The first rounds of sales reports are in for January and, while the market overall was mixed, the one standout piece of data so far is that if you sell a hybrid you probably had a great month because everyone wants hybrids.
Seriously, I keep looking at automakers and being surprised at just how well hybrids are performing. I know I said that 2024 was going to be the Year of the Hybrid, but… that seems to be happening faster than I expected. I’m not even cherry-picking the data!
You know who else has noticed this? Toyota, a company that isn’t offering much in the way of electric cars in the United States because it’s too busy dunking on its competitors with its huge hybrid lineups.
What else do we have for The Morning Dump? Oh, Italy and Stellantis continue to beef. And Hemmings may have a solution for the annoyance of selling cars online.
Maverick Sales Up 98%, Tuscon PHEV Sales Up 927%, Et Cetera
Not every automaker reports monthly sales anymore, but the good news is that Hyundai, Honda, and Ford are out with their sales reports (and we have some data from Toyota) so we can make some reasonable conclusions about the market.
In particular, we can see how electric cars are performing relative to hybrids. If you’re TEAM HYBRID you’re gonna be quite happy reading the sales reports as they come in this week.
Up first we have Ford. The company as a whole was up 4.3% thanks to a slight lift at Ford and a 20% year-over-year increase from Lincoln. Which vehicle was the biggest gainer? That would be the Ford Maverick, a truck that fulfills a lot of what the market wants:
- Is a truck.
- Comes in a hybrid.
- Is affordable.
This all makes sense to me, though it’s also worth mentioning that the 98% rise in year-over-year sales does owe something to the slow pace of production at Ford’s Hermosillo plant prior to the end of last year. Ford’s since added another shift and is finally cranking out new trucks at a higher rate, though apparently not fast enough to meet market demand.
Ford doesn’t break out hybrid v. non-hybrid sales by vehicle, but it does give us those numbers overall. In January of 2024, electric vehicle sales were down 10.9%, while regular gas-powered cars were only up 2.6%. And hybrids? Up 42.7%!
This trend continues at Hyundai, which actually had a down month as the company ran a little short on supply and faced a slightly tougher market:
“Coming off a record-breaking 2023, January was a difficult month with economic challenges and interest rates making it a tough retail environment,” said Randy Parker, CEO, Hyundai Motor America. “There were bright spots with sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid achieving substantial year-over-year growth, and our all-new Santa Fe starting to arrive at dealerships.”
Hybrids did super well, with the Tucson PHEV up 927% and the Santa Fe PHEV up 273%. Hyundai’s electric cars did pretty well, up 41% year-over-year (it probably helps that the Iconiq 6 is now on sale). You know what did better? Of course you do. When you combine PHEV with BEV sales, the total increase is 77%.
Hyundai needs a PHEV Santa Fe. Just saying. Make it happen.
We know, via Automotive News, that Toyota’s North American sales were up 23.3% month-over-month, but I don’t have a breakdown of hybrid v non-hybrid yet. I do have the data for Canada and it shows hybrid sales way up as well ( RAV4 Hybrid (up 298.4%), RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid (up 389.5%), Tundra Hybrid (up 116.5%), Prius family (up 782.1%) and Corolla Hybrid (up 38.0%) et cetera).
The same is true at Honda, with both the CRV and Accord hybrid posting their best-ever January sales.
It’s hybrid time!
Toyota Is Extremely Happy About This Hybrid Thing
Look, Toyota isn’t having the best month, but the future’s so bright that Akio has to wear shades. The company’s huge portfolio of hybrids, including a new hybrid-only Camry to join the hybrid-only Sienna, is a big reason.
Of course, the downside is that sometimes you have to wait for your car, as Reuters reports:
But demand for hybrids is so strong that buyers have to wait for about a year to get deliveries of some models such as the Toyota Sienna multi-purpose vehicle, and pay full manufacturer-suggested retail prices, he said.
In stark contrast, Tesla, which has been offering sharp price cuts since last year in major markets including the U.S. and China, suffered a vehicle margin reduction last quarter and warned of slowing EV demand this year.
Hybrids accounted for 9.3% of new light vehicle registrations in the United States from January to November in 2023, outstripping those of EVs by 1.8 percentage points, according to S&P Global Mobility data.
I haven’t seen a huge price increase for hybrids across the board and, in fact, transaction data shows hybrids are a net cost savings to return-to-market buyers.
Toyota obviously can’t sail on hybrids forever and needs a good solution for electric cars which may end up being solid-state. Who knows?
Italy V. Stellantis, Part 29
I wrote yesterday about the Italian Industry Minister (pictured right) saying the country would put up money for a stake in Stellantis, which seemed like a positive step in the country’s beef with the increasingly less-Italian carmaker.
