By on January 11, 2013

Imports led the majority of the government’s green car purchases last year, with 54 percent of the nearly 1,800 green vehicles purchased by the federal government coming from Hyundai, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Honda. The federal government’s most-purchased hybrid wasn’t a Big Three product either. Instead, it was the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

Sales of green vehicles were down for the third year in a row, while the almost-exclusively domestic fleet has grown to feature far more imports.

Bloomberg outlines the breakdown of the government’s green fleet below

The GSA purchases in fiscal 2012 included 904 Sonata hybrids, followed by 372 Fusion hybrids, with General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric model accounting for 163 purchases. The Sonata purchases represented 5.1 percent of the hybrid’s model’s U.S. sales for 2012.

The GSA purchased about 300 other hybrids from GM and Ford as well as five Toyota Prius hybrids and three of Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV electric car. The GSA also reported buying 49 Honda Civics powered by compressed natural gas that are built in Greensburg, Indiana.

The Korean-built Sonata Hybrid unseated the Ford Fusion Hybrid as the previous champion of federal fleet sales. But with a new Fusion Hybrid and the C-Max now available, 2013 could look different.

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41 Comments on “Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Is The Government’s Green Car Of Choice...”

  • avatar

    I don’t care what the reasoning is, I don’t agree with this at all.

  • avatar

    Definitely an “eye of the beholder” thing. I find the Sonata to be one of the best looking sedans at any price.

  • avatar

    You really can’t blame the government for choosing a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid since any Hyundai product gives so much more for the money, dollar for dollar, than any of its competition. It’s just a great value! And that’s not even mentioning the warranty which is the best in the business. The styling isn’t half-bad either.

    But it is a little convoluted to have the US government choose a foreign-made, imported vehicle of any kind, over a similar vehicle made in America by Americans.

    We have several Hyundai products owned by members of my family and they have been great cars, every one of them problem free. One of my brothers bought a Volt last year and traded his old Prius for it.

    While the Volt runs as expected and gets him around as advertised, he still has to fill it with gas a lot because of the distances involved when he travels away from Palm Springs to any place, like Los Angeles.

    And the Volt is cramped, for him. I would not be surprised if he were to choose a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid when he decides to dump the Volt. For a 40 mile range running on battery power in a Volt you give up a lot of room, comfort, and styling that the Sonata Hybrid offers in spades. Not to mention the warranty.

    If the Volt was such a great deal the federal government would not have chosen a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid as their green vehicle of choice.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      You act like the GSA just goes from dealership to dealership test driving cars, looking at features/benefits, then negotiates to buy a car with a salesman.

      It doesn’t work that way. Its a bidding process and Hyundai came in with the lowest bid that met the specifications of the GSA.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m quite familiar with how the process works. I retired from DoD Logistics Contracting in 2002.

        There’s a lot more to the process than just the low bid. If the low bid was all there was, the US Air Force would now be using Airbus tankers for inflight refueling.

        Everyone signed off on this Hyundai Sonata Hybrid deal because it is the smart thing to do. What would have been more appropriate would have been to buy the Volt instead, but the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid presented a far better value.

        I’m glad to see someone at GSA putting economic prudence over politics and choosing the better deal for the taxpayers.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        Yes, when they decided to ask for bids for a conventional hybrid versus a plug in they made a choice.

        Beyond that, the choice of a Sonata hybrid vs a Fusion hybrid was price-based bidding.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      The Volt only makes financial sense — if at all — for a very small group of drivers: those people who drive around 40 miles a day (or less) and thereby are able to power the car with electricity. Essentially, the Volt is an electric car with less range . . . but without the “range anxiety.”

      The concept makes sense, but the problem is that GM brought it in at a price point that is at least 25% too high. A person who drives 40 miles or less per day is a person for whom fuel expenses are a relatively small part of the cost of owning and operating a car, no matter what his car’s fuel economy is.

      I know; I am one of those people. I drive an old BWM sports car; but if I chose to replace it, I would give just about zero thought to the fuel economy of the replacement vehicle. For me, the cost of acquisition, insurance, depreciation, and maintenance would be what I would focus on.

