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Hybrid vehicle sales continue to rise despite easing gas prices

April 12, 2013|By Jerry Hirsch
  • Sales of the new Ford Fusion hybrid, shown here in Santa Monica, helped Ford set a company hybrid sales record during the first quarter of 2013.
Sales of the new Ford Fusion hybrid, shown here in Santa Monica, helped Ford… (Ford / Wieck )

Easing gas prices haven’t put a dent in hybrid sales.

Through the first quarter of this year, sales of hybrids rose 19% over the same period a year ago, according to Autodata Corp. The data include both conventional hybrid models and plug-ins, such as the Chevrolet Volt, which are rechargeable and can travel on electricity only for some distance before a gas engine kicks in and extends the car’s range.

The growth came when sales of all types of autos rose a little more than 6% during the same period.

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Analysts believe hybrid sales are starting to decouple from the gas price cycle. Previously, sales of hybrid cars have risen with gas prices and fallen when the cost of fuel eased. As of this week, gas prices have fallen about 35 cents from a year ago to a national average of $3.56, according to AAA.

Hybrids now account for about 4% of auto sales, up from about 3% a year ago.

New models account for much of the growth.  

Hybrids now represent about 12% of Ford Fusion sales compared with about 4% a year ago. Ford recently redesigned the Fusion, improving the fuel efficiency of the hybrid model by about 20%.

Ford said its hybrid sales in the first quarter rose 324% to 21,080 vehicles. It was the first time the automaker has sold more than 20,000 hybrids in a quarter.

At Toyota, hybrids now account for about 20% of Avalon sales. The sedan wasn’t offered as a hybrid a year ago.  About 12% to 13% of Camry sales are now hybrids, up from the 5% of the previous generation of the car.

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