Pure electric cars are making all the headlines, but their petrol-electric hybrid rivals quietly achieved record sales in the US last year, industry data showed.
While Tesla Inc and Ford Motor Co pushed for electric vehicle (EV) sales, Asian automakers boosted hybrid vehicle line-ups as many customers shun EVs due to higher prices, limited driving range or lack of charging stations.
US sales of hybrid vehicle sales jumped 76% to 801,550 vehicles last year, accounting for 5% of US light vehicle sales, according to data from analytics firm Wards Intelligence.
Sales of EVs also jumped 83% to 434,879, but represented only 3% of the market.
Toyota Motor Corp posted record hybrid car sales for the US market, helping the Japanese automaker overtake General Motors Co as the top-selling US automaker.
Toyota boosted sales of its hybrids, plug-ins and fuel cells by 73% to 583,697, with most coming from hybrid. GM sold fewer than 25,000 electric vehicles as it recalled Bolt EVs due to battery fire risks.
"Hybrids offer an intriguing mix of fuel economy performance without some of the huge drawbacks that electric vehicles present," said Brett Smith, technology director at Center for Automotive Research.
Pure EVs run only on electricity and require charging infrastructure, while hybrid EVs combine a conventional combustion engine with an electric propulsion system.
Honda Motor Co, the No 2 hybrid car seller in the US, also boosted hybrid sales by 67% compared with 2020 to a record 107,060 last year.
"We hope to increase our hybrid sales of our core products, CR-V and Accord, substantially in the coming years as we prepare for battery electric vehicles," Dave Gardner, executive vice president at Honda, told Reuters.
Honda, which plans to launch its first EV for the US market in 2024, expected the market to take off thanks to new model launches by automakers and policy support by President Joe Biden's administration.
"It is a matter of time, but I think consumer acceptance it going to take a while to catch up," Gardner said.
Hyundai Motor Co sees hybrids and plug-in hybrids as "enablers" that will help accelerate sales of battery EVs, said its global chief operating officer, Jose Munoz.
"Some of our competitors jump directly into the battery EV only. We see many consumers who are hesitant when it comes to getting into battery EV only," he said.