      • 0 avatar

        Having spent the last three years of my Civil Service career in your neck of the woods and commuting daily from Fairfax to DC and back, I can attest that traffic, and what you choose to drive, are a major factor in what to buy to get around in.

        I came from the open spaces of 29 Palms to the DC area and I drove a 1999 F250 V10 at that time, while my wife drove a 1989 Camry V6. When we moved to Fairfax we hauled the Camry on a flatbed trailer behind my truck.

        Both the truck and the Camry were paid for and still ran good, so we continued to drive both of them. To be honest, I never worried about the price of gas and did my daily fill ups at the local Marathon every day of the week.

        One thing that really stood out when driving the old F250 there was that people got out of my way when they saw me coming.

        Like you, I prefer to choose what I drive for enjoyment and the cost of fuel is just not germane to anything. As such, an electric or hybrid is just not in my future.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        ‘for a very small group of drivers: those people who drive around 40 miles a day (or less)’

        40 miles a day 5 days a week 52 weeks a year is 10,400 miles. Of course, people will probably use their car on the weekends too.

        40 miles per day (or less) drivers is the majority of drivers…not a ‘very small group’ of them.

      • 0 avatar

        dodobreeder, as a receipt holder of a small fleet of GSA vehicles (having much larger in the past) gotta say I don’t believe your argument holds water. Of my fleet, none are hybrids though I do have two Foci that are nice gas savers.

        Being with DoD you’re familiar with the 9mm Baretta the Army uses. Its a dog pistol but sufficient and supposedly used for its NATO ammo size; but, you and I know that the Italian government made a very sweet deal to the American govenment to purchase these. Not sure what that was due to E.A.R. (Eschelons Above my Reality).

        Point being, during any precurement process we as gummint agents are to find the cheapest, best-meeting our needs and mission, item/product and bill it to the gummint. This looks like Hyundai had a glut of hybrids needing movement, Ford and Chevy didn’t. And Hyundai, or Korea, most likely made some kind of sweet deal to our government for further vehicle and product (think Samsung) precurement.

      • 0 avatar


        The Sonata hybrid was the 3rd best selling hybrid in 2012 after the Prius family and the new Camry hybrid – selling 20,754, so the 900 hybrids sold to the govt. is just a blip (Kia also sold over 10k of the Optima hybrid).

        In contrast, Ford sold 14,100 of the Fusion hybrid in 2012.

        And actually, the Sonata hybrid is the 1st non-hybrid-only model to garner sales at its level (around the 20k mark).

        Camry hybrid sold 9,241, the Fusion hybrid 11,286 and the Altima hybrid 3,236 in 2011; the Sonata hybrid sold 19,673 last year.

      • 0 avatar

        dolorean, GSA bought other hybrids besides the Sonata Hybrid. According to the article and Bloomberg, GSA bought a number of hybrids from several manufacturers. Regardless the reason, the Sonata Hybrid emerged as the most purchased.

        I’m quite pleased that GSA did not limit itself to opening bids to just Ford and GM. I’m somewhat surprised that GSA did not put more emphasis on the Volt, or, indeed, buy more of them over a 12-month delivery schedule.

        Although I’m not a fan of Beretta, I did carry one during my days with the Marine Corps Reserve while on active duty in the Middle East, and until my retirement from the Reserves in 2007 at age 60. I was always able to hit whatever it was I was aiming at and qualified with that pistol as an expert, each year.

        My personal fave is the Glock 40-cal, for a variety of reasons, and I carry one concealed (with a license), but it would not have been competitively priced with or without a sweet deal to the US government. My choice would have been a Glock in 9mm instead of a Beretta 9mm.

        There was a time when Contracting would only let bids for American companies, and in doing so I think that often the taxpayers did not get their money’s worth. I’m glad to see a much more diverse approach to the bidding process because with the Sonata Hybrid I think the taxpayers got a good return for their money.

