When anybody says “hybrid”, the first car that comes to mind is the Toyota Prius. For Toyota, this is a good thing, as they have become synonymous with “green” vehicles. The Prius has dominated the hybrid car market for over a decade, and you cannot go anywhere without seeing at least a few of them in a parking lot.
Still, overall sales of hybrids have slowed as gas prices remain low. Consumers are instead, once again, turning towards pickups and SUV’s and shunning hybrids. In light of lower sales, Toyota has lowered its targeted hybrid production for 2011 from 1 million units to around 740,000.
That would be a 26% production target reduction, which is rather significant. Could it be because Toyota realizes it is losing its stranglehold on the hybrid market? Look at the competition; there are now a lot more hybrids to choose from than even just three years ago. The Ford Fusion and Escape hybrid (plus the Lincoln MKZ hybrid), Honda has its Civic hybrid and the CR-Z is coming to market soon, and the Volt goes on sale this fall. Then there is the Nissan LEAF, due out at the end of this year too. Although it’s an all-electric vehicle, it has clearly been snagging some would-be Prius owners, and current Prius owners that will move on from their hybrids instead of buying another hybrid.
It isn’t just competition though. Surely the stunted world economy is affecting production targets, but customers tastes are changing too. Consumers are gravitating back towards SUV’s and pickup trucks. I couldn’t tell you exactly why. Sure, gas prices are comparatively lower than they were two years ago. The average gas price across the country right now is about $2.70 a gallon for regular. That isn’t all that cheap, and gas prices are only going to get higher as China and India put more cars on the road.
Any insight into why people are buying fewer hybrids, and more SUV’s?
Source: Automotive News | Image: Toyota