US car sales analysis 2017 Q4 – PHEV green cars

Sales of PHEV cars grow faster than any other segment, as new models like Prius Prime and Pacifica PHEV shine

Having analyzed sales of hybrid green cars in 2017, let’s look at plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEV for short. Sales of PHEV vehicles rose by 10.7% to 24,525 in the fourth quarter of 2017, while overall sales in 2017 rose by 31.7% to 85,111. Such a prodigious growth rate makes this the fastest-growing of all types of vehicles, beating out electric vehicles (growth of 26%) and compact premium SUVs, the fastest-growing traditional segment (growth of 18%). That said, this remains the smallest of the three types of green vehicles, far behind the 370,083 sales managed by hybrids, but also below the 104,195 sales managed by EVs. Still, with new models arriving all the time, and existing ones receiving boosts to their electric ranges and efficiency, we can safely expect  expect this segment to continue growing, as the electric charging infrastructure grows and consumers upgrade their non-plug-in hybrid cars.


  • Chevrolet Volt saw its sales fall by 18% in a growing segment, seeing its market share fall from 38% in 2016 to 24% last year – at fault are probably a mixture of evolutionary technology, lost originality that makes it look too much like its Cruze non-PHEV sister, and the buzz around the electric Chevy Bolt
  • Still, possibly the biggest reason for the Volt’s falling sales is the new Toyota Prius Prime, which finally gave customers what they have been asking for, allowing the Toyota to handily outsell the Chevy in the fourth quarter
  • Over at Ford it is clear that the company has been pushing the Fusion Hybrid over the PHEV version – while the former saw its sales rise by over 25,000 in 2017, the PHEV version actually lost over 4,000 sales
  • Interestingly, the situation is reversed for the Ford C-Max range, with the PHEV version gaining 10% sales, while the Hybrid saw its sales fall by 4%
  • The first mainstream PHEV model from BMW, the X5 xDrive40e, saw its sales fall as BMW brought in three new PHEV models to market, but it still handily outsold its main competitors: the Volvo XC90 T8 (sales up 4%) and Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid (sales down 25%)
  • Chrysler Pacifica had a bit of a rocky start in the market, but once the sales got going again it did very well, almost outselling Ford Fusion in the fourth quarter
  • All of BMW’s new cars have done well, with the 530e in particular selling almost as well as the 330e, and the 730e handily outselling the new Cadillac CT6 Plug-In
  • The Hyundai Sonata PHV and its Kia Optima PHV cousins have not done great, with the former losing 18% of its sales and selling just a little over what the Fusion Hybrid did, while the latter debuted in a lowly 12th place, with sales only half of the Sonata
  • By far the biggest sales loser in the segment, from among cars still in the market, was the BMW i8, which lost almost 70% of its sales
  • The final new model to enter the market was the Mini Countryman S E PHV, but even though its sales should have ramped up properly in the second half of 2017 it still only managed to outsell the Cadillac CT6 Plug-In

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