While the sudden onset of momentarily cheaper gasoline prices has millions of American motorists breathing at least a temporary sigh of relief, that fortuitous flip-flop also had a rather chilling impact on the demand for hybrid vehicles. According to figures from Autodata Corporation, the sales stats for November 2008 show a 50-percent decrease in the total volume of these mileage-maxxers compared to a 37-percent decline for the industry in general. Hybrids accounted for 16,571 units in November, which is just about where they were in 2005. That gave them a 2.2 percent share of new vehicle sales in November against a 2.4 percent slice on a year-to-date basis.
While Toyota still dominates the segment in total hybrid volumes, it was far from immune to this debilitating market malaise. Sales of the Lexus LS 600h L fell off by 78.2 percent while Toyota Highlander Hybrid totals dropped by 64.8 percent. Even the world's best-selling gas-electric, the Prius, saw its numbers drop by 48.3 percent -- albeit to a still very respectable 8,660 units. Other relatively high-volume hybrids also felt an elevated level of market pain last month. The Honda Civic Hybrid numbers were down 67.8 percent to 1,043 cars against a 29.6-percent dip for the rest of the Civic line; while sales of the Nissan Altima Hybrid toppled 70.4 percent, to just 353 vehicles, compared to a 45.3-percent decline for Altimas in general.