Gas prices are up. There are more hybrid and plug-in vehicle models available to the public than ever. Nissan's doing great with its Leaf and Tesla continues to exceed sales expectations with its Model S. And yet advanced-powertrain and alt-fuel vehicle sales continue to crater compared to the numbers from a year ago. What's going on here?

Americans bought just under 40,400 green vehicles in February, down 23 percent from the almost 52,500 they purchased a year earlier. And, no, there's no leap year to blame here.

We might have to blame Prius fatigue.

We might have to blame Prius fatigue, much to the chagrin of Toyota. The four variants of the world's most popular hybrid model combined to sell 12,861 units last month, down 28 percent from February 2013. Toyota's other hybrid models did even worse, with sales of the Camry, Avalon and Highlander Hybrids plunging 39 percent, 55 percent and 76 percent from a year earlier, respectively. Overall, Toyota's green-car sales dropped 29 percent from a year earlier to 19,027 units.

And General Motors wasn't immune either, despite the recent introduction of models such as the Chevrolet Spark EV, Chevrolet Cruze Diesel and Cadillac ELR extended-range plug-in. Sales of mild-hybrids such as Buick's LaCrosse and Regal and the Chevrolet Malibu eAssist continued to substantially lag last year's figures. The Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in moved 1,210 units, down 26 percent from a year earlier. In all, GM saw sales fall 35 percent from a year earlier to just 2,658 vehicles. Ford fared slightly better, as Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid sales jumped from a year earlier. But that was more than offset by declines in sales of models such as the Fusion and C-Max Hybrids, bringing Ford's overall sales down nine percent from a year earlier to 6,776 units.

Despite higher gas prices, Americans aren't gravitating to clean diesel models.

And despite gas prices being up about seven percent since the beginning of the year, according to AAA, Americans aren't gravitating en masse to clean diesel models the German automakers are selling. Volkswagen's green-car sales dropped 32 percent from a year earlier to 4,787 units, as low-volume sales of its new Jetta Hybrid was more than offset by falling diesel demand. And Audi's diesel sales dropped 65 percent from a year earlier to 1,048 units.

Only Honda appeared to buck last month's hybrid-sales trend, boosting green-car sales by 52 percent from a year earlier to 2,109 units. The Japanese automaker sold 910 of its new Accord Hybrids, while Civic Hybrid sales were 2.3 percent ahead of year-earlier figures. The Insight was down 12.3 percent and will not be available much longer.

Still, such overall sales declines more than offset gains by electric-vehicle makers like Nissan and Tesla. Nissan Leaf sales more than doubled from a year earlier to 1,425 units. And if Tesla sales maintained their fourth-quarter pace into the new year (the company doesn't release monthly figures), those approximately 2,300 vehicles sold last month would be 45 percent ahead of year-earlier figures.

With such sales gains, US plug-in vehicle sales rose 40 percent from a year earlier to 7,848 units, bringing a slight glimmer to a dark month for green-car sales.



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  • 33 Comments
      Greg
      • 6 Hours Ago
      So ... how do these numbers compare to the overall car market? If the whole market is sagging (due to bad weather if you believe the reports), then these numbers may not exactly a negative.
      Joeviocoe
      • 6 Hours Ago
      Snow, Cold, and Winter... were mentioned ZERO times in this article --"Despite higher gas prices, Americans aren't gravitating to clean diesel models." -- " ..advanced-powertrain and alt-fuel vehicle sales continue to crater " No... these vehicles are doing no worse than the automakers as a whