Hybrid sales soar in North America

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Most of the talk surrounding hybrids in recent weeks has been about what overseas automakers are doing to make cars that work for the environment also work for the style-hungry consumer.

However, sales of hybrid vehicles in the United States hit a record high in August. Per Autodata Corp., a sales tracking firm, 54,855 hybrid cars were sold in the U.S. last month, a full 32% gain over the same period the previous year.

Even more impressively, sales of rechargeable cars, including plug-in hybrids such as the Chevrolet Volt and electric-only cars like the Nissan Leaf, also set a record in August, topping out at 11,392 units sold, a 147% improvement over last year.

While Toyota’s Prius model was the first major hybrid vehicle on North American roads, and continues to be a best seller, Ford and Accord are nipping at their heels, with the top-selling Honda Accord debuting in a hybrid model.

“It’s safe to say that we expect the Accord Hybrid to be the best-selling hybrid in our lineup in the near future,” said Honda spokesman Chris Martin.

With such a tremendous increase in sales of rechargeable cars, it’s no wonder big companies are really starting to take notice and making changes that reflect consumer tastes, and not just in the ways you’d expect. Ford, which employs approximately 46,000 hourly workers in North America, announced plans to install a charging station at nearly every one of its 50+ company offices. The move, implemented to encourage employees to make environmentally conscious vehicle choices, has been warmly received.

“Ford’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond our fuel-efficient vehicles to include our daily workplace,” said Mike Tinskey, Ford global director of Vehicle Electrification and Infrastructure. “We know that a growing electrified vehicle infrastructure is key to making plug-in vehicles a viable option for more consumers. Ford is committed to doing our part to help grow that infrastructure.”

The Dearborn, Michigan carmaker has a number of electric and hybrid models available, including the all-electric Ford Electric and their plug-in cars, the Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi.

Public spaces are also beginning to embrace the surge of demand for electric and hybrid vehicles. Across Canada and the U.S., the number of charge stations in public and residential areas is growing exponentially, going from just 3,000 in 2009 to more than 20,000 currently.

As the technology begins to become more affordable, and prices of gasoline-alternative vehicles continues to fall (a Nissan Leaf, for example, has become about $5,000 cheaper then when it was first introduced), expect to see more and more drivers either purchasing new hybrid vehicles or trading in their gas-guzzlers for something more efficient.

It seems the Earth-conscious car is here to stay.

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