        As to where these newly purchased hybrids will be assigned to, I haven’t a clue but I think it will be in high-density areas where GSA maintains large fleets. I do not expect to see any in the area where I live since all the GSA vehicles we have here are Vans and pickup trucks. I haven’t seen one GSA vehicle that was a sedan or hybrid in my area.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        @sunridge place

        What’s your source for 10,000 miles/year being “the majority of drivers”? Some government numbers put it at 13,400 ( which includes folks over 65 who don’t drive much. In the “meat” of the drivers (age 20-54), the number is a little over 15,000. For prospective Volt owners wanting to maximize the utility of their purchase the really important number is the number of miles driven per day, which needs to be under 40. If you drive more than that without recharging, you’re using the gasoline “regenerator” which is not too thrifty. I believe this publication reported about 32 mpg using that (when the battery was exhausted), which is substantially less than any number of hybrids.

        I would suggest that the “majority of drivers” who are really fixated on fuel economy and who drive 15,000 miles/year would be much better served by a Prius (in terms of overall fuel economy, not to mention more carrying capacity) or, if that’s too much of a hair-shirt experience, then a Lexus CT-200 (at $8,000 less than the Volt) or perhaps the Ford C-Max or the new Fusion Hybrid (not to mention the new Camry Hybrid — which I rode in a few weeks ago and found to be quite nice).

        And for the global warming/clean air types, I would add that, if you live in DC or the Maryland suburbs, your EV is powered by burning coal, not exactly a clean or environmentally benign technology. And if you live in the Virginia suburbs of DC, I think your electricity also is also generated largely by burning coal (I’ve seen the large power plant at Mt. Storm West Virginia) and maybe a bit of nuclear.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        I never said 10,000 miles was average…re-read what I wrote.

        I calulated 10,000 or so just driving 40 miles a day for FIVE days a week.

        Using your numbers with 13,400 being the average yearly puts it at 37 miles per day.

        13,400 miles/365 days= 37 miles per day.

        By the way…your ‘meat’ of people driving 15,000 miles a year?

        15,000 miles/365 days= 41 mies a day….right where the Volt range is.

        The Volt was benchmarked to meet the needs to drive on electric for the average person. It met that goal. Period.

        I’m not trying to argue whether its worth it at its current price point…but your statement seemed to indicate that its not popular because it ‘only meets the needs of a small group of people’

        That was not correct.

    • 0 avatar

      This is probably a temporary thing; remember the Fusion hybrid is an outgoing model that is long in the tooth; once the new Fusion hybrid starts hitting the lots, it’ll likely be the no.1 hybrid for govt. fleet (the Malibu hybrid is a “mild” hybrid so doesn’t really factor in).

  • avatar

    “The” government. Because there’s only one.

  • avatar

    A friend recently bought a Sonata hybrid for his wife, as their 2004 Acura TL was pretty trashed. They/she likes it a lot, and I must admit, I’m quite impressed. Not so much for the car itself, but the package as a whole is put together very well and seems to perform as advertised.

    Now, as for the gov’t buying these based on cost, are Hyundais cheaper because of the Korean gov’t eating some of the cost to gain market share? I’m sure labor costs are higher than China, or are they being built in the U.S?

    If there is a significant price difference, the money has to come from somewhere, and has to be affecting profit margins.

    I’d like to see the money trail.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s the valuation of the Korean won and the fact that Hyundai’s factories are more efficient since they are at maximum capacity.

      However, the won has been rising against the dollar so that will start to crimp Hyundai’s profit margins.

  • avatar

    The US government will be criticized no matter whose car it buys.

    If it buys ‘foreign’ brands, then some believe it has betrayed the ‘home’ brands, particularly the bailout recipients. If it buys domestic, then is is accused of nepotism and/or not buying the best value product.

    If it’s about unions, the Korean Hyundais are union-built, FWIW.

  • avatar

    I thought the sonata was made in the US?

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      Built in America with 2% US/Canada part content.

      • 0 avatar

        That chart isn’t accurate. The hybrid is built in Korea. It couldn’t really have a US-made engine and still only be 2% now could it?

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        You mean I can’t trust the government to provide accurate information?

