Hybrid Car Sales Trends

I was listening to the Forum on KQED (our local NPR affiliate) yesterday, and they started talking about gas prices and vehicle demand.  One of the guests on the show discussed consumer behavior, and how it changed as gas prices changed.  Specifically, she stated that compact and hybrid vehicle sales dropped with changes in gas prices – she was adamant about this.  So I looked around for some data and found the following post somewhat useful.

In the article, they claim hybrid sales dropped 45.5% in April 2009 (year-on-year, compared to April 2008).  Pretty shocking headline.  They even show the percentage of hybrid sales of total vehicle sales, but it’s quite useless.  So I took their hybrid data, and compiled it with two government sources, NIPA for auto sales, and EIA for gas prices.  Looking at the raw data, I can see how the KQED guest could look at hybrid sales and be quite disappointed at consumer behavior:

Hybrid Sales Compared to Gas Prices

Hybrid Sales Compared to Gas Prices

However, it’s critical to measure the percentage of hybrids COMPARED to auto sales.  That seems like common sense to me.  Here’s the graph:

Hybrid Percentage Compared to Gas Prices

Hybrid Percentage Compared to Gas Prices

The second graph paints a significantly different story.  Auto sales increased in early 2008 as gas prices began to increase, and then dropped as gas reached its peak.  Not sure what explains the drop in hybrid sales – though it could be an anomaly, or it could be that non-consumer sales persisted through the peak and most of these are non-hybrid sales.  Either way, it doesn’t seem like there’s a ton of correlation between the data.   We often hear about how consumers react to market conditions with immediacy – yet in this case, it’s just not true.

PS – if you’d like the raw data, please email, happy to send it over.

Update:  Thanks to a coworkers suggestion, I derived the correlation coefficient between the two graphs.  For the entire period, the correlation between the percentage of hybrid sales compared to gas prices is .64, or moderately correlated.  However, the hybrid market was not mature in 2004-5, so it’s a bit inaccurate.  Comparing to 2006 onwards, the correlation coefficient is .25, i.e. there’s no correlation whatsoever.

This entry was posted in Technology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Hybrid Car Sales Trends

  1. Nduka says:

    Hybrids are more expensive than other cars. Perhaps the dip in sales that preceded the dip in fuel prices in 2008 is a result of overall economic conditions. People began to feel the economy tanking and were not willing to pay the upfront premium for the hybrid, in spite of high fuel prices.

  2. Interesting analysis. Hybrids are really not that economical and the only 2 ways to justify it

    Being green and responsible

    Used to be the pool lane sticker but that is gone now – don’t know if that timing’s effect on the sales

  3. garrettknight says:

    Rohit, I searched for your email address and could not find it. I was wondering if you could send me the raw data you used to make these charts, especially the percentage of hybrid sales over total auto sales information. thank you Email- knight32388@gmail.com

  4. garrettknight says:

    Rohit, I searched for your email address and could not find it. I was wondering if you could send me the raw data you used to make these charts, especially the percentage of hybrid sales over total auto sales information. thank you Email- knight32388@gmail.com

  5. kevin says:

    I’m doing a data project for highschool about percentage of hybrid sales, id love to see the raw data.
    If you can email it to me that’d be great

  6. Could small hybrid cars suddenly be Japan's new trend? The answer will be revealed over the coming months. The opinions expressed here are those of the …

  7. The outgoing car is a hard act to follow. Just like the original Mini of many years ago, it defied market trends by never going out of fashion – it was …

  8. vivnidhi says:

    Could you please direct me to its raw data source. I wanted to model something similar. Thanks!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s