Last week, we posted the U.S. auto sales stats for April, and the numbers were especially good for Detroit. Ford's performance was strongest of all, with the company boasting nearly 18% growth.
Ford's figures were helped by its lineup of fuel-efficient rides, including hybrids like the C-Max and Fusion. According to Detroit News, Ford is on track to shatter its previous hybrid sales record, with over 8,400 sold in April, for a total of 29,561 year-to-date. (Previously, Ford's biggest year was in 2010, when it moved 35,496 hybrid vehicles.)
Sales stats like that mean that Ford now owns 18% of the hybrid market, a rise of 15 percentage points since this time last year.
Which raises the question: could Ford replace Toyota as the world's leading seller of hybrids?
Maybe, but it won't be this year: Toyota still owns 58% of the hybrid market, and Toyota's number-crunchers expect it to move some 250,000 hybrids this year (mostly from the Prius family). At this point, Ford doesn't have the capacity to approach that kind of volume.
But next year could be a different story, or the year after. Ford has done a bang-up job coming out of the Great Recession: it's managed to preserve the integrity of its brand (remember: Ford didn't take bailout loans), streamline its offerings (farewell, Mercury), and keep finances deep in the black, despite plenty of turmoil in Europe.
And as if those achievements weren't enough, Ford has ramped up sales of the C-Max and Fusion hybrids at a time when both models are being scrutinized by the public and the Environmental Protection Agency. Clearly, nothing is going to stop Ford anytime soon.
Well, nothing except the slow-growing, highly competitive hybrid market. According to Ford's Erich Merkle, the auto industry as a whole is growing at around 7% per year, but hybrids are growing at a much more anemic 2.5% (thanks in part to lower fuel prices, which makes more-expensive hybrids less attractive to consumers). That means that Ford, Toyota, and other hybrid manufacturers are going to have to fight tooth-and-nail to get and retain eco-minded shoppers.
Toyota used to rule the hybrid roost by virtue of the fact that it was one of the few manufacturers of such vehicles. Now that most major automakers, have added hybrids to their lineups, though, Toyota is losing ground -- in fact, Toyota gave up 13% of the hybrid market in the past year alone. In other words, we wouldn't bet against Ford just yet.
For another take on Ford's EV future, check out this post written by our colleagues at Green Car Reports.