December 2012 alt-fuel vehicle sales continued to trend well ahead of 2011 figures and pushed 2012's sales of hybrids, diesels and plug-ins past the half-million vehicle threshold. Plug-in vehicle sales totaled 6,769 units for December, which was more than twice as high as a year earlier and just 15 units shy of October's monthly record of 6,784. Last year's plug-in sales, which were just shy of the 50,000-unit threshold (not including lower volume cars like the Tesla Model S) were spurred by consistent demand for the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug in and a late surge of sales for the Nissan Leaf battery-electric.

December sales marked a 45-percent increase from 2011.

US alt-fuel sales last month totaled 55,096 units, up from November's 46,216 vehicles. December sales marked a 45-percent increase from 2011 and represented last year's second-highest monthly total, behind March's 57,130 vehicles.

Among automakers, Ford showed the largest advances, more than tripling its December alt-fuel total from a year earlier to 8,124 vehicles and thus becoming the second-largest seller (behind Toyota) of hybrids and plug-ins in the US. The Ford C-Max Hybrid, which was introduced in September, continues to be the US automaker's largest alt-fuel seller, with 3,339 units sold last month. The Fusion Hybrid was close behind at 3,244 vehicles, or more than triple year-earlier numbers for that model. Ford's C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid sold 971 units, which was down almost 300 from November, while the Focus Electric sold a monthly-record 167 units.

Toyota remained the US alt-fuel leader, though year-over-year growth slowed from late 2011.

Toyota remained the US alt-fuel leader, though year-over-year growth slowed from late 2011, when the Japanese automaker was back up to speed after being hampered by the effects of the Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami earlier that year. Toyota's 30,788 alt-fuel vehicles sold still marked a 33-percent jump from December 2011. The company sold 20,040 Prius hybrids, including 12,536 Liftback ("standard") hatchbacks, about 3,000 each of the Prius V and C wagon and compact variants and 1,361 Prius Plug-in Hybrids. The Camry Hybrid more than doubled its year-earlier total to 4,443 units, while the Avalon Hybrid moved 747 vehicles in its first month of sales. Toyota also sold 52 RAV4 electric vehicles, while its Lexus badge boosted December sales from a year earlier by 29 percent to 4,918 units.

The Chevrolet Volt sold 2,633 units, up 72 percent from 2011 and pushing its 2012 total to 23,461.

General Motors almost doubled its year-earlier alt-fuel sales with 5,430 vehicles sold last month. Most notably, the Chevrolet Volt moved 2,633 units – up 72 percent from a year earlier – which pushed its 2012 total to 23,461, three times what the car sold in 2011. GM's mild hybrid models like the Buick LaCrosse and Regal and the Chevrolet Malibu totaled about 2,400 units last month.

Nissan Leaf sales continued to improve in December, jumping 56 percent from a year earlier to 1,489 units. Such a jump allowed total-year Leaf sales to leapfrog 2011's numbers and reach 9,819 units.

Volkswagen diesel sales in December appeared to continue to be bolstered by high gas prices, rising 23 percent from a year earlier to 7,349 units. As for lower-volume alt-fuel brands, Porsche hybrid sales for December were up 13 percent from a year earlier to 130 units, while both December sales of Audi diesels and the Mitsubishi i battery-electric were little changed from December 2011.

Honda remained the only automaker truly struggling in the alt-fuel field.

Honda remained the only automaker truly struggling in the alt-fuel field, with December sales dropping 40 percent from a year earlier to 1,084 units. While Civic Hybrid sales were down slightly, demand for the CR-Z and Insight plunged.

For the year, US alt-fuel sales reached 540,181 vehicles, which marked a 63-percent surge from 2011. Plug-in vehicle sales totaled 49,962 units, almost three times as many as were sold in 2011. Toyota's 327,413 sales represented 61 percent of all US alt-fuel vehicle sales. The new Prius variants undoubtedly helped keep the Japanese automaker at the top of the list.

VW sold 82,981 diesels for the year, up 32 percent from 2011. GM followed up, more than quadrupling 2011 sales to 57,440 on rising demand for both the Volt and the company's mild hybrids. Ford's late year surge on its new C-Max variants allowed the automaker to report a 32-percent rise in 2012 alt-fuel sales to 35,719 units. Finally, Honda saw a 46 percent drop in 2012 alt-fuel sales to 16,208 units.



