Automotive Blog

Large variation in hybrid and electric vehicle mixes across different metropolitan areas

The mix of new vehicle powertrains varies as much among the different regions of the United States as does the mix of makes and models, if not more so. The 15 Designated Market Areas (DMAs) with the highest percentage of hybrid powertrains together account for almost 30% of all hybrid registrations nationally, yet these same 15 markets include just 12.5% of all new vehicle registrations. Nine of these 15 hybrid-rich areas have a hybrid penetration greater than 6%, while the national penetration is 2.97%. In San Francisco, the market area with the highest hybrid mix, almost one of every 10 new vehicles sold is a hybrid.

Looking at the electric vehicle market, these same 15 metropolitan areas have accounted for 41% of all U.S. electric vehicle registrations through the first 10 months of 2012. Two of these 15 areas, Los Angeles and San Francisco, by themselves captured a quarter of all electric vehicle sales nationally during the same time period. The 15 areas with such high concentrations of hybrid and electric vehicles are all located on the West Coast.

At the other end of the spectrum, the 15 market areas with the lowest hybrid concentration delivered just 5,422 hybrids through 10 months. This equates to a hybrid penetration of 1.53%, about one twentieth the hybrid penetration of the top 15 markets. These markets at the bottom of the hybrid list also fared poorly with electric vehicles, selling just 98 or less than 1% of all electrics. Yet these 15 markets sell 6.6% of all new vehicles nationally. These 15 geographical areas are generally in the central region of the country.

These data provide one illustration of why generalizing about the U.S. new vehicle landscape based on one market area can be risky.

DMA's with Highest and Lowest Percents of Hybrid & Electric Powertrains

Posted by Tom Libby, Lead Analyst, North American Forecasting, Polk (12.21.2012)

About The Author

Manager, Loyalty Solutions and Industry Analysis

Tom currently uses his passion for the auto industry to serve as a Solutions Consultant for IHS Automotive's Loyalty Practice. His past roles here include Sr. Forecasting Analyst and PolkInsight Advisor (he worked for two years in Polk’s Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey office). Tom's other interests include reading, gardening, sailing and running. Aside from Detroit and New York, Tom has also lived in Los Angeles, Denver, and Boston, where he drove a taxi for two years. Tom has also traveled extensively in the United States and overseas, including an overland trip across Asia after graduating from college. Tom is inspired by people who practice what they preach and enjoys socializing with friends that he's met throughout his career and from school.

Tom is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Society of Automotive Analysts (SAA). During the 2009 calendar year, Tom was President of that organization. He is an active member of the Automotive Press Association, and in the past has written a blog for the online version of the Detroit Free Press. Tom has a bachelor's degree in history from Amherst College, an MBA with a marketing concentration from Columbia University and once served as an Adjunct Professor of Market Research at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.


Name: SS
Time: Sunday, December 23, 2012

Tom, interesting article. I wonder if it would be instructive if you could take a look at different slice of data, which corrects for cost of cars. So what would one see if one looked at sales of cars that cost the same as or more, than hybrids/electrics? The threshhold could be $20k or $25 k. Then one would be observing the choices made by those who could afford the hybrid/electric cars in the first case.

Name: Paul G
Time: Sunday, January 6, 2013

Very interesting data. One thing - are the numbers for Tulsa OK correct? In your report, it shows that new car sales for Tulsa were 524K which is greater than SF/Oak/SJ and just 130k less than Los Angeles. The pop of Tulsa is less than 400,000.

Name: Tom Libby
Time: Monday, January 7, 2013

Thank you for your feedback. I have checked the raw data for the Tulsa DMA, and the raw data are the same as the data shown on the table. I also just re-pulled the data, and the results for Tulsa are the same. One thing to bear in mind - the name of the DMA is a name and does not mean the DMA just includes the city of Tulsa. The DMA may include geography beyond the city, and in this case probably does. Again, thank you for your interest in my blog, and let me know if you have any other questions.

Name: Guy Hall
Time: Monday, January 7, 2013

Tom, thanks for the analysis. I assume that the PHEV are included in the Hybrid numbers. Do you have an analysis that groups PHEV and BEVs together? Many of us see a tighter association between those two than between PHEVs and regular Hybrids - i.e. priniciple fuel source is electricity rather than gas.

Love data.


Name: Tom Libby
Time: Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Guy - Thank you for your interest and your feedback. Our data categories are such that all hybrids, of all types, are "bucketed" under hybrid, and only pure electrics are categorized as EVs. At this point we do not have any more granular splits, although some are coming in the near future. Thanks again for your interest. Regards, Tom Libby

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