Remember the Prius Waiting Lists?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you know that car sales are down. Way down. The light duty vehicle sales stats for March 2009 show a 36.8% drop by volume compared to March 2008, and March 2008 probably didn’t break any records in the first place… But hybrid cars are doing even worse than that: minus 44% in March 2009. There are two main things that can explain that…
It’s the Economy, Stupid
The first, and biggest factor, is of course the economic recession. This has two effects on potential hybrid car buyers: 1) They have less money in their pockets, so might opt not to buy a car at all, or to buy a less expensive model, and 2) less economic activity = less demand for energy = lower oil prices (more or less), which makes fuel efficient hybrids seem like less of a good deal (unlike when gasoline was $4/gallon in the US).
Everybody Wants the Latest and Greatest
The second factor probably has a smaller effect, but it shouldn’t be underestimated. The Toyota Prius is the best selling hybrid car out there, and Toyota is coming out with a more fuel-efficient totally redesigned Prius for 2010. This probably means that many people are waiting for the third generation Prius to come out before buying a hybrid. The numbers seem to confirm this: “Sales of the Toyota Prius were off 56.8% by volume from March 2008, down to 8,924 units.”