Hybrid car sales make up 1 per cent of vehicle sales

November 29, 2013 1:11 PM

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Hybrid car sales make up 1 per cent of vehicle sales

More than a decade after the first hybrid car went on sale in Australia, the fuel-saving technology remains a hard sell.

Sales of the vehicles, which use a petrol or diesel engine supported by an electric motor and batteries to reduce fuel consumption, are down across the board in 2013. Both private and fleet buyers are choosing fewer hybrid vehicles despite more models hitting the market.

Honda led the hybrid charge locally with the Insight in 2001, but in 2013 there are now 21 hybrid models from brands as diverse as Holden and Porsche.

Hybrids are also more affordable than ever (the cheapest hybrid is the Honda Jazz, priced from $22,990), reducing one of the main barriers to sale, yet despite the variety and value, hybrids are on track to make up just 1 per cent of the market in 2013. Many car makers refuse to import more efficient hybrid models because of the low demand.

Mazda said last week that it had no plans to offer the hybrid version of its best-selling Mazda3 small car in Australia, citing a lack of interest.

Unlike in some countries, Australian governments offer no incentives for hybrid models, leaving fuel savings that can take years to recoup the price premium as the main incentive.

According to Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries figures, governments and fleets account for most hybrid sales and the Toyota Camry Hybrid is by far the most popular, accounting for about half of all petrol-electric vehicle sales.

Chris Riedy, associate professor at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, believes consumers are willing to do the right thing for the environment but the current economic situation means they are not willing to pay more to do so.

Asked if the government should consider buyer subsidies for hybrids, Dr Riedy said all fuel-efficient cars should be considered.

''I don't know I'd want to focus on hybrids per se. I think we should look at smaller cars and more fuel efficient cars generally,'' he said.

Despite sluggish sales, Toyota, which sells the most hybrid models in Australia, believes consumers will continue to embrace hybrids as more models become available.

Toyota Australia spokesman Stephen Coughlan pointed to the example of the Prius, the poster child for hybrid cars. Sales of the original Prius have been in decline since 2008, dropping from 3413 in 2008 to 861 in 2012.

The expansion of the Prius family to include a smaller hatch and people mover has bolstered sales, but of the 21 models listed on sale by Toyota, only four outsell all three Prius models, and two of those are buses and one is a people mover.

''Diversifying the product line-up with the Prius C and Prius V has given buyers more choice,'' Mr Coughlan said.

Source: smh.com.au

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