For the second straight month – and the third out of the last four – U.S. alt-fuel sales in September doubled year-earlier totals as consumers gravitated towards advanced-powertrain vehicles. Monthly plug-in vehicle sales eclipsed the 5,000 mark for the first time ever because of record sales for the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in and near-record demand for the Toyota Prius Plug-In, while the Ford C-Max Hybrid wagon became that company's best-selling hybrid in just its first month of sales.

Monthly plug-in vehicle sales eclipsed the 5,000 mark for the first time ever.

Americans purchased 47,235 advanced-powertrain vehicles in September, up 99 percent from a year earlier. Year-over-year alt-fuel vehicle sales jumped 96 percent in August after slowing to a 66 percent growth clip in July. Alt-fuel vehicle sales more than doubled in June.

With gas prices staying above $3.70 a gallon since early August, according to AAA, buyers appear to have given in and are taking a closer look at fuel saving vehicles, especially those that can get by without any fuel at all. The Volt had record-high sales for the second straight month and moved 2,851 units, almost quadruple year-earlier figures.

Nissan had its best sales month of the year with its all-electric Leaf.

Meanwhile, Nissan had its best sales month of the year with its all-electric Leaf. The EV's sales of 984 units were down just 4.6 percent down from 2011 figures. Toyota's 1,652 Prius Plug-In sales were just two short of its monthly record in April, while the Ford Focus Electric moved 59 units, its second highest total of the year (89 were sold in June).

Add in the 36 Mitsubishi i EVs and 16 Honda Fit EVs sold, and 5,598 plug-in vehicles were sold last month, up from the previous monthly record of 4,643 EVs sold in August.

As for the automakers, Toyota remained the big dog, while General Motors and Ford also came up big winners. Toyota again more than doubled year-earlier sales to 26,747 vehicles, with the standard Prius hatchback moving 10,806 units and the Prius C compact and Prius V wagon selling 3,386 and 3,088 vehicles, respectively.

Toyota remained the big dog, while General Motors and Ford also came up big winners.

Non-Prius Toyota hybrid sales surged ninefold to 4,178 units from just 447 vehicles in September 2011, when consumers were held off on buying the Camry Hybrid in favor of waiting for the updated version to debut following month. Lexus hybrid sales rose 55 percent to 3,637 units.

Ford hybrid sales benefited from the debut of the C-Max Hybrid wagon, which moved 969 units in September. Ford Fusion Hybrid sales jumped 63 percent from a year earlier, while Lincoln MKZ Hybrid sales rose 72 percent, both offsetting an 86 percent drop in Ford Escape Hybrid sales. Overall, Ford hybrid and EV sales increased 77 percent from a year earlier to 2,788 vehicles.

Meanwhile, General Motors continued to get a push from both record Volt sales and sales of mild-hybrid models such as the Chevrolet Malibu, Buick LaCrosse and Buick Regal eAssist lines. GM sold 5,949 alt-fuel vehicles in September, up sixfold from a year earlier.

On a smaller scale, Porsche hybrid sales rose 52 percent from September 2011 to 170 units.

Stubbornly high gas prices also appeared to drive sales of diesel models from German automakers. Volkswagen diesel sales rose 42 percent from a year earlier to 8,685 vehicles, while Audi diesel sales increased 63 percent to 786 units.

In fact, the only automaker to take a hit in alt-fuel sales last month was Honda. The Japanese automaker sold 1,090 hybrids and EVs, down 20 percent from a year earlier. A 61-percent jump in Civic Hybrid sales was more than offset by a 38-percent drop in CR-Z sales and a 52-percent plunge in Insight sales.

Year-to-date, alt-fuel sales are up 66 percent to 400,222 units. Toyota's hybrid sales for the first nine months of the year are twice as high as they were in 2011, while GM's alt-fuel sales have jumped more than sixfold.



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