrid vehicles) is availability” explained marketing and advertising director Jerry Strain.
GM has seen sales increase too, up by 33 percent from 1,085 units to 1,441. Much of that figure is down to the Chevy Volt range-extended electric car, which sold 907 units in 2011, and 1,238 in 2012. Many of those were fleet sales, said a spokesman.
Even Toyota, already successful at selling hybrid models, saw gains of 63 percent in the San Antonio area. While not quite as high as the marque's Californian sales, Toyota hybrids still accounted for ten percent of Texan Toyota sales.
That sales growth is reflected nationally, with hybrid and electric sales up 73 percent overall in 2012.
At this point, some perspective is needed--hybrid sales are still small beans in Texas. Market penetration for hybrids sits around 1 percent in the state, against nearer 3-3.5 percent nationally. And that's unlikely to rise sharply in Texas, unless cost-effective hybrid and electric trucks start appearing.
There's still a long way to go then, but more drivers are coming around to the idea of driving a hybrid. My San Antonio spoke to Cara Vela, who'd swapped her Ford F-350 for a Fusion Hybrid.
“I can keep the 350 in the garage in case it's needed, but gas ain't ever going back to $1. I hate watching the (gas pump) counter keep rising and rising.
“My brothers make fun of me for driving a hybrid,” she said--adding that all four siblings drive trucks--but “they're the ones losing money.”