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  • 88 Comments
      Marcopolo
      • 1 Year Ago
      Toyota's Prius pioneered EV technology, and proved to the world (along with Lexus ) that EV technology was reliable, viable, and desirable. The PIEV and EREV technology pushed EV technology into mainstream of automotive marketing. Although in the US, GM's Volt initially met with an incredibly irrational, politically motivated, media campaign by a small, but loud, section of US right-wing crazies, the Volt/Ampera emerged victorious. With the exception of Tesla, pure EV's have not gained the same level of market acceptance.( due to the perception of limited range, pricing and convenience) Nevertheless, they have still added to the acceptance of EV technology as a viable method of transport, and remain the hope of the future. Hopefully, over the next few years, with steady improvements in ESD's, EV technology will become the 'norm' in road transport design. I'm just glad it's all happening in my lifetime !
        SVX pearlie
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Marcopolo
        You forget how loudly the "purist" BEV crowd campaigned against the Volt for including an engine. They still do.
          Rotation
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          I think the complaints about "you can't call it an EREV, it has an engine, it's not an EV!" have died down a bit. I think they also got drowned out. The EV crowd has grown and the "true believers" who thought that trying to kill EREVs would help out the EV cause just aren't as big a part of the involved population anymore.
          Marcopolo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          SVX pearlie No, I haven't forgotten. Now they are all just using the term, 'Plug-in'. Still it's nice to see that every time the Volt is mentioned, the sneering comments about it being a hybrid, not an EV, have ceased !
          SVX pearlie
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          OK, thanks, just checking. I'll be nice when 40%, 50%, 60% of miles are on battery, simply because that means that US gasoline consumption will have been cut in half, or more.
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          They are pretty quiet these days. It was never a good idea to root against them even if you prefer pure EVs. What is most important is getting the plug-in market going whether it is PHEVs or pure EVs since getting the market going will reduce the component costs for all EVs whether PHEV or pure EV. So if they sell a zillion Volts, that will reduce the price for batteries, electric motors, chargers, and all of the exact same components that can be used to build a pure EV.
          carney373
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          SVX, you have the wrong goal in mind. It's NOT to reduce gasoline consumption. OPEC can just respond to that with production cuts to spike up the price and make just as much off us as before despite the reduced sales volume. Same damage to our economy, same overseas malefactors flush with our cash. Instead the value of EREV/PHEVs is they help transition from oil to something, anything else. The idea is to replace, not reduce, gasoline.
      Kimmi
      • 1 Year Ago
      Like it has been said, the Plug-In thing will be more of a "Evolution" than a "Revolution", slowly but surely sales will increase, especially based on Plug-In Hybrids, which offer electric miles without range limitations. As for pure electrics like the Nissan Leaf, they will only grow significantly when batteries reach a Tesla kind of range at Leaf prices. My sales prediction for US Plug-In market in 2013: 80 to 100K units.
      Unni
      • 1 Year Ago
      Nissan should have paid this guy to have Nissan leaf in heading or he works for Nissan PR ? . I still didn't get how 1489 or 56% makes more contribution than Volt (72.20% 2,633 units ) or Plug-in Prius (1,361 units all new sales ) or even fusion hybrid (265.32% 3,244 units ) or Camry Hybrid (147.25% 4,443 units ) to be heading
        Rotation
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Unni
        I'm with you, I don't see that as particularly strong LEAF demand. Nissan even points out their own shortcomings on this front and says they will rectify them with the 2013 US-made model. I like to see LEAFs sell, I'd like to see more sell. Seeing only 1500 sell in the month most proximate to tax rebates is disheartening.
        Joeviocoe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Unni
        Um... because the Leaf is a full BEV and not in direct competition with those hybrids. As much as those here who would like to see a fight break out between them, it is a ridiculous notion. The Leaf does not need to be put down, in order to make the Volt look good.
      Oolly
      • 1 Year Ago
      I read last week that the Fusion Hybrid and C-Max Hybrid have some of the shorts days to turn, less than 20. An indication that these products are supply constrained. They still each outsold all of GM uncompetitive eAssist models combined. Both the Prius and Prius V dropped, likely due to increase competition from Ford. Toyota still dominate this segment. Honda need to get their new Hybrid technology out, and into more cars.
