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Toyota, Ford, each clamoring they're the hybrid sales king

Dueling press releases from Toyota and Ford claim strong growth in hybrid (or electrified) car sales, and the competition is a good sign overall of strength in that market segment.

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With Ford hoping to win market share from Toyota, in California, with hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, it's important for Toyota to be seen as continuing to have strong market-share. Today, Toyota announced that Californians prefer Toyota hybrids over those of any other automaker and Toyota continues to outsell its competition.

The company claims that six out of 10 hybrids sold in California are Toyota hybrids (61 percent market share).

“The hybrid industry has become competitive, but our wide-range of hybrid vehicles continue to deliver high value and strong attributes to both new and loyal customers,” said Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. “With sales of 5.3 million hybrids globally and over 2 million in the U.S., we the are undisputed leader in hybrid vehicle technology and remain committed to building on our momentum and growing the acceptance of hybrid technology throughout the U.S.”

They cite an R.L. Polk survey of car registrations year-to-date through May 2013, showing that Californians bought five times more Toyota hybrids than its nearest competitor, Ford. In fact, Toyota sold more hybrids in California than all of Ford's passenger car sales in California during the same period.

Toyota introduced its first hybrid car, the Gen 1 Prius, in California in 2000, has since expanded the model line to include four vehicles, and has added several other hybrid cars to it's product line including the Camry, Highlander and Avalon. Toyota remains on track to offer 18 new or redesigned hybrid models globally by the end of 2015.

One wonders if, because Toyota is protesting so loudly, whether Toyota is nervously eyeing Ford's plans. Ford developed a strategy they call "The Power of Choice" in which customers are given the ability to choose the drive train (gasoline, turbo-gasoline, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric) as one of the options while configuring a car. For 2012-13 the company deployed five electrified vehicles as a five-pronged attack on Toyota to gain market share, especially in California.

Ford has made repeated claims since last Fall that they're winning market-share away from Toyota. What that means is, Ford's new hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles are drawing new customers away from the likes of Toyota. A week ago, Ford claimed huge sales gains in California, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Washington DC and elsewhere. For the year-to-date 2013, Ford had sold 46,000 electrified vehicles nationwide.

But Toyota is saying that, despite Ford claiming a high "conquest" rate (new Ford customers who previously owned a Toyota or Honda), Toyota's sales are still strong and dominating the Hybrid sales in California.

Regardless of which company is winning market share from the other, and which is the king of hybrid vehicles, these dueling claims show life in the trend towards electrified cars. Both companies see electrified car market share as important enough to compete to be the top.

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