When the automotive industry took a plunge in 2008/2009, the hybrid market followed suit and took a plunge with it. Looking at calendar year-to-date registrations (January to March) we see that both the overall market and the hybrid market fell by about 37% from 2008 to 2009 in the first quarter. Hybrids had been steadily increasing as new models of hybrids became available and gas prices were rising up until the crash of late 2008.
As gas prices fell and people tightened their pocketbooks, the market turned toward more gas efficient smaller cars or people downsized their vehicles, but did not necessarily purchase the hybrid version. In 2010 there was a slight uptick in hybrid volumes, but not enough growth to match the overall market so the hybrid's share of the overall market declined slightly in the first quarter of 2010.
Looking at Q1 2011, however, there is robust growth in hybrid registrations and diesel as well. Both alternative fuel types are outpacing growth of the general market by just shy of 2 to 1 (see table below). March was here before we saw the recent high in gasoline prices of over $4.00 a gallon. It looks like the spike in gas prices has reignited the hybrid market. OEMs continue to bring out hybrid versions of their vehicles, giving consumers more hybrid choices.
For the truly budget conscious there are also a growing number of fuel efficient vehicles that rival hybrid fuel economy. This is the battle to watch in the marketplace – will there be more growth in hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles or will the market turn toward more fuel efficient traditional gasoline vehicles? With the investments that car companies are making in alternative fuel vehicles I don't expect them to go away. The question is how much share of the market can they capture? That will depend on the true value they deliver vs. other options.
What do you think? Where do you see the share level falling for alternative fuel vehicles in the future?
Posted by Mark Pauze, Sr. Solutions Consultant, Polk (05.31.2011)