August 9, 2008

Hybrids selling out faster than automakers can make them

If you went to a car dealership today to buy a hybrid car you might run into a small problem: There is a chance they are sold out.

Hybrid sales have jumped approx. 67% in the last six months, a combination of high oil prices and the new green trend that is sweeping North America. Hybrid prices have also dropped considerably, making them very affordable and the smarter choice in this era of high gasoline prices.

Stephen Beatty, managing director for Toyota Canada Inc., said his company likely won't be able to keep pace with recent growth in hybrid sales for the remainder of the year because demand is outstripping supply.

In some regions Toyota hybrid buyers may need to wait up to three months for specific models if they are not on dealer lots.

Toyota's Japanese parent is also scrambling for more battery production for its hybrid models because of the heavy demand.

Sales of hybrids for Toyota and its Lexus luxury brand climbed 82% in the first six months of 2008.

General Motors also started offering a hybrid version of the popular Malibu mid-size sedan earlier this year and the company can't keep up with demand.

"Consumer demand has been strong," said Patty Faith, GM manager of media relations.

"We have worked our way through some availability constraints and expect the number will grow in the coming months."

GM also offers hybrid versions of three large sport utility vehicles and will expand the fleet to include Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups later this year.

Sales of the Honda Civic hybrid have shot up 40%. The traditional Civic is already the most popular vehicle in the country.

Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. said sales of the Escape hybrid sport utility climbed 60%. The company will introduce a hybrid version of the Fusion mid-size car early next year.

Popular Hybrids: Toyota Prius, Toyota Camry, Saturn Aura, Ford Escape, Lexus GS, Honda Accord.

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