Hybrid sales trends are down 23% comparing January through August 2009 to the same time period in 2008. But seven new hybrid models have hit the road in 2009. Most of these new hybrids have a traditional gasoline engine counterpart, but the Honda Insight is available only as a hybrid. All of the new models have a tough challenge ahead since Toyota Prius leads the hybrid segment with a 49% command of sales CYTD thru August 2009.
The Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are available strictly as hybrids, but both Toyota and Honda also have models with traditional gasoline and hybrid options (e.g., Toyota Camry and Honda Civic). Ford, on the other hand, has three hybrid models (Focus, Fusion and Escape) in the market, all of which are also on the market as traditional gasoline only vehicles.
So to my question: What is the right hybrid strategy? Positioning a model as an exclusive hybrid with distinctive styling like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight or offering a hybrid option to an existing gasoline powered model like the Ford Fusion? Does the general public want to drive a distinctly styled hybrid that proudly displays their eco-friendliness or do people simply want better fuel economy on existing popular models?
It is interesting to think about which strategy will be the best, especially with the highly publicized Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf launching soon. What do you think?
Posted by Margaret Zewatsky, Global Market Analyst, Polk (10.16.2009)