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Does the Media Overhype Hybrids?

The Prius makes up 52 percent of hybrid sales.

Edmunds.com held a press conference this week that detailed five myths about the automotive industry. While all the myths are interesting, we dove into myth number five, which says there will be one million electric and hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015.

The data Edmunds presents is pretty persuasive. Hybrids make up only about 1 percent of cars on the road. Hybrid market share has been slow to grow. In 2005, it was 0.1 percent of the market and in 2010, hybrids made up 2.4 percent of new car sales. That’s not exactly blistering growth. So far, hybrid sales have peaked at 2.8 percent. That peak was in 2009, and was likely a result of Cash for Clunkers. Even with significant incentives from the government, hybrid sales have never cracked a 3 percent market share.

Given that car buyers seem to have little interest in buying hybrids or electric cars, does the automotive press overhype them? Look at it this way: Nissan has 22,000 orders for its Leaf electric vehicle. A Google news search for articles on the Leaf in the past year yields 14,100 results. That’s more than one article for every two Leaf buyers. Doing a search for news articles in the past year for the Chevrolet Cruze gets you 6,770 results. From January through May 2011, Chevrolet sold 98,076 Cruze models.

Obviously, there are pricing and infrastructure constraints on hybrid and EV sales, but there also seems to be a vast swath of car buyers who just aren’t interested, and a whole lot of automotive journalists who are. Do you think automotive journalists spend too much time talking about hybrid and electric cars, and not enough time covering the cars most people want to buy?

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