      carney373
      • 1 Year Ago
      This measure keeps wrongly counting petro-diesel-only cars as "alt fuel" and non plug in hybrids as well. Both wrong. And it ignores and excludes flex fuel vehicles than can run on E85 ethanol which IS an alt-fuel.
      Mladen Kalinic
      • 1 Year Ago
      Diesels? Really, diesels are on the same list as electric vehicles? U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!
      Grendal
      • 1 Year Ago
      After seeing this years numbers, I can feel pretty confident that there will be over 100K plug-ins sold next year. If you add in the Model S's numbers (guessing at 1800) then you get around 8500 plug-ins for December. Very rough estimate of 3500 BEV vs. 5000 PHEV for the month. I think we will see that trend into the near future. 2/3rds of plug-ins sold will be PHEV until we see an improvement in battery tech.
        SVX pearlie
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Grendal
        @Grendal: "over 100K plug-ins sold next year" In my more detailed breakdown, I get 90k to 110k plug-ins for 2013. I don't count Tesla / Fisker / Coda because they don't report numbers like a responsible automaker.
        Grendal
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Grendal
        I'm usually over optimistic so I guessed extremely conservative. I actually agree with you and think that the true number will be 120K to 150K. Barring unforeseen circumstances, it looks like Tesla will make and sell the 20K Model S's they predicted for next year. Some pessimists will disagree with me, but as far as I'm concerned it looks like it will happen. And you're right, SVX, they will only post quarterly numbers and not monthly numbers. So every number except the quarterly number will be a guesstimate. Even then we won't get it until a month after the end of the quarter. Maybe that will change once they get fully established and confident in their future.
          Rotation
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Grendal
          I would find it really odd if Tesla didn't make 20K next year. They almost have 20K customers lined up already and there seems little doubt they can produce that many. So barring some kind of misfortune on Tesla, 20K seems like a lock.
          SVX pearlie
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Grendal
          Supposedly, Nissan had 20k Leaf customers for 2011, and GM had 10k Ampera customers for 2012. Due to lack of transparency, and the very existence of Tesla retail stores to presumably increase sales, I'm going take the under on that 20k number.
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Grendal
          Last reservation posted on 12/31 on TMC is 17,849. European reservations are at 2,341 on 1/4/13. Production looks good for 2100 cars receiving VINs for December. A customer picked up VIN 3210 on 12/31. A week before December the final Signature was shipped. So roughly 2210 cars were built far enough to recieve a VIN in the last five weeks of the year. That's just over 400 a week which is what Tesla and Elon has said they want to do. They've mentioned 25K for the year but that was more hope than a prediction. Keep in mind this is all guesswork based on data from the TMC. I've posted specifics where I knew them. So I'm with Rotation that Tesla should pull off the 20K for 2013 pretty easily. That would be barring some unforeseen disaster that disrupts production.
          SVX pearlie
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Grendal
          Reservations and VINs are nice for corroborating and estimating, but not nearly as good as cold hard sales data.
      Carguy
      • 1 Year Ago
      Imagine what would happen to Plugin sales if GM reskinned the Volt with the Fisker Atlantic. I have a full EV and a Volt and I can tell you that a transition to a Volt for most consumers is doable - nothing wrong with the Volt but imagine if that car looked like a 45-60K car like the Fisker Atlantic. All of the manufacturers have figured out by now that the initial folks buying plug ins are not trying to save on gas prices and its not the same guy trying to cross shop a civic or cruze. Give people good looking cars with good reliability and some nice technology and they will buy it - helping the environment and saving money on gas is just a bonus.
        SVX pearlie
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Carguy
