TOKYO – Defying predictions hybrid-vehicle demand is declining, Toyota reports 17% growth in global sales during the first six months of 2016.
The automaker says it sold 708,998 units compared with 606,530 in January-June 2015.
Driving Toyota’s growth was the overseas market, which rose 26% on the strength of new entries including the RAV4 Hybrid in North America and Europe and the Levin and Corolla hybrids in China.
In Japan, the new Prius, launched in December, outsold the previous model by 90% in the year’s first half, as demand for the car spiked to nearly 128,000 units, more than triple the full-year 2015 total.
Global deliveries of the world’s first mass-produced hybrid rebounded to 191,616 units, putting it on track to achieve its best sales year since the automaker introduced a Prius family of cars in 2011, including the Prius c and Prius v.
Toyota is on track to record sales of 1.4 million hybrid vehicles this year. Its previous high was 1.3 million in 2013.
On the strength of Toyota, the Japanese industry recorded 11% growth in hybrid sales to more than 850,000 units in first-half 2016. Six of every 10 units were sold in Japan.
Getting a precise count on Japanese hybrid sales is difficult because Nissan, the nation’s No.2 automaker, does not disclose its global total. However, Nissan sold 13,200 units in Japan during first-half 2016, according to WardsAuto data, up 32%, of which more than half were X-Trail CUVs.
Launched in May 2015, the X-Trail Hybrid is Nissan’s first hybrid entry in the Japanese mass market. The automaker previously sold the Pathfinder and Altima hybrids in North America. It now sells only Infiniti hybrids in the U.S. and delivered 475 units through June.
No.2 Hybrid Maker Honda Focuses on Domestic Market
Coming in second again was Honda, whose sales fell 16% in first-half 2016 to 105,797. Honda reports declines in both the Japanese and overseas markets. Japan now accounts for 97% of Honda sales, up from 75% three years ago, resulting from the automaker’s decision to discontinue U.S. production of the Civic and Acura ILX hybrids two years ago.
Honda’s best-selling hybrids, both available only in Japan, are the Fit and Vexel. Sales of the two models declined 23% and 12% to 30,070 and 26,030 units, respectively, in the first six months of 2016.
Both were dwarfed by Toyota’s Prius c, sold as the Aqua in Japan, which now ranks as the world’s second most-popular hybrid. Prius c/Aqua sales between January and June totaled 103,897 units, 86% of which were in Japan. Following in volume sales were the Auris, with 50,125 deliveries, Yaris (44,890) and RAV4 (40,663).
All Auris and Yaris hybrids are produced in Europe at Toyota Motor Mfg. plants in the U.K. and France.
In total, Toyota produces nine hybrid models outside Japan at plants in the U.K., France, the U.S., Canada, China, Thailand and Australia. In addition to the Auris and Yaris, these include the Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Levin, Highlander and Lexus ES300h and RX450h.
From January through June, the automaker sold 343,501 Toyota and Lexus hybrids in overseas markets, of which an estimated 187,700 were built outside Japan.
Toyota currently offers 30 hybrids including nine sold through its Lexus brand. Lexus hybrid sales grew 6% to 75,370 units in first-half 2016 compared with year-ago.
Mitsubishi again was the Japanese leader in plug-in hybrid sales. Through June, the automaker sold 16,134 Outlander plug-ins, tops in Japan and Europe.
During the same 6-month period, Toyota sold 384 plug-in Priuses. No other Japanese automaker has a plug-in hybrid on the market.
Among the smaller players, Fuji Heavy Industries, maker of Subaru cars, sold 4,200 hybrids including 1,800 in North America. Subaru hybrid sales fell 19% despite the July 2015 introduction of a gasoline-electric version of the Impreza. The automaker’s main offering is the XV Crosstrek.
Mazda, which purchases key components for its Axela Hybrid from Toyota, reports sales of 529 units, down nearly two-thirds from like-2015.
Daihatsu, Toyota’s small-car subsidiary, sold 79 Meibus hybrids. The model is a Daihatsu-badged version of the Toyota Camry.
Elsewhere in the region, South Korea’s Hyundai sold 26,774 hybrids in the first half of 2016 including 65 plug-in Sonatas. Sales, nearly half of which were outside the country, rose 8% during the period. Kia reports a 60% jump in hybrid sales to 14,573 units, most of them Niro models sold domestically.
Combined South Korean hybrid sales grew 22% to 41,347 units.
In China, plug-in hybrid sales rose 64% to 44,000 units, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. The association doesn’t list sales of individual models.