        Yeah…I did a search for Hyundai Sonata hybrids in my area and they all have VIN’s starting with a K…so made in Korea.

        It did seem odd with the engine and % US/Canada content…the ultimate kit car if it was true.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Shame, since tests from both Edmunds and Motortrend showed the Sonata getting significantly worse fuel economy than a Camry hybrid, and well below its EPA ratings.

    I wonder if the GSA geniuses used real world or EPA fuel economy when calculating the cost/benefit of buying an expensive hybrid like this over a conventional 4-cylinder sedan.

    • 0 avatar

      And Consumer Reports and others show that the Sonata hybrid hits its EPA rating.

      • 0 avatar

        How do you mean? Of the 18 family cars tested by Consumer Reports with a sub-11 second 0-60, the Sonata Hybrid came the farthest from hitting its EPA combined rating:

        CR EPA Car
        38 39 Toyota Camry Hybrid
        37 37 VW Passat TDi
        33 37 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
        29 31 Nissan Altima 2.5S
        29 30 Honda Accord LX

        The Sonata Hybrid didn’t even hit its EPA city rating (34). All 17 of the other cars on the list matched either their EPA city or highway rating, and 15 of the 17 beat their city rating by at least 2 mpg.

      • 0 avatar

        Not sure if a hybrid is the right thing if one is going for performance (unless it’s a hybrid geared for performance).

        The Sonata hybrid got the 40 MPG HWY rating in CR’s test.

      • 0 avatar

        Sure, but that doesn’t really mean much, especially when all the non-Hyundais on that list beat their EPA highway mileage in the same test, by an average of 5.9 mpg. I’d be thinking something is wrong with my car if I ever had an all-highway tank that was as low as the EPA highway estimate.

      • 0 avatar

        I was only addressing one specific point.

  • avatar
    sunridge place

    Between this article confirming a whopping 163 government purchases of the Volt in FY2012…and this article confirming that GE is not going through with its plans on Volt:

    Can we put to rest the incorrect assumption that the Volt is a fleet queen?

    I’m looking at you @thornmark.

  • avatar

    Looking right back at you and your fleet queen:

    “GE began purchasing Volts for its employees last month in what it called “the largest order in history” of cars for its employees. However, the Volt numbers reflect a slow start to the GE Volt order. GE plans to buy 12,000 Volts by 2015. In effect, GE could buy 500 Volts each month in 2013 and 2014 and meet that target, without buying any Volt fleet vehicles this year. GE did say all fleet vehicle replacements in 2012 will be made with Volts, but it seems as if that could be a minor part of the Volt story if it is successful this year. ”

    My immediate neighbor has one via GE, he apparently had no real choice. But I can understand why GE personnel would avoid the Volt if they could.

    • 0 avatar
      sunridge place

      I assumed you would actually read my link…but I guess you didn’t. I’ll post it again.

      This story is from 4 days ago…not from last April.

      Read it.

      You told us about your neighbor earlier this month. That’s a neat story..but it doesn’t make the Volt a fleet queen. Here’s quote from you:

      ‘GE, outside of the Government, is a huge acquirer of Volts’

      FY 2012 the US Govt bought 163 Volts.

      GE did buy some Volts…but they are not buying them in the #’s you think they have or will. You will see this if you read the link with updated information on GE’s past and future plans.

      You are showing me great links about projections that never happened.
      Volt is single digit to very low digit fleet for 2012. I would guess between 8%-12%. That does not make it a fleet queen.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Today I saw a Sonata Hybrid today as a NYC cab. Probably as competitive as the others they have been using of late, Altima Hybrid, Prius both hatch and V as well as Ford Escape which gets a few less MPG since it is a small SUV. Wonder how it will hold up on the mean streets.

  • avatar

    Consumer Reports gave the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid a low rating and reported several issues with this car.

  • avatar

    Drove all the hybrids… what sold me was that Hyundai is the only car company that guarantees its hybrid battery for LIFE… Ford nor any others would do that, have friends that have Toyota hybrid, battery stopped holding charge after 100,000 miles… $6,000 to replace…. And it’s an 2007

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