        All in good time. Not everybody is bleeding edge like you. Back in 2008, there was a lot of question whether any sort of plug-in would be commercially viable in the US. GM hedged their bets very heavily, with an actual engine for long range & recharging. And there was massive backlash from the BEV purists for doing so. Then, the Volt became a political football with all sorts of nonsense "news". As of last year, GM's EREV and Toyota's PHEV have done a fantastic job of shutting up the purists, simply by putting a lot more metal in people's garages as various BEVs falter and fail, leaving only the Nissan as consumer-acceptable. In 2013, hindsight shows the Volt to have been an "obvious" success, GM is releasing the ELR, and now, you're asking why not faster? Remember that GM got burned for actually releasing the EV-1, was declared pariah by the EV crowd for including the gas engine, then roasted by the far right for political gain. With that background, it's not obvious why GM is being extra careful? But don't worry. In a few years, we'll see a lot more Voltec vehicles from GM, more functional and more stylish to boot. You just need a little patience as the rest of the country catches up.
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          Well said, SVX. It was only 2 years ago that the Volt even came out. Today was the first day I saw one in my neighborhood. It made me smile to see my very first local Volt. A week ago I saw my very first Leaf in my city. It was in a parking lot and my first thought was "that's awful noisy for an electric car" with its low speed noisemaker. We are only at the very beginnings of this evolution of personal transport. It's exciting to see what will come next and where it will all go.
        carney373
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Carguy
        I think the Volt looks fine if not great. A bit sporty even. The Atlantic and Karma are a bit much. Eye-catching, but I think you'd get tired of them faster.
      brotherkenny4
      • 1 Year Ago
      Since the haters will repeatedly and consistently put out their "EVs suck" and "batteries explode" junk statements over and over again, I don't feel too bad about my own personal rant, which is true, and here it is. The car companies need to get the price down. There, that's it. 50K is pretty good, but will be miniscule compared to what it will be when the price hits a breakeven for the consumer.
        Joeviocoe
        • 1 Year Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        "The car companies need to get the price down. There, that's it. 50K is pretty good, but will be miniscule compared to what it will be when the price hits a breakeven for the consumer." Yes... Ah, I remember not long ago when we were all saying, "The car companies just need to start making electric cars" :)
        Ziv
        • 1 Year Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        I am glad that I am not the only one willing to get up on that soapbox and preach the good word. The Volt has to get the MSRP below $37.5k as soon as possible or the sales will plateau. But given the constrained supply, just 3600 Volts available in the US, despite there being 3079 Chevy dealers... The Leaf and the FFE have to go further. A limited utility city car with a sub-100 mile AER will have go under $35k MSRP (net $27.5k) to get solid sales. Realistically, if they want to sell a lot (>60k a year) they have to have at least 120 mile range OR a net price under $25k and sub-100 mile AER. Interesting days, though.
        Actionable Mango
        • 1 Year Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        I agree. I hope I can afford the Outlander PHEV when it comes out next year.
      SVX pearlie
      • 1 Year Ago
      This is good stuff, as it helps give a better picture of likely plugin sales going forward. Based on established / trending run rates, I see 2013 sales floor like this: 35k to 40k Chevy Volt (3k) 20k to 25k Toyota PIP (1.6k) 13k to 15k Ford C-Max Energi (1.1k) 8k to 11k Ford Fusion Energi (tbd) 13k to 17k Nissan Leaf (1.1k) 2k to 5k other BEV 90k to 110k TOTAL PLUG-IN Grendal's "100k" floor is on target. I wonder how he gets such a quick "gut" number out there.
        SVX pearlie
        • 1 Year Ago
        @SVX pearlie
        Oh, yeah, there are a bunch of pending plug-ins not counted above: - Tesla - Fisker - Coda - Honda Accord PHEV - Cadillac ELR etc. Those cars will only *increase* the total, so Grendal's "100k" number should be easily exceeded. I'm not quite sure by how much, but I wouldn't be surprised to see 2013 close with 120k to 150k plugins sold.
          SVX pearlie
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          Ahh... there we go. I, of course, redid the numbers based on the latest numbers. Haha.
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          I guessed well because you and I ran the numbers a while back on the thread where we discussed Obama's prediction of 500,000 plug-ins on the road by the end of 2015. 100K is really a conservative number for next year.
        Carguy
        • 1 Year Ago
        @SVX pearlie
        Well looks like Coda is one step closer to its eventual death. Just got ack from the Century City Mall where they have their experience center and the store is closed and the signage is gone. Its a shame that the company was such a joke from the get go.
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @SVX pearlie
        I certainly hope your estimates are correct. But I worry about there being a pull-back due to saturation of the pent-up demand. I have no idea what will really happen.
          SVX pearlie
