Of all new-vehicle shoppers in the third quarter, 27% considered an electrified vehicle, which includes full electric vehicles (EVs), hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles, according to research from Kelley Blue Book released Nov. 11. That is the same percentage as in the second quarter and just shy of the peak of 28% in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Hybrids and plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) continue to be more popular among shoppers, as 20% considered a hybrid, matching its Q4 2021 peak. On the other hand, shopping for EVs slipped to 11% in Q3, down from 12% in the previous quarter and from the peak of 13% in the fourth quarter of 2021. Of the Top 10 most-shopped electrified vehicles, seven were hybrids, and three were EVs.
The Q3 electrified-vehicle shopping data is sourced from the most recent Kelley Blue Book Brand Watch™ Report. This consumer perception survey also weaves in shopping behavior to determine how a brand or model stacks up with its segment competitors on a dozen factors key to a consumer’s buying decision. Kelley Blue Book produces separate Brand Watch reports for non-luxury and luxury brands each quarter. Beginning in Q1 2022, the methodology includes surveying both mobile and desktop users instead of only desktop users.
Electrified Vehicle Sales Grew in Q3, Led by EVs
Total sales of electrified vehicles in Q3 grew by nearly 12% in an automobile market that was generally flat year over year. Electrified vehicle share increased to 12.1% of the total market, up from 10.8% in Q3 2021.
Electrified vehicle sales growth, however, was due to a significant increase in EV sales during the quarter. EV sales jumped by 68% year over year in Q3. And, for the first time, EV sales in the U.S. – thanks in part to better inventory levels – nearly equaled hybrid sales: 205,682 vs. 206,072, respectively. For comparison, a year earlier, in Q3 2021, more than 245,000 hybrids were sold vs. only 122,000 EVs.
Hybrid inventory was particularly tight in Q3 2022, restricting sales. Total sales of hybrids and plug-in hybrids fell by 16% year over year in the quarter.
While shopping for EVs is holding steady near 11%, sales are clearly increasing rapidly, perhaps suggesting EV buyers are a unique breed and possibly pursue different shopping strategies than traditional buyers of hybrids or pure combustion-powered vehicles. Tesla shopping, for example, continues to drop, but sales remain robust.
Tesla Dominates EV Sales as Shopping Traffic and Brand Strength Falter
The Model 3 was the only Tesla on the Top 10 most-shopped electrified list. In the past, the Model Y and Model S have consistently been among the Top 10 electrified vehicles, as they were in the second quarter.
Tesla shopping, in general, plummeted in Q3. The brand fell to sixth from fifth in the rankings of most-shopped luxury brands, losing three percentage points of shopping consideration, the most of any luxury brand. The Model Y and Model S also fell off the list of the Top 10 most-shopped luxury vehicles. In terms of the 12 factors that drive luxury vehicle consideration, Tesla was #1 in three: driving performance, fuel efficiency and technology. In Q3 2019, Tesla was first in seven of the 12 factors.
Still, there is no denying Tesla’s sales success. Its EV market share is waning as new players enter the field, but Tesla still dominates with a 64% segment share. More importantly, Tesla continues to be the top luxury brand by sales in the U.S. far ahead of Mercedes-Benz. Consumer interest and brand image may be diminished, but sales have never been stronger.
Other pure EVs on the most-shopped electrified-vehicle list include the popular new Ford F-150 Lightning, which ranked No. 8. The Chevrolet Bolt EV, among the most affordable EVs on the market, returned to the list at No. 10, after a hiatus due to a stop-sale and recall requiring battery swaps and aided by a $6,000 price cut. The Ford Mustang Mach-E dropped off the Top 10 list.
Among Hybrid Sales, Toyota Dominates
Toyota, accused by critics of being a laggard in offering electric vehicles, had the most vehicles on the Top 10 most-shopped electrified list, all of them hybrids. Toyota is also the most-shopped non-luxury brand.
Shopping for the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid soared by 21% in the third quarter, due in part to high gas prices. That helped the RAV4 Hybrid retain its long-held spot as the most-shopped electrified vehicle and returned it to the list of Top 10 most-shopped non-luxury vehicles in total, after dropping off at year-end 2021. The Highlander Hybrid ranked No. 4 among electrified vehicles. The Prius returned to the list at No. 9. The Toyota Camry Hybrid fell off the Top 10 list.
Toyota sells more hybrids than any automaker in the U.S. For the first nine months this year, Toyota accounted for nearly half of all hybrids sold in the U.S. Hybrids make up about a quarter of Toyota’s overall sales. Toyota sold 100,000 hybrids in the third quarter, but that total was down notably from a year ago due to tight inventory and limited product availability.
Rival Honda held two spots on the Top 10 most-shopped electrified list, also with hybrids. The Honda CR-V Hybrid maintained its long-held spot at No. 2. The hybrid version of the redesigned Honda CR-V goes on sale in 2023. The Honda Accord Hybrid ranked No. 5.
Ford also placed one hybrid on the Top 10 list: The Ford Maverick pickup truck, which comes standard as a hybrid or with an optional gasoline engine, tied at No. 5 with Accord.