Toyota Still Leads Hybrid Sales, Competition Quickly Gains Ground image

Toyota is still the leader of the gas-electric hybrid market but competition is quickly coming from behind.

During the first quarter sales of gas-electric hybrids have increased 14%, surpassing the 6.3% for new vehicles as a whole. The gas-electric hybrid vehicles account for 3.3% of the market, up from 3.1% last year. Toyota is the leader of the non-plug-in hybrid vehicle sales, with 68%, followed by Ford with 15.4%, Hyundai and Kia with 5.7% and GM with 5.6%.

Toyota might soon lose the lead as rivals quickly gain ground, with Ford selling more than 20,000 hybrids setting the company’s best quarter for these vehicles, thanks to the new hybrids the Fusion and the C-Max. Although Toyota Prius remains the sales leaser, the automaker’s share of hybrid sales has fallen from 75% to almost 68%.

“People are cross-shopping (considering multiple brands) more than ever,” said C.J. O’Donnell, head of marketing for electrification at Ford. “Consumers used to buy hybrids just for fuel economy but now buy them because they like the vehicle as well as the mileage which has lessened some of the sales volatility.”

Sales of plug-in hybrids, which account for 0.5% of the new US vehicle market, has more than doubled during the first three months of the year, from 7,253 units sold in 2012. The best-selling plug-in vehicles are the Chevy Volt, Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf.