Sales of hybrid cars showed a significant increase across the United States during the first six months of 2012.
According to sales information compiled by HybridCars.com and the Michigan-based market research firm Baum and Associates, U.S. hybrid car sales increased 63.5 percent during the first six months of 2012.
Local car dealers have seen mixed results in sales of hybrids, which are vehicles that use two or more distinct power sources to propel the vehicle.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Fiore Toyota sales representative Jack Williams explains how the hybrid motor works on a 2012 Toyota Prius 2.
"Our best selling car is the Hyundai Sonata. For a while we couldn't get rid of them and now we can't keep them in stock," said Tim Edmundson, sales manager at Dean Patterson Chevrolet Cadillac Mazda Hyundai, Altoona. "We've seen about a 100 percent increase over last year."
Edmundson said he has sold about 50 more Sonatas so far this year compared to last year.
Joel Confer Toyota in State College has been selling a lot of the Toyota Prius C and V models both introduced in 2012, said sales manager Alan Hall.
The C is a compact version of the original Prius, while the V is a wagon-like vehicle with a more spacious interior.
"We are selling all of the C and V models we can get. Sales are great. That is the positive side of the gas price increases, but they are selling either way (whether price goes up or down)," Hall said. "I think the economy is starting to stabilize regardless of what the news says. We are up in total volume (new vehicle sales) over last year by about 40 percent."
Hybrid sales also are up at Fiore Toyota, Hollidaysburg.
"Our hybrid sales since November 2011 are up 47 percent. We have sold 77 hybrids since then. The increase is due to the inconsistency of fuel prices and people are realizing that hybrids are OK now," said Jack Williams, sales consultant. "We have never had to replace a battery in a hybrid since we started selling them in 2004."
The same is true at Dix Honda in State College.
"We saw an increase from January to April but nothing like 63 percent. It was more like 15 to 20 percent. From the end of April until now it has leveled off and is not climbing. The price of gas had stabilized," said Jeff Stevenson, general manager.
On the other hand, Blair Honda in Altoona has not seen a significant increase in hybrid sales.
"The vast majority of our products get respectable gas mileage. Our Honda Civic products get 39 to 40 miles per gallon. When you can get that kind of mileage it may not be worth the difference to pay the extra price for a hybrid," sad Eric Noll, sales manager.
Hybrids cost more because you are paying for the advanced technology. For example, Williams said a Toyota Camry hybrid costs about $2,000 more than a regular model.
Some dealers said hybrids are not that popular in this area.
"They are mostly made for stop-and-go traffic, city-type driving," said Barry Golding, sales manager at State College Ford Lincoln.
Bob Bradley, sales manager at Courtesy Ford Kia in Altoona, said hybrids are better suited for the metro areas.
"People are finding out they don't get much better gas mileage around here because of the hills and terrain. Hybrids don't do as well in freezing weather, because when it is cold the batteries do not produce as much power," Bradley said. "There are people who ask us about them but once they see how much more they cost, they go with the gas model."
Dealers are not sure what to expect for the remainder of the year.
"All bets are off because of the price of gasoline. If the price of gas goes higher, people have to take another look at the numbers to see if it would benefit them to purchase a hybrid," Noll said. "If gas continues to rise, hybrids and diesels likely will take off in popularity."
Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.