Hybrids on a roll

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It’s been a buoyant few months for U.S. light vehicle sales in general, with demand for full-size pickups driving some of the biggest monthly sales figures witnessed by our nation in years.

Yet simultaneously – and occurring somewhat under the radar – sales of hybrid light vehicles are also enjoying a healthy spike, which many experts believe is helping set the stage for a more widespread shift by the motoring public to purely alternatively-powered vehicles in the not-so-distant future.

For example, take a look at the May 2013 Electric Drive Sales Dashboard just released by the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA): it reports that automakers sold 48,796 hybrids last month, bringing the total number of hybrids sold this year to 212,711 units – some 14% higher than year-to-date hybrid sales at this point in 2012. 

[As a tangent, here's an older video that explains how to maximize hybrid fuel mileage.]

In terms of just “plug-in” vehicles alone, some 7,754 were sold in May, with cumulative year-to-date sales of plug-in vehicles hitting 32,305 units in 2013, with overall plug-in sales reaching 103,220 units in just over two years, noted EDTA President Brian Wynne in a statement.

"Surpassing the 100,000 mark for plug-in sales is an important milestone for this industry, but we're just getting started," he said. "Consumers and critics alike are experiencing and connecting with these cars, fueling significant growth trends." 

The numbers reveal a compelling narrative for all electric drive-based technologies, Wynne stressed. For example, May’s sales are more than double the 3,378 plug-in vehicles sold in the same month back in 2012 – in actuality a 130% increase over last year – while the 32,305 units cumulatively sold year-to-date 2013 is a 123% increase over the 14,519 plug-in units sales sold up to this point in 2012.

"With constantly advancing technology and building consumer confidence, the electric drive industry is well positioned to carry this momentum forward," Wynne pointed out. "It's no surprise that gasoline prices are spiking again, but now motorists have real alternatives to the monopoly fuel.  These cars use far less gasoline than their combustion engine counterparts – or no gas at all.”

Ford Motor Co. added that it surpassed its previous full-year hybrid sales record set in 2010 of 35,496 vehicles in just the first five months of 2013, with the OEM projecting to sell approximately 37,000 hybrid vehicles through May, for around a 375% increase over the same period last year.

"We're working tirelessly to get as many hybrids to the market as we can right now to meet this unprecedented customer demand for our electrified vehicles," said Erich Merkle, Ford U.S. sales analyst, in a statement. "The success we are experiencing with hybrids is energizing the whole company."

C.J. O'Donnell, Ford’s electrification group marketing manager, added that the hybrid Fusion sedan is turning in just 14 days on average, with that turn rate is even higher in key markets like Los Angeles, at just 10 days. Also, the Fusion Hybrid just hit an all-time-high percentage of overall Fusion sales, reaching 15% this May.

"Our all-new electrified vehicle lineup is drawing new customers to the Ford brand," O’Donnell noted. "We're hearing from our dealers they literally can't keep our hybrids in stock [and] this is particularly evident in key markets like California."

Now the question is can this surge in hybrid vehicles can sustain itself in the months to come. Time will only tell. 

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