US car sales analysis 2017 Q4 – Hybrid green cars

Growing demand for hybrid versions of conventional models helps segment grow despite collapse in Prius sales

Sales of hybrid vehicles rose by 2.6% to 90,377 in the fourth quarter of 2017, while overall sales in 2017 rose by 12.4% to 368,137. Hybrid vehicles remain the most popular from among the three types of green cars by far, selling more than double the volume of the other two types: PHEV and EV. Perhaps unsurprisingly given its size, the growth it recorded in 2017 was lower than for the other two types (sales of both grew by more than 25%), however it still is much better than the decline in the market overall.


  • Although over the years Toyota’s Prius sub-brand has become synonymous with hybrids, its regular hybrid offerings are amongst the models in the segment with the biggest year-on-year sales decline – so much so that the non-plug-in Toyota Prius liftback come under serious attack from the Ford Fusion Hybrid in 2017, thanks to the Ford’s 78% growth in sales
  • Although the growth in Ford Fusion’s sales relegated the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid down to third spot, it is important to note that the hybrid crossover still registered growth of almost 25%, which when viewed alongside the almost-tripling in sales of the Highlander Hybrid and the steady sales of the Camry Hybrid suggests that buyers may be switching towards hybrid versions of conventional models, after years of preferring stand-alone models
  • While the Fusion Hybrid soared in 2017, sales of its smaller C-Max Hybrid baby brother and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid cousin were down in 2017, albeit their drop was far from Prius-like
  • Close behind the C-Max, and actually outselling it in Q3’17, was the new Kia Niro, whose crossover-lite design is a clear success with buyers, unlike the more conventional “Prius on the cheap” look of its Hyundai Ioniq cousin, which seems to be struggling to gain traction with buyers much like the second-generation Honda Insight did
  • Lexus saw sales of hybrid version of its conventional models decline slowly by 4.4% in 2017, while sales of its dedicated-hybrid CT fell by almost a half
  • The new-for-2016 Honda Accord Hybrid managed to outsell its direct rival Toyota Camry Hybrid in 2017, though the new version of the latter turned things around quite quickly in Q4’17, easily outselling the Honda
  • With GM betting heavily on the PHEV Volt and EV Bolt the hybrid versions of the mid-sized Chevrolet Malibu, GMC Sierra pickup and Buick Lacrosse/Regal models were left to soldier towards the bottom of the sales tables
  • From among all the big car brands offering green vehicles in the US by far the least successful is the the VAG brands Audi and Volkswagen, with Audi A3 Sportback e-Tron seeing its sales fall by a third in 2017, and the Jetta hybrid exiting the market following poor sales throughout its lifetime

Note: Clicking on the model name opens the sales data page for that model. clicking year in the legend turns the display for that year on/off