In a first of a monthly series of articles, we will put a spotlight on sales of green cars in the US. The term “green cars” broadly means cars which incorporate electric motors in their drivetrains, in varying degrees of importance: Hybrid describes cars where the electric motor plays second fiddle to the primary internal combustion engine, which is also its only source of electricity, PHEV (or Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) describes cars that still have an internal combustion engine, but whose batteries can be charged from an external source and whose electric motors can propel the car on their own, while EV (or Electric Vehicle) describes cars whose only means of propulsion is an electric motor. These cars can either be dedicated, stand-alone models or special versions of mainstream vehicles. Hopefully this new series adds a new dimension to CarSalesBase.com; as always, we welcome your feedback!
Total sales of green cars rose modestly over the past year, with a 2.3% growth bringing the total up to 32,681 cars. With a record 11 new entries over the course of the last year (over a fifth of the total models we keep track of), this can be viewed as slightly disappointing, though with key players such as Tesla Model 3 and the second-generation Nissan Leaf only about to hit their stride, it is reasonable to expect bigger things in the coming months.
Because of the relatively small numbers and the immaturity of the submarket, sales of green cars fluctuate more over time than do those of mainstream cars. This is in evidence in the Top 10, which includes four new models, as well as reshuffling among existing models – in fact, only one model placed the same as it had in Jan’17. Despite seeing sales drop by 11.9% Toyota Prius reclaimed segment leadership that it lost last year to Ford Fusion Hybrid (whose sales fell by almost half), with the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid also managing to squeak past the Ford thanks to being the only one of the three models to record positive growth (of 20.8%). Right behind them was the new Tesla Model 3, making it the highest-ranked non-hybrid model; if the production ramp-up continues in line with Tesla’s promises, the Model 3 will soon enter the Top 3, and may even make a play for the top spot. Close behind it was the hybridKia Niro, once again proving more popular than its cousin, Hyundai Ioniq, which just missed out on the Top 10. Behind the Niro were the new Toyota Camry Hybrid, whose sales increased by 30.9%, Toyota Prius Prime, the only PHEVin the Top 10, the combined total for all Lexus hybrid models (which, in aggregate, saw their sales rise by over 50%), the Chevrolet Bolt EV, whose sales were pretty stable from last year, and closing off the Top 10, Toyota Highlander Hybrid, with sales rising by over 70%.
The models populating the Top 11-20 are a close match to the Top 10: most of the cars are hybrids, there are two EVs, and two PHEVs (only one in the Top 10). Unlike in the Top 10, though, most of these cars experienced a drop in sales from last year. The biggest drop came from the outgoing Honda Accord Hybrid (down over 70%) and the Chevrolet Volt, whose sales shrunk by over 55%, as the model’s appeal is undercut by the newer PHEV Toyota Prius Prime, as well as the in-house competition from the Chevrolet Bolt EV (which, it should be noted, did not gather new sales this year, resulting in a substantial drop in the net sales of the Chevy duo). Also losing sales were Toyota’s other Prius models, the subcompact Prius C and the compact Prius V, as well as the large Tesla cars: Model S and Model X, whose sales clearly suffered with the ramping-up of the production of their smaller Model 3 sister. Of the remaining cars only Ford C-Max Hybrid registered double-digit sales growth of almost 50%, while the new GMC Sierra Hybrid rose up the rankings to 18th spot.
By comparison, Toyota Mirai had something to be happy about, as its sales exceeded 200 for the fourth month running (keep in mind, the model is only available in California), and far exceeded those achieved by the only other fuel-cell car on this list, Honda Clarity FCEV. Also doing well were BMW’s new green versions of mainstream models, 330e and 530e, as well as the Kia Niro PHEV, which handily outsold its Hyundai Ioniq PHEV cousin, just like the hybrid version did.
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