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May sales of hybrid and electric-drive vehicles were off 35.8% from a year earlier, lead by dramatic declines in sales of Toyota and Honda models. Overall, Toyota and Lexus hybrids dropped 45.1% for the month. Honda, the second-largest producer of hybrids, saw its sales in the segment fall 29% in May.
"For those selling hybrids, it is incredibly bad luck that the Japanese earthquake and associated production disruptions occurred as gas prices were reaching their highest levels in three years," said Edmunds.com Chief Economist Lacey Plache. "While Japanese automakers may well gain back their lost share on other vehicles, hybrids will face an even steeper climb back to previous levels, given the greater and growing competition from fuel-efficient, non-hybrid vehicles."
Leading the slump was the decline in Toyota Prius sales, which traditionally account for about half of the hybrid market. A total of 6,924 Priuses were sold in May, down 51% from the same month last year. Low supply and higher prices have made the popular hybrid less palatable to consumers. A pricing analysis by Edmunds.com found that the effective cost of a new Prius was $2,500 more in May than just three months ago.