The hybrid market has grown by 960 percent since 2000, according to data released by R.L. Polk & Co., a Southfield, Michigan-based firm that collects and interprets automotive data.
Although new hybrid vehicle registrations totaled 83,153 in 2004, an 81 percent increase over the year before, hybrids still represent less than 1 percent of the 17 million new vehicles sold in 2004. And, despite the availability of the , Japanese automakers continued to control the vast majority of the U.S. market, Polk said. Japanese brands accounted for more than 96 percent of the hybrid vehicles registered.
Toyota, the first automaker to commercially mass-produce and sell hybrid cars, continues to dominate the market. The , which went on sale in the United States in 2000, occupied 64 percent of the U.S. hybrid market last year, with 53,761 new Prius cars registered, Polk said.
The was second with 31 percent market share. Honda also sold several hundred Accord and Insight hybrids, which each commanded 1 percent of the market.
Ford sold 2,566 Escape hybrid sport-utility vehicles, or about 3 percent of the market, Polk said.
Hybrid vehicles are powered by internal combustion engines but also have batteries that are recharged while driving and an electric motor that cuts in at certain phases of operation. They typically cost $3,000 to $4,000 more than conventionally powered models.
Polk said California was once again the top state for growth in hybrid vehicle registrations. More than 25,000 new hybrids were registered in California, a 102 percent increase over 2003. Virginia, Washington, Florida and Maryland rounded out the top five states for hybrid registrations, the same as in 2003.
And the range of hybrid vehicle choices continues to expand. In addition to the Toyota Prius; Honda Civic, Accord and Insight, and Ford Escape, several new hybrid models were introduced in the past few months including the Dodge Ram, the and the Mercury Mariner. The 2006 model year will expect to see the introduction of a hybrid version of the Saturn Vue, the Toyota Highlander and the Nissan Altima. Major manufacturers are planning a total of almost a dozen new hybrid vehicles in the next three years.