Hybrid Cars Sales Fell By 9.9 Percent in the US

Last year, hybrid vehicles were not at all immune to the credit crunch but they also had to face another challenge: fuel prices tumbled to an average of $1.62 per gallon last month.

With these perspectives, it's no surprise that hybrid vehicles sales dropped by 9.9 percent in 2008, with 315,761 hybrids sold in the US, Autonews reported. Although at the beginning of last year, the gasoline prices passed $3.50 a gallon and reached a maximum $4 in July, at the end of the year, fuel prices have dropped heavily. Associated with the current financial crisis, the demand for hybrid cars decreased considerably in 2008.

"At $1.50 a gallon, the American public is not willing to pay for fuel-saving technology," GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said at last week's Detroit auto show.

The supremacy of Japanese hybrid vehicles was more than obvious if we take a look at the statistics. Toyota Motor managed (again) to sell about three of every hybrids in the United States. The winning model was the Toyota Prius, with 91,440 units sold in the first half of the year and 67,444 in the second.

Honda Motor Co. sold with 12.5 percent less hybrid cars in the US than the previous year, while Ford (which happens to be number 3 in hybrid sales) scored its greatest decline, down 22.2 percent. However, GM almost tripled its sales to 14,439 after introducing hybrid versions of the Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon and Chevrolet Malibu and Tahoe.

That being said, automakers blame the decreasing sales for hybrid vehicles on the fact that fuel prices changed consumers' habits.

"Cheap gasoline combined with fuel efficiency mandated by the government is an economic disaster for America," AutoNation Inc. CEO Mike Jackson said at the Automotive News World Congress on Wednesday. "When the cost per mile driven goes down, people buy bigger, faster" cars and trucks, he added.

No need to despair though. Research shows consumers do want fuel-saving technology, only that the credit crunch stays between their desires and the hybrids.
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