Hybrid sales on the rise

Drivers warming up to idea of saving money over time

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Better battery technology and concerns over global oil consumption are driving hybrid vehicle sales at an incredibly fast rate.

Sales are predicted to increase by more than 20 percent, but automakers said those sales could be better.

The cost of a hybrid vehicle is definitely holding the market back. Sales would be skyrocketing if it weren't for the extra cost.

Industry analysts said saving money on gas over time is a concept drivers are slowly warming up to.

A new report by industry analysts paints an increasingly green picture of the global growth for hybrid vehicles over the next few years.

Sales are predicted to exceed 20 percent through 2015, as drivers gain awareness to the reduced dependence on oil and pollution.

"Hybrid buyers are economically thoughtful people," said Keith Pierson, of Keith Pierson Toyota. "They choose us because we have a lifetime warranty."

Pierson said the hybrid is the wave of the future for Toyota, pointing to 14 different models of the Prius, and several hybrid models of the Camry and Avalon.

Sales of hybrids would be even higher, according to the experts, if a barrier to market growth didn't exist: the cost.

"Hybrids generally come with a little more expense at first, but some people over time save money and that makes the most sense," Pierson said.

Hybrids cost an average of $4,000 to $10,000 more than their gasoline counterparts, but they still are beating out the auto industry's futuristic cars, like vehicles that run on electricity.

"Just like going to an electric vehicle, people don't want to plug their cars into the wall just yet," Pierson said. "Hybrid is a culture. You put gas in, just less."

The hybrid market also took a hit following the Tsunami in Japan, which wiped out production for a while. But production is back to normal and expected to be better than ever.