Hybrids, EVs don't see big sales boost from higher gas prices -study

DETROIT Thu Feb 7, 2013 3:14pm EST

DETROIT Feb 7 (Reuters) - Even when U.S. gasoline prices increase significantly, sales of hybrid and electric vehicles see a small boost if any in demand, according to a study released on Thursday.

When gas prices increased by $1 per gallon over the five years ending last year that were studied, the U.S. market share of hybrid trucks actually fell by 0.1 percentage points, according to Experian Automotive.

Meanwhile, the market share of hybrid cars and electric vehicles rose just 0.2 points and 0.1 points respectively, according to the unit of British credit information firm Experian PLC.

"While these vehicles are still likely to be solutions to long-term transportation challenges, currently there is low market demand when gas prices increase significantly," the Experian study concluded.

Erik Hjermstad, lead analytic consultant for Experian Automotive, said the hybrid and electric vehicles gained less because they are more expensive than the segments that showed the largest gains - small and mid-sized cars and entry-level crossover vehicles.

The small-car segment showed the biggest gain as its market share rose 0.7 percentage points for every dollar increase in the price of a gallon of gas, Experian said. That means a $1 increase, in an average month with 1 million sales across the entire industry, would result in an increase in that segment of 7,000 cars.

Experian said that translates to an average increase for the 18,000 new vehicle dealers of one small car sale every three months for every $1 increase in gas prices.

On the other end, the segment with the biggest drop was the full-size pickup truck segment, which showed a decline of 0.5 percentage points in market share for every $1 dollar increase in gas prices, Experian said.

The average price for a gallon of gasoline in the United States as of Feb. 4 was $3.54, up 18 cents from a week ago and almost 6 cents from a year ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.