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          You posit "pent-up demand" a lot, even for product that's been around for a while. Plug-in technology is like hybrid, and it will grow to displace hybrid, just like hybrid displaces low-pressure turbo, which is replacing displacement.
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          I think what balances any "pent-up demand" backlash is information on how these cars work is filtering out to the general uninformed public as more owners and reviewers talk about them. I think the electric revolution is here. It's just happening via the plug-in hybrid revolution first. Your description that it is an evolution is probably the most appropriate way to describe it though. A breakthrough in battery tech might change it back into a revolution but until then...
      GR
      • 1 Year Ago
      So nearly 50k plug ins for 2012. Any bets for 2013? Anyone thinking 100k??
        Spec
        • 1 Year Ago
        @GR
        I'm thinking in the 70K & 80K range. Unless there is a significant increase in gas prices. Then we could go 100K+.
          GR
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          "I'm thinking in the 70K & 80K range." Oh ye of little EV faith! :-)
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          They won't need to drop the main price as long as they follow the Volts sales strategy and come up with some sweet leasing deals that make monetary sense to the consumer. And as I've said before a new and better marketing strategy would certainly help as well.
          Spec
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          I tend to be conservative on my estimates. But I certainly could be very wrong. We don't know what the US-built Leaf will be priced at . . . that could be a game-changer if they cut the price and/or improve the car. The PHEVs still have the lead but I wonder if that is partially because ICE components are so dirt cheap due to mass manufacture. If EVs were built by the millions would chargers, electric motors, motor controllers, and battery prices drop a bit.
          SVX pearlie
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          I expect Leaf pricing to come down from typical configs of $37-38k down to $34-$35k - about a -10% price reduction. I don't think Nissan is interested in pushing the Leaf to a rock-bottom price, but you never know...
          Grendal
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          If you add in the speculative (but probably accurate) Model S's sold in December you get 8500 plug-ins. If you just match this months number each month then you get over 100K. The new Fords should add a little boost to that number. I think a long term spike in gas prices will drive the number towards the 150K mark. IMHO of course. But I'm an optimist.
          SVX pearlie
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Spec
          If Nissan buries $3k discount incentives into each lease, then that's fine, too.
        SVX pearlie
        • 1 Year Ago
        @GR
        See below. Grendel and I are both thinking at least 100k. I'm thinking 120-125k depending on when the Accord PHEV and Fusion PHEV launch.
          GR
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          Good guesses. I'm guessing we'll see 110-115k plug ins next year. If the Civic Hybrid and Insight are any indicators, I won't be holding my breath for big Accord PHEV sales (despite it being an overall good car). I just don't think that Honda really cares to be in the electrification game. I expect huge numbers from the Volt and Model S however. I'm thinking 40k and 20k, respectively.
          SVX pearlie
          • 1 Year Ago
          @SVX pearlie
          The Volt could very easily hit 40k - that's the same as my baseline. Tesla hitting 20k is harder to confirm due to their deliberate opacity of sales data.
      BipDBo
      • 1 Year Ago
      Hybrids without plugs are not alt-fuel vehicles.
        Rotation
        • 1 Year Ago
        @BipDBo
        Neither are Diesels. I think ABG just wants more numbers to report.
          SVX pearlie
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Rotation
          Speaking of diesels, where are the Porsche, Mercedes, GMC, and Ford F-series diesels?
          BipDBo
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Rotation
          Oh, I didn't notice that diesels were on there. At least you could say that diesel fuel is an alternate to gasoline. I'm not sure what point you would be making, though. This article would be more true to its title if it included bicycles, sailboats, pogo sticks and shoes.
          Rotation
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Rotation
          Diesel is still fossil fuels. Heck, at least natural gas isn't oil. Diesel is still oil even.
        SVX pearlie
        • 1 Year Ago
        @BipDBo
        They're fueled by gravity and momentum. ;)
        Electron
        • 1 Year Ago
        @BipDBo
        Yep, nothing "alt" about gasoline.
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