Hybrid Sales Soar So Far In 2013: Ford Rises, Prius Falls

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2013 Toyota Prius liftback

2013 Toyota Prius liftback

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For a long time, the Toyota Prius was the only game in town for high fuel-efficiency vehicles.

Starting with the 2004 model, it really came to define the public image of a hybrid car.

Now, though, as hybrids and plug-in cars are slowly growing their share of the market, Prius sales have fallen--not just as a share of the "alternative powertrain" segment, but in raw numbers.

According to Ward's Auto sales data, hybrids and plug-ins together took 3.71 percent of the U.S. market last month--just 0.01 percent below their all-time high share of 3.72 percent last December.

About 7,500 plug-in cars were sold last month, and those numbers will likely stay steady or grow for the rest of the year.

But hybrids still outnumber plug-ins in the total of 50,000 or so, and that's where the Prius has seen its sales numbers decline.

Prius falls considerably

Sales of the whole Prius range added together are down 12 percent for the first four months of this year against the same period last year.

And that's despite not having two of the newest Prius models fully available last year, neither in January nor February 2012.

The total for the four-model Prius lineup was 75,613 this year, against 86,027 for January through April last year.

The volume seller, now known as the Prius Liftback, sold 58,638 units last year, but only 47,413 this year--a 19-percent decline.

New Prius model pair no help

Similarly, the Prius V wagon was down 25 percent (15,922 to 11,897). The other two of the newest Prius models only went on full sale last March.

So while the lower-volume Prius Plus-In Hybrid rose in 2013 over the same four months in 2012, it fell 46 percent (2,545 to 1,385) over the two comparable March-April periods.

Similarly, sales of the Prius C subcompact rose for four months, but the two-month comparison is down 15 percent (from 8,881 to 7,512).

Toyota has many other hybrid models, including the new-for-2013 Avalon Hybrid and the longstanding Camry Hybrid sedans, and the Highlander Hybrid crossover.

Ford hybrids surge

Part of the competition to the Prius clearly comes from Ford. While it can't match Toyota in overall numbers, the second-largest of the Detroit Three is making a respectable showing.

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid

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From January through April, Ford sold 11,708 C-Max Hybrids and 13,891 Fusion Hybrids (not including the Energi plug-in hybrid versions of each, which are separately tallied in plug-in sales).

That's roughly one-third the total number of Priuses sold, a level Ford has not previously reached.

Ford comparisons to 2012 totals aren't relevant because the C-Max is a new model that just went on sale last September.

Moreover, the Fusion Hybrid went through a complete redesign from the 2012 to 2013 model, cutting production substantially.

Not 47 mpg

Both Ford hybrids have come under criticism--by Consumer Reports, among others--for not meeting their 47-mpg EPA combined efficiency ratings. Now the EPA is investigating.

But in the end, that may not matter to consumers. Even if their new Ford hybrids approach 40 mpg, that may be good enough.

And the more hybrids and plug-ins that are sold, the more economies of scale can kick in to lower their component costs, from lithium-ion cells to electric traction motors.

That's what we call a virtuous cycle.


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Comments (10)
  1. Much noise about nothing. Last year Prius had hot new models that people were buying up. Now, a year later, it has calmed down a little.

    For Ford, it is the opposite situation. Ford now had new models that are selling well, I expect that will calm down in a year and the Prius will be back on top.

  2. I believe John's correct, it's apples and oranges comparing an upstart (which is basically what EV Ford is) and an established company. However, I do think Ford is in position to attract more newer hybrid/EV buyers in the coming years. Not everyone is worried about being #1 in mpg, some want an attractive car that gets good mileage. Of course taste is subjective, but I think many people like the idea of not having to sacrifice their "normal" looking car to get 35-40mpg. It's cars like the Camry hybrid that will need to step up to take on Fords new hybrids, not the Prius family.

  3. sacrifice their "normal" looking car....What's normal anymore? even Fords are unusual and while the Nissan Juke is weird to my eye they are selling like mad.

  4. That's why the "" "normal". Like I said, taste is subjective. I'm just saying now there are choices besides the Prius silloutte that's become synonymous with hybrids. No doubt car designs are changing anyway to make better use of aerodynamics than ever before and there is becoming a new "normal". However, I think most would agree that there are a fair number of ICE drivers out there that don't want the traditional Prius look and stereotypes, but would go green if all it meant was trading in there old Fusion for a new one.

  5. Ford is not an upstart on Hybrids!. They developed their technology independently of Toyota and their technology is just as good or even better than Toyota's. You need to do some research before you post. It's all about the facts and they do not lie.

  6. I didn't say Ford had inferior tachnology, or that they piggybacked on Toyota's research, all I said was that Toyota has been at it for years while Ford is finally getting their feet wet. While you try to process that you should also make an appointment for some anger management.

  7. Most people really want an attractive car that happens to be an EV. Look at the success Tesla is having with their Stylish high performance Model S Sport sedan. I for one am not going to buy a moon buggy weird looking polar bear hugging buy it because its good for the planet Ev that is only capable of the traditional auto manufacture agreed upon 75 miles of range. That's why I like Tesla so much. They are building a beautiful stylish high performance Ev that can beat gasoline sport sedans in it's price range. Tesla is actually building an EV that is as good or better than a gasoline powered car. They have produced a game changer. I see traditional gasoline only powered cars becoming a minority on the road within 20 years or so.

  8. I think plugins are taking Prius's market share. You have to admit that some traditional Prius buyers want to make "green" statements. That is especially true in the SF Bay Area. But now that "green" statment can be made with Volt, Leaf, Tesla S, eRav4, eFit, i-Miev and 500e. So, buyers have choices.

    Then Ford is hitting it with "domestic buyers" who is willing to buy something other than Prius. Combined with other Toyota's new offering in Avalon hybrdi and Camry hybrid, Prius's sale can't stay high forever.

    Even some current Prius buyers/owners admit that competition is catching up and many of them offering better performance, look and higher quality interior.

    Competition is good.

  9. Exactly, there are now simply too many choices for consumers for Prius to stay so dominant. For the longest time Prius was the only practical alternative choice, and now people have many different body styles and drivetrains to choose from. I think most of us can agree that it would be a bad thing if Prius continied to dominate the market, because it would mean the segment isn't growing and evolving.

  10. my sister has a Fusion hybrid and she struggles (like most) to get good numbers in town but 40+ on the freeway is very easy to do and despite many auto manufacturers claiming 40 mpg, not many cars achieve it in real life (I should know since I own one!)

    I used her car for work purposes a few times and was able to get in the mid 40's with very little effort. would have loved to see her get the Energi (I installed a plug in at her house for my LEAF so it would have been perfect for her) but the price was just a bit too steep

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