September a benchmark month for Toyota Prius, alt vehicle sales
Forget about the hybrid slowdown story, it’s nonsense
A few days ago AutoObserver published a story regarding the slowdown in advanced powertrain auto sales. Since then I’ve seen several stories referencing this angle.
And it hasn’t been just a supply issue. For large parts of June and July GM updated Chevy Volt manufacturing capabilities and stopped building Volts entirely for some of this time. Thus, sales slowed. Wow! Who wudda thunk it?
Certainly, August Volt sales disappointed because it seemed production should have been at full speed the whole month. Nevertheless, my guess is that limited Volt production is a lingering manufacturing issue, not a demand problem.
Likewise, Prius production and supplies have been increasing the last few months, just as Toyota forecast, but still not back to normal. Restoring supplies of Honda hybrid cars has been a little slower. By September, however, things should be very close to normal. It might still be a few more months or more before Japanese hybrid supplies are fully back, but we’re getting close enough to use September as a barometer.
Besides, the only hybrid that really matters is the Toyota Prius since it accounts for about half of all hybrid sales. In the last few months, Prius supplies and sales have increased to 80 percent of normal levels — at least compared to last year’s levels. Consequently, I’m expecting Prius sales of around 11,000+.
Of course, maybe the slow down in auto sales predicted for August is actually going to turn up in September. If that happens, then the numbers will have to be analyzed a bit further.
Overall, however, I don’t buy the hybrid slowdown story because it doesn’t seem driven by demand, but by supply chain issues.
Nevertheless, I do think that new small car offerings — think Chevy Cruze and Hyundai Elantra — have sucked some of the hype out of alt vehicle sales. Consumers hear numbers like 40 mpg, even if it’s just highway, and see cheaper-than-hybrid price tags in some pretty well designed and cheaper new non-hybrids, and they bite.
Consequently, September alt vehicle sales should provide telling data regarding not just alt vehicles, but the direction of the market in general.