ECONOMIC SNAPSHOT | HYBRIDS

Green cars still a small part of new-car sales
By TERRY BOX
Automotive Writer tbox@dallasnews.com

By TROY OXFORD
Staff Artist toxford@dallasnews.com

Although green cars have been available for more than a decade and are more refined than ever, they only account for about 2 percent of new-vehicle sales and their sales continue to rise and fall with the price of gasoline. Many conventional compacts today get close to 40 miles per gallon, causing many consumers to reconsider the premium for a hybrid, an electric car or a diesel-powered vehicle. In addition, with all of the new oil production, the supply of gasoline is likely to be steady for the foreseeable future.

Green cars maintain market share but don’t attract new growth
Sales of hybrids, electric vehicles and diesel-powered cars started the year strongly as fuel prices began to rise. But when prices began to flatten out, many green-car sales fell. Sales of some green vehicles in March and for the first quarter in the U.S.: Audi: includes the A3 and Q7 diesels Sales year-to-date through March: 1,014, down 40.6% March sales: 312 Ford: includes Fusion plug-in hybrid and Focus Electric Sales year-to-date through March: 21,499, up 332% March sales: 8,107 351% General Motors: includes Chevy Volt, Buick LaCrosse e Assist Sales year-to-date through March: 11,138, down 13.7% March sales: 4,068

49.3%

22.9%

Honda: includes Insight Hybrid Sales year-to-date through March: 1,161, down 49.4%

March sales: 454

Mitsubishi: includes the i electric car Sales year-to-date through March: 625, up 359.5%

March sales: 31

Nissan: includes the Leaf Sales year-to-date through March: 3,539, up 104.2%

March sales: 2,236 286%

56%

44.6%

Porsche: includes Panamera and Cayenne hybrids Sales year-to-date through March: 200, down 59.1%

March sales: 57

Toyota: includes Prius and Lexus hybrids Sales year-to-date through March: 83,642, up 2.6%

March sales: 32,444

Volkswagen: includes Beetle, Golf and Jetta diesels Sales year-to-date through March: 21,081, up 6.6%

March sales: 8,521 0.82%

65.8%

15.1%

SOURCES: Autoblog.com; Automotive News

U.S. gas prices
Average cost per gallon of regular unleaded gas:
$3.78 $3.32 $3.67

Fuel economy of select hybrids
Ford C-Max Hybrid Ford Fusion Hybrid Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid

Car and truck sales
New vehicle sales in the U.S.:
1.4 million

47 47
mpg mpg city hwy Honda Insight

41 36
mpg mpg city hwy Toyota Prius Hatchback

25 37
mpg mpg city hwy Volkswagen Golf Diesel

1.04 million

1.19 million

41 44
Jan. 2013 Feb. March

51 48
mpg mpg city hwy

30 42
mpg mpg city hwy
Jan. 2013 Feb. March
SOURCE: Automotive News

mpg mpg city hwy
SOURCE: Edmunds.com

SOURCE: AAA

The bottom line
“In essence, green cars are where we were 40 years ago with compact cars. They are really sensitive to the perceived availability and price of fuel. Every time you think small cars or fuel-efficient cars have firm footing, they fall back as soon as the fuel market changes.” “Hybrids, electrics and diesels have a place in the market, but their sales are heavily tied to gas prices. What it really comes down to is many consumers want to be green. But at the end of the day, dollars and cents will prevail in their car-buying decisions.” “Hybrids and electric cars will likely be the mainstream vehicles of the future. But they face obstacles today that didn’t exist five or 10 years ago — mainly from increasingly efficient conventional cars. And if gas prices get more stable, automakers may have to really work to increase their green-car sales.”

George Hoffer, business professor and auto-industry observer at the University of Richmond

Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book

Terry Box, automotive writer, The Dallas Morning News

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