As pointed out by the Detroit News, hybrid sales are plummeting at a faster rate than all vehicle sales. This is not so surprising when one realizes that the economic case for a hybrid is, well, not too apparent.

Here’s the math. One manufacturer’s hybrid costs about $5,900 more than its standard version. At something more than $4 per gallon this vehicle’s better fuel economy (34 MPG combined versus 26) would pay off in about ten years for someone who puts 15,000 miles on their vehicle. At $2.00 per gallon, roughly the current price of gasoline, the payback would be drastically longer. Some hybrids carry lower price premiums and people’s driving habits vary considerably, so the above example is just that, one example.

Consumers will buy a hybrid for any number of good reasons, just as people have good reasons to buy SUVs. The point is that counting on savings because of better MPG outcomes is probably not a realistic expectation. If MPG is a major factor in your decision, there are a lot of non-hybrids that offer impressive mileage.