Record number of alternative fuel vehicles sold in 2012

Jan 14, 2013

Alternative fuel vehicle sales reached a record high in 2012, up 73% from 2011.

Nearly 440,000 hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electrics were sold last year. The rapid sales growth in hybrid and electric vehicles makes the segment the fastest growing in the United States for 2012, superseding the still fast growing compact-vehicle segment, according to Mintel, a supplier of consumer, product and media intelligence.

The number of plug-in and electric models available to the public also quadrupled in 2012; there were three models available in 2011, and 11 are available today. Although alternative/hybrid vehicles are not currently popular aftermarket vehicles, their increased presence on the road could mean sales for accessory dealers in the near future as manufacturers begin catering more to the market.

“New mid-size hybrid models, such as the Toyota Prius v and Chevrolet Malibu Eco, have proven popular with consumers, in particular families, who want to buy ‘green’ without sacrificing other features that fit their lifestyles,” said Colin Bird, automotive analyst at Mintel. “The segment will grow even further in 2013 with the launch of several new models, including the full Ford Fusion Hybrid series and the Honda Accord Hybrid, which will fulfill a wider variety of needs than conventional compact hybrids.”

Bird predicts that mid-size plug-in hybrids will enter the mainstream in 2013 with the introduction of the Ford Fusion Energi and the Honda Accord Plug-in.

Mintel forecasts sales of hybrid and electric cars will exceed 535,000 units by the end of 2013 or a 14% increase in sales over 2012 estimates. By 2017, the company forecasts hybrid and electronic cars will account for 5% of the total U.S. car market as newer models gain traction with consumers.

According to automotive research company Vincentric, the average model-year 2013 hybrid car or truck coasts $5,243 more than its gasoline-only equivalent, yet realizes just $3,583 in fuel-cost savings. Although it may take time for new hybrid vehicles owners to gain fuel-cost savings, the company determined that buyers of 11 out of 25 hybrids analyzed can expect to come out financially ahead after five years behind the wheel.

The 2012 hybrids in Vincentic’s survey that were found to have the lowest fuel costs over five years were the Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid, Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius v, as reported by Jim Gorzelany for Forbes.