Sales of electric and hybrid car models will rise dramatically, with sales of such vehicles in the US to reach 535,000 units by the end of this year, predicts an analysis from research firm Mintel.
Mintel said sales of hybrids and electric vehicles were up 73pc in the US in 2012, making this segment the fastest-growing auto sector in the US last year.
Based on Mintel’s analysis, almost 440,000 hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicles were sold in 2012. It forecasts sales of hybrid and electric cars to exceed 535,000 units by the end of 2013 – a 14pc increase in sales over 2012 estimates.
In the US there are now 11 plug-in hybrid and electric models available to consumers, up from three models in 2011.
By 2017, Mintel forecasts that sales of hybrid and electric vehicles will reach 850,000 units as newer models start to gain traction with consumers. The research firm anticipates that the market will account for 5pc of the total US car market by 2017.
Hybrids going mainstream?
According to Colin Bird, an automotive analyst with Mintel, new models such as the Toyota Prius v (Prius+ in Europe) and the Chevrolet Malibu Eco are catching on with consumers. He said the segment would expand further in 2013 with the onslaught of new models, such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid series and the Honda Accord Hybrid.
“Mid-size plug-in hybrids will also enter the mainstream in 2013, with the introduction of the Ford Fusion Energi and the Honda Accord Plug-in, which will further improve mainstream acceptance of this still fairly novel powertrain segment," added Bird.
Factors that are preventing people from going down the electric car or hybrid route include concerns about battery charging. Mintel reported that 87pc of consumers are worried about the length of time a battery will run for, with 86pc concerned about not being able to find somewhere to recharge their car’s battery during a road trip.
Not surprisingly, price remains the biggest obstacle for consumers. According to Mintel’s survey, the average consumer in the US would be prepared to fork out circa US$2,000 to upgrade from a conventional car to an electric-only version of the same car.
This is against the backdrop of current plug-in hybrids and electric cars costing between US$10,000 and US$20,000, more than their conventional counterparts.
However, Bird pointed to how people are looking to prepare themselves against future oil shocks and rising petrol prices.
“The ‘live for today’ mentality that prompted the rise of SUVs has disappeared. Consumers today demand products that promise protection and durability. There is a new mentality that emphasises preparing for and protecting against potential future disasters, such as another oil shock or even just steadily rising prices at the pump," he said.