I should have waited a day, because it doesn’t seem like the beef is getting cooler. The beef is, in fact, getting full carbonade valdostana.
Again, via Reuters:
Speaking in the northern city of Trento, Adolfo Urso said Stellantis had an “unbalanced, absolutely not equal” shareholding structure between its French and Italian stakeholders.
This bugs the hell out of the Italian government, and Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares (pictured left) is quick to point out that Volkswagen besting Fiat in Italy for the first time in like 100 years could be solved with more incentives.
Noting that Stellantis’ strongest brand in Italy, Fiat, in December was for the first time in almost a century not Italy’s top selling brand, losing the title to Volkswagen, Urso said this was not down to insufficient government subsidies.
“The problem is not with the government, but with the (Stellantis) group. It’s a problem for the company, which evidently needs to review its marketing policies and its models – they should do so”.
Someone grab the polenta!
Hemmings Might’ve Solved The Most Nerve-Wracking Part Of Buying A Fun Car Online
Here’s a fun entrant from Thomas:
Buying a fun car online can be simultaneously a joyous and a terrifying experience. After all, you’re spending a lot of money in one place, and there’s often no face-to-face contact with sellers, but if everything goes right, you’ll end up with something that really tickles your fancy. So, if you can’t get eyes on a car that’s for sale online, how can you be absolutely sure that you won’t get screwed? Well, Hemmings has a possible answer.
The collector car ad giant is now offering car-focused escrow service Keysavvy to buyers and sellers under the name Hemmings Pay + Title for a flat fee of $299. If you aren’t familiar with escrow, these firms often verify the identities of buyers and sellers, hold ownership documents or cash independent of sellers and buyers, then complete the transaction once the other party has held up their part of the deal, be it the legal ownership documents to the vehicle or the money required to purchase the vehicle.
In operation, this service is a little bit more than basic, because it includes an electronic bill of sale, and it works a bit differently than just receiving a signed title. Keysavvy is a registered vehicle dealer, which means they do all the title processing while the title’s in escrow, which should mean that you won’t have to wait in line at the DMV.
Escrow services aren’t anything new — just ask the real estate industry. However, directly integrating an escrow service into an online collector car marketplace is new, and substantially different to how the game is currently played. For example, here’s how it works on Bring A Trailer:
The 5% buyer’s fee is paid via the credit card on file at auction close. The transaction for the winning bid amount is between the buyer and the seller. At the close of auction, the winning bidder and seller will receive each other’s contact information via email. We recommend that the seller send the buyer a photocopy of the title and a bill of sale prior to the buyer sending payment. For payment, we recommend a wire transfer, and we’d also recommend that bidders considering alternate payment methods contact the seller to discuss prior to bidding. In general, buyers are responsible for shipping, applicable taxes, registration fees, and other costs associated with vehicle acquisition.
In this arrangement, there’s a lot of trust put into the buyer and seller both being legitimate. While online auction sites vet sellers and have credit cards on file for buyers, situations like winning bidders flaking or cars and sellers not honoring winning bids have happened in the past. Oh, and that’s before even getting into buying a car from a standard online classified ad, where vehicles may be misrepresented or out-and-out scam listings.
Obviously, using an escrow service just isn’t necessary for most online car purchases. If you’re able to check out the car in person, have a pre-purchase inspection done by a third party, or pay for the car in person after seeing it and meeting the owner, you can get some proof that the car actually exists and that there aren’t any title issues before you sign on the dotted line. However, for more expensive purchases you simply can’t get eyes on, using an escrow service is a solid practice.
So, let’s say you want to buy a fun older car online without getting screwed, but it’s not listed on Hemmings. Well, good news. Several escrow companies already have experience in automotive transactions, with Escrow.com being reputable and one of the most experienced in the business. Its service fees vary based on the value of the transaction, but for a $30,000 car, you’re looking at an escrow fee of $267.
It’s refreshing to see Hemmings partner with an escrow service, because using an escrow service is a great way to weed out bad actors who want to take advantage of automotive enthusiasm for pure financial gain. It would be massively confidence-inspiring to see other online marketplaces pull similar moves, because as it stands, buying and selling cars online can still be like the wild west.
What I’m Listening To While Writing TMD
This is now the 40th anniversary of “Synchronicity,” the final album from The Police. While I’m more of a “Regatta de Blanc” guy, it’s an enjoyable record and extremely Sting. Full-on, shirtless Sting. The whole slow-motion dancing-with-candles thing in the video, like the whole album, is absurdly overdone. Not even in a bad way. I’m into it. Also, there’s a lot of mythology in “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” so you get absurd lyrics like:
You consider me the young apprenticeCaught between the Scylla and Charibdes
Still a great jam.
The Big Question
What is the hybrid you’d most want to buy right now? Do you actually own a hybrid? Are you planning to buy a hybrid?