MPG is still on consumers’ minds as car and truck sales of hybrids, plug-in cars and clean diesels continued to outpace the overall market in February 2012. High mileage hybrids, plug-ins and diesels had their second good month to begin the year, bettering the high bar set by the overall market. Hybrids continued to be above 3 percent of the market and both hybrids and diesels accelerated sales beyond a strong overall market (up 16.1% and 23.3% respectively compared to the overall market rise of 14.3%). Here are the top 10 best sellers in these categories with some background as to how the market is going:
1. Toyota Prius – 11,428 – continues its reign as the icon of fuel efficiency. Now holding down the crown as California’s best-selling car–period–it still has work to do in the rest of the country. It’s now sharing the hybrid market with its c and V variants (and the plug-in Prius), but delivers solid numbers and clearly remains on the shopping list of anyone looking for fuel economy as their new car’s primary attribute.
2. Toyota Camry Hybrid – 4,147 – the Camry’s hybrid iteration gains ground this month and keeps its spot as the primary alternative to the Prius.
3. Ford Fusion Hybrid – 3,806 – the flagship of fuel economy at Ford. The Dearborn-based auto company is serious about fuel economy, whether its hybrids, plug-ins or its Eco-Boost high-efficiency engines now showing up across the board in models from the Fiesta to the F-150. It’s brand-new look appears to continue to attract customers.
4. Volkswagen Jetta TDI – 3,261 – the clean diesel standard-bearer moves up a notch this month, pacing another diesel surge. As the VW brand grows and diesel models proliferate there and elsewhere, the Jetta continues to hold its own. Its sales appear to be limited by the number of diesel engines Volkswagen can supply to the Mexican plant that builds the Jetta.
5. Toyota Prius c – 3,148 – the “baby” Prius. This smallest, least expensive hybrid in the Toyota lineup is drawing more buyers, although it clearly has a ways to go to reach its big brother’s popularity.
6. Ford C-Max Hybrid – 2,849 – Ford’s hybrid “wagon” has passed up the Prius V, its main competitor and is helping propel Ford in its move to establish the Ford brand as the first stop for fuel efficiency. Its competitive stance against the Prius, offering more interior room, more horsepower and better fuel economy at a lower price, appears to be catching on with consumers.
7. Toyota Prius V – 2,543 – the Prius “wagon” continues to post good numbers, but slipped in the rankings because of Ford’s surging C-Max Hybrid.
8. Volkswagen Passat TDI – 2,233 – the Jetta’s “big brother” has another good month and appears to be ready to push up in the ranks as it solidifies its role as the #2 diesel in the market.
9. Chevy Volt – 1,626 – the leader in plug-ins. Chevy’s extended range EV may not be living up to the early predictions of the corporation, but it is solidly in front of all plug-in vehicles, which includes pure EVs like the Nissan Leaf and plug-in hybrids like the Toyota Prius Plug-in. The category continues to steadily grow and shows a lot of strength even though its overall numbers remain small.
10. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – 1,441 – along with the sister model Kia Optima hybrid, the Sonata keeps posting solid sales numbers with little promotion.
Bubbling just below the Top 10 is the Tesla Model S, the company’s first foray into a mass market, that appears to be ramping up production and deliveries, with an estimate of 1,400 new customers in February. Others bubbling just under the top 10 include the Toyota Avalon Hybrid (a new model this year), the Chevy Malibu Hybrid, the Kia Optima, Lexus CT200h and Lexus ES Hybrid. Note that three of those five models are Toyota corporate products, part of why that company continues to dominate the hybrid portion of the marketplace with more than 65% of the total hybrid market.
The clean diesel market is similar dominated by Volkswagen, which with its Audi and Porsche brands, has half of the currently available diesel models. And they intend to extend that this year with four new Audi diesel models. As of last month 82% of diesel sales went to VW Group. Diesel’s appeal to these customers is clear; the best example is the Porsche Cayenne SUV (the best-selling Porsche, incidentally), which in February sold 314 diesels among its 1,173 total sold (27%). The VW Touareg SUV was even stronger, selling 392 diesels of its 836 total (33%).
In the plug-in market the competition is much more even. While GM has a lead because of the Volt, Tesla is not far behind and Toyota, Nissan and Ford slice up big chunks for themselves. As this market segment seems destined for slow growth, it’s likely this trend will continue.
High-mileage cars are off to a great start for the year with sales up 18% in these three categories in February compared to January. The monthly average is now more than 50,000 so on an annualized basis that could mean 600,000 units this year. In reality, with new diesel and plug-in models due during the year, that number could be even higher. Consumers seem to be taking to heart that fuel prices will continue to be high so automakers are doing their best to keep sales moving with incentives such as lease deals and low-interest loans. It could be a very good year.
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Posted March 8, 2013