With 11 months of sales figures in the books for 2008, hybrid cars sales may be leveling off. Despite the major increase in gas prices during the summer and fall of 2008, only 268,042 hybrids have been sold through November, compared to the 324,318 sold in all of 2007, according to the Electric Drive Transportation Association. Toyota has only sold  151,025 Priuses this year (the most popular hybrid) compared to 181,221 from all of last year.

The Toyota Prius is the most popular hybrid car
The Toyota Prius is the most popular hybrid car

Though many expected the sales of hybrids to increase this year with the rising cost of gas, the poor economy is likely to blame for the dip in sales. With auto companies stuggling across the board with sales, and with the high sticker price of hybrids, people may be staying away. The lack of available credit likely contributes to the lower sales as well.

Despite the economy’s effects on hybrid sales figures, there are some great economic incentives to own own (other than the impressive fuel efficiency).

Federal and state governments and corporations have several incentives in place to encourage the purchase of fuel efficient vehicles like the Prius. The federal government offers a tax credit to buyers up to a certain number of cars sold by the manufacturer. This credit can range from $787 to $3150. Many state governments offer tax incentives as well, including Colorado, Connecticut and Illinois. Many states allow hybrid cars to drive in the HOV carpool lanes and some cities (e.g. Los Angeles and San Jose, CA) have exempted hybrid cars from paying for street parking. New York state offers several discounts to hybrid cars on various tolls in the state.

Several companies have also offered incentives to people purchasing a Prius. Google, Hyperion Solutions, and Clif Bar & Co. offer employees $5000 credits toward the purchase of a hybrid car, including the Prius. Other companies with incentives include Bank of America, Timberland, Patagonia, DLA Piper law firm, non-profit American Jewish Committe, Topics Entertainment and Excel Contract Logistics, among others.