LOS ANGELES – Used-hybrid values have fallen over 25 percent as the demand for smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles has slowed, according to data from Kelley Blue Book (KBB). "More and more consumers base their purchasing decision on vehicle utility and price rather than fuel economy," said Juan Flores, director, vehicle valuation for KBB.
However, despite the recent decline in hybrid sales, automakers continue to push out hybrid vehicles to meet new fuel-efficiency standards and please politicians overseeing the industry's multibillion-dollar bailout, reported the Los Angeles Times.
Though overall U.S. vehicle sales have declined as the economy continues to worsen, the slowdown has been particularly brutal for hybrids, which use electricity and gasoline as power sources. Sales have collapsed now that the national average price of a gallon of gasoline has slipped below $2, according to the Times.
In February, only 15,144 hybrids sold nationwide, down almost two-thirds from April 2008, when the segment's sales peaked and gas averaged $3.57 a gallon. That's far larger than the drop in industry sales for the period and scarcely a better showing than January, when hybrid sales were at their lowest since early 2005, according to the Times.
In July 2008, U.S. Toyota dealers didn't have enough Prius models in stock to last two days, and many were charging thousands of dollars above sticker price for the few they had. Today, dealers have about 80 days' worth in stock and are working much harder to sell the hybrid models off lots from Santa Monica to Miami.
Though car buyers are losing interest, politicians are pushing them as key to reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and limiting the global-warming gases that cars emit into the atmosphere.
In January, President Obama called on the industry to "thrive by building the cars of tomorrow" and prepare for federal and state regulations that could push average fuel economy above 40 miles per gallon by 2020.
The hybrid flood marks a lasting commitment to a powertrain technology that currently represents only about 2 percent of U.S. vehicle sales, said the Times.