So, the good news in December for green-car advocates as that Nissan Leaf sales continued their gangbuster climb. And Honda picked up some proverbial steam. But that's about it.

In all, Americans bought 48,553 hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery-electrics and diesels last month.

US green car sales for December 2013 were 12 percent lower than 2012 figures, easily making last month the largest year-over-year sales drop all year. By that measure, September was second-worst, with a 1.8 percent decline. In all, Americans bought 48,553 hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery-electrics and diesels last month.

For the "glass half full" folks, Nissan had its best-ever month with the battery-electric Leaf, with sales surging 70 percent from the year before to 2,529 units. The Japanese automaker beat its previous record, set in August 2013, by 109 cars.

Sales of the Civic Hybrid, CR-Z and Insight all jumped at least 35 percent.

Honda also continues to turn around its fortunes, with all of its advanced-powertrain models, save the Acura ILX Hybrid, posting year-over-year increases. Sales of the Civic Hybrid, CR-Z and Insight all jumped at least 35 percent from December 2012 numbers, while Honda moved 426 and 38 units of its new Accord Hybrid and Accord Plug-in Hybrid, respectively. Overall, Honda's green-car sales rose 73 percent from a year earlier to 2,077 units. Also coming up on the positive side of the ledger was Audi, which more than doubled diesel sales from a year earlier, to 1,955 units.

All four Prius variants had year-over-year declines.

And that's where the fun stops and the hangover begins. Toyota couldn't keep up with surging sales in late 2012, with December green-car sales falling 19 percent from the year before to 24,922 units. All four Prius variants had year-over-year declines of between 11 percent and 32 percent. Camry Hybrid sales plunged 39 percent to 2,726 units, while Highlander Hybrid sales fell 54 percent. And Lexus hybrid sales were down 4.5 percent to 4,696 units. Only the Avalon Hybrid showed promise, almost doubling December 2012 sales to 1,480 units.

Ford had a similar drop-off as big sales in late 2012 hurt year-over-year comparisons. Ford's green-car sales fell 20 percent from a year earlier to 6,499 units. C-Max Hybrid sales were hit particularly hard, plunging 64 percent from a year earlier to 1,201 units. C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid sales and Fusion Hybrid sales each declined 15 percent. The doubling of Lincoln MKZ Hybrid sales, to 754 units, wasn't nearly enough to offset the difference.

Chevrolet Volt sales dropped 9.2 percent to 2,392 units.

General Motors also had issues, with mild-hybrid models such as the Buick LaCrosse and Regal and Chevrolet Malibu eAssist versions all having year-over-year sales declines of between 38 percent and 81 percent. And while the newer Cruze Diesel and Spark Electric Vehicle moved 495 and 126 units, respectively, Chevrolet Volt sales dropped 9.2 percent to 2,392 units.

Additionally, Volkswagen's green-car sales dropped 13 percent from a year earlier to 6,409 units, as the 360 units sold of the newer Jetta Hybrid couldn't offset the effects of an 18 percent decline in VW diesel sales. And, while Daimler's Smart division sold 167 of its Smart ED all-electric vehicles, other lower-volume green-car makers such as Mitsubishi and Porsche saw year-over-year declines.

Whether December's weak numbers (compared to a strong December 2012) are a sign of some sort of Prius fatigue is anyone's guess, as the falling gas prices usually associated with declining green-car sales didn't materialize. In fact, regular gas was selling at an average of about $3.33 a gallon at the end of the year, up almost a dime from a month earlier, according to AAA.

Annual figures for 2013 put things in a slightly rosier light.

Annual figures for 2013 put things in a slightly rosier light, as green-car sales for all of 2013 rose 17 percent from compared to 2012 to 641,925 units, not including the approximately 21,000 Tesla Model S vehicles likely sold (Tesla doesn't break out monthly sales figures). If we count only plug-in vehicles, the numbers get even better, as Americans bought 77,530 battery-electrics and plug-in hybrids (again, not including Teslas), up 55 percent from a year earlier. Of course, those year-to-date plug-in vehicle numbers were up as much as 90 percent in August before tapering off towards the end of the year.



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  • 21 Comments
      Tweaker
      • 11 Months Ago
      I don't get the gloom, didn't this Dec have fewer selling days than last? And look at the yearly numbers, they are good, especially Ford. Even Ford is excited about it. The numbers also reflect the current low price of gas. This won't last.
        GoodCheer
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Tweaker
        That's what I was thinking. Ford: Huge gains for the year. VW: Small gains for the year. GM: Small losses for the year. Nissan: Huge Gains for the year. Audi: Huge Gains for the year. Toyota: Small Gains for the year. Mitsubishi: Huge Gains for the year. Porsche: Huge Losses for the year. Honda: Small Gains. Total: Moderate Gains Plug-Ins: Huge Gains
      paulwesterberg
      • 11 Months Ago
      VW diesel sales down? Sounds like a win for green cars to me.
      Linux64
      • 11 Months Ago
      It's probably because people have seen that a "Green" car doesn't have to be butt ugly thanks to the Tesla. I wouldn't buy a Prius no matter how many MPG it got. I want my "green car" to look incredible. I guess that's why I have a Tesla Model S in my garage. No other "green car" was even a consideration.
        Vlad
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Linux64
        ...because looks are everything.
        Naturenut99
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Linux64
        I don't think anyone capable of buying a model S would choose a Prius over a Model S. I would've bought a Model S but I don't have the funds to do so. So I went with was the best I could, which was the Volt. And many people can't afford that. So you are luckier than me. I'm luckier than others. Not everyone is capable of making their decision primarily on looks.
      tajsimons
      • 11 Months Ago
      my roomate's aunt makes $78 an hour on the computer. She has been unemployed for 10 months but last month her pay check was $15693 just working on the computer for a few hours. check out the post right here........ http://www.23jobs.com ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
      2 wheeled menace
      • 11 Months Ago
      Prius sales are down? I think that the word is going around about the new model that will be lighter and more efficient. Maybe the electric cars are stealing their fire - for now.
      SteveG
      • 11 Months Ago
      As the owner of a Honda Insight it pains me to say this, but I bet a lot of those sales are fake. Honda was giving dealers $3000 for every last year's model on the lot they sold to the end of the year. So dealers will mark the cars sold, even when they are still holding them. Then they will try to unload them for whatever they can get, confident that the $3000 extra will cover any loss. You can tell they did this if you find out when the warranty started. If anyone wants a honda insight, accord hybrid or CRZ now is the time to go get one of those cars.
      VFan
      • 11 Months Ago
      Gas prices have fallen and continue to fall. This trend will continue until they rise. People aren't concerned enough about CO2 levels to sacrifice their big toys.
        markrogo
        • 11 Months Ago
        @VFan
        Your comment should have 100 upvotes and the post should be updated to reflect the unbelievable correlation between hybrid sales and gas prices.
        Vlad
        • 11 Months Ago
        @VFan
        Good point. And when you account for the falling gas prices, December numbers are quite remarkable.
      CoolWaters
      • 11 Months Ago
      Chevy started talking about the Volt 2.0. VW has some new EV's in the pipeline. Apple never talks about it's next generation product because it eats into current sales. But, these sales will be carried forward for when these new vehicles arrive.
        CoolWaters
        • 11 Months Ago
        @CoolWaters
        Ford hurt itself via Consumer Reports reliability info.
          Ryan
          • 11 Months Ago
          @CoolWaters
          We haven't had any problems with the C-Max Energi yet.
      mustang_sallad
      • 11 Months Ago
      These numbers highlight how weird it was for John McElroy to go on about VW diesel sales trumping hybrid sales (if you exclude Toyota, for some reason) on last week's podcast as a sign that electrified powertrains are falling out of favour and diesels are coming on strong. VW - 95K diesels and 5K hybrids Toyota - 344K hybrids and a few plug-ins Ford - 70K hybrids and 15K plug-ins Honda - 20K hybrids GM - 23K plug-ins, 25K hybrids (some mild) and 3K diesels Audi - 10K diesels Nissan - 22K plug-ins. Tesla - 20K plug-ins. Don't get me wrong, diesels are great, especially for people who mostly cruise long distances on highways. But to look at these numbers and suggest PEVs and HEVs are on the ropes while diesels are making a surge is absurd. On top of all that, you have VW and Audi announcing an aggressive plug-in roadmap.
      tajsimons
      • 11 Months Ago
      my roomate's aunt makes $78 an hour on the computer. She has been unemployed for 10 months but last month her pay check was $15693 just working on the computer for a few hours. check out the post right here........ http://www.23jobs.com ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
      DaveMart
      • 11 Months Ago
      For interesting news on PHEV sales in December, look to the Netherlands: Mitsubishi had good and bad news in the Netherlands last month. They only sold 12 conventional Outlanders. They did however sell 4,976 PHEV Outlanders! http://insideevs.com/shock-and-awe-data-shows-netherlands-december-ev-record-at-9309-238-market-share/ Special circumstances, with incentives expiring at the end of December, but the Outlander PHEV is one hot car!
        DaveMart
        • 11 Months Ago
        @DaveMart
        The Netherlands has around 17 million people. Adjusted for population against the US, that would come out to 'quite a lot' of Outlander PHEV sales! ;-)
          Actionable Mango
          • 11 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          I don't know that we can take anything from those sales numbers though. The temporary incentives were so staggeringly huge that they undoubtedly distorted the market in a way that will not be reflected in any other country.
          DaveMart
          • 11 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          AM: Indeed. That is why I noted the incentives, which expired at the end of December, and did not extrapolate any figures other than jokingly. The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV still seems to be a huge success though, and whilst the incentives in the Netherlands distorted the market there, they could have sold every one of them in other European markets which were screaming for them, before we take into account the impatient wait in Australia, the US and so on. Any distortion then is mostly in figures for the Netherlands, rather than in the excellent sales of the car.
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