Lower fuel prices have taken a toll on hybrid electric vehicles sales. Honda and Nissan have each discontinued two or more models. However, Chevrolet and Toyota have new hybrids arriving for 2016.
Hybrid electric vehicle sales have had a tough time this past year as lower fuel prices drive customers to traditional gasoline models and larger ones at that. Although the Toyota Prius remains the undisputed hybrid leader, Prius sales are down nearly 16 percent through the first six months of the year.
Toyota shows no signs of retrenchment in a segment that it dominates, but its competitors are not showing the same resolve. Indeed, manufacturers are reviewing what products to offer customers as the shift to SUVs continues unabated. Hybrids are on the chopping block and in the past year we have seen the number of discontinued hybrids mount.
Honda Civic Hybrid
The Honda Civic may be one of the most popular compact cars on the planet, but its hybrid offering just isn’t making the grade. Through June, Honda sold just 2,264 hybrid Civics or about one-third the number of the Accord Hybrids for the same period.
Honda, which beat the Toyota Prius to the market with its Insight, has been down this road before. Indeed, after the Insight was canceled, it was brought back. Then canceled again. Honda still sells the sporty CR-Z, but rumors say that hybrid only model will be replaced by a gasoline-only model. Honda will keep the Accord Hybrid, but the plug-in version is history. Honda has also canceled the Civic CNG — a compressed natural gas— model.
Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid
An all-new crossover Nissan Pathfinder sport utility vehicle made its debut in 2014. With it came a hybrid model, giving shoppers something besides a Toyota Highlander Hybrid to consider. Available in two- and four-wheel drive editions, the Pathfinder Hybrid was rated as high as 25 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway.
What the Pathfinder Hybrid didn’t do was to bring in the sales. It was powered by a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder gasoline engine and that motor only kicked in when it was needed. When combined with the hybrid system, it generated 250 horsepower, close to the 260-horsepower of the V-6 model. Due to the fact sales have been weak the hybrid won’t be sold for the 2016 model year. Furthermore, no left over models are available.
This is the second time Nissan has thrown in the hybrid towel. It discontinued the Altima Hybrid a few years back. Your lone vehicle electrification choice is now the all-electric Nissan Leaf.
Infiniti QX60 Hybrid
In case you did not know it, the Infiniti QX60 and the Nissan Pathfinder are alike. The former is the premium version, but just like the Pathfinder interest in the hybrid model has been lacking since it was introduced in 2014.
Unlike the Pathfinder, Infiniti quietly discontinued the QX60, perhaps thinking that no one would notice. That’s not a poor assessment as the manufacturer has indicated it was never much of a draw for the brand in the first place. If you want an Infiniti hybrid, the Q50 and Q70 sedan lines still offer them.
New Hybrids Planned
Just as manufacturers free themselves of some hybrid models, new ones are on the way. Figure that some of the planning for the new models started before gas prices plummeted, but will be released perhaps in time for the next run up in fuel costs.
The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid returns for the 2016 model year, but it is nothing like the “mild” hybrid that once powered this midsize sedan. The new model may challenge the Honda Accord Hybrid for segment-leading fuel economy, delivering a combined 47 mpg. Unlike the original hybrid Malibu, this one can operate in electric-only mode at speeds of up to 55 mph. It will have a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine and a two-motor electric drivetrain, similar to the PHEV Chevrolet Volt.
The Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid may be part of GM’s long term strategy for raising its fleet mpg average. It should also spawn new models elsewhere, with Buick a logical fit and perhaps Cadillac too.
Toyota may be disappointed in slumping Prius sales, but it continues to expand its hybrid line and will bring a Toyota RAV4 Hybrid to the market in 2016. This model follows the mechanically similar Lexus NT Hybrid and will give Toyota eight hybrid models. Apparently, Toyota also believes that gas prices have bottomed out and that interest in hybrids will once again flourish in the near future.
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