Prius Ride Along 13 - plug-in

The national average for a gallon of regular gas has fallen to just $2.88 a gallon. That’s helped truck and SUV sales grow, but has put a hurting on hybrid sales. Sales of the Toyota Prius are hurting in particular, and hybrids share of the market seems stalled at 3%. Plug-in car sales are a different matter though.

As the LA Times notes, even inside of California where the Prius has been a best-seller for a couple of years, hybrid sales are slipping. One of the most obvious culprits are conventional gas-powered cars, many of which have narrowed the fuel economy gap that the Prius once enjoyed. Many conventional mid-size sedans can now get 30+ MPG on the highway, while hybrid cars still carry a $3,000 or $4,000 premium over comparable gas models.

Despite there now being more than 40 various hybrid vehicle offerings from just about every major carmaker, hybrid car market share is holding steady at 3% of the total market. Toyota hopes its next-gen 60 MPG Prius will turn the tides in favor of hybrids once more, but in the face of dropping gas prices, nothing is garaunteed.

But another factor not discussed by the LA Times are the increasing numbers of plug-in models available to consumers that may attract people who may have otherwise purchased a conventional hybrid. While plug-in car sales were down in Ocotober, year-to-date plug-in car sales are up 28% over the same time in 2013, with sales surpassing 75,000 units so far this year. While that’s still a fraction of total U.S. sales (and less than the total number of Prius sold so far in 2014 alone), it represents an increasing trend in America of plugging in rather than gassing up. Nissan LEAF sales alone

As Martha might say, “It’s a good thing.”