WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA - The eventual rise of extremely fuel-efficient plug-in hybrids may stem a declining interest in conventional hybrid vehicles. According to J.D. Power and Associates, only half of new vehicle shoppers in the United States are now considering buying a hybrid, compared to 57 percent last year.

The market research company attributes the drop to more realistic expectations about the fuel economy improvement from hybrid powertrains. However, J.D. Power also notes that hybrids are on course to achieve record sales in 2006. With 187,000 hybrids sold in the first half of the year, the company is projecting sales of 345,000 hybrids, a 35-percent increase over sales in 2005. The Toyota Prius continues to lead the pack with 50.6 percent of all hybrid sales. See the J.D. Power press releases on new buyer expectations and sales trends.

Recent news from Toyota reflects both aspects of the J.D. Power reports. Toyota's global hybrid sales exceeded 1 million as of the end of May, with more than half of those sales in the United States. The company expects to sell a quarter-million hybrids in the United States this year.

At the same time, Toyota is offering its 2008 hybrids at lower starting costs: the Camry Hybrid's base price is dropping by $1,000, or 3.8 percent, while the Prius base price starts at $20,950 (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) for a new model with fewer standard features. The Prius standard model for the 2007 model year started at $22,175, about 5.8-percent higher than the 2008 standard model. See the Toyota press releases on its hybrid sales, Camry Hybrid price, and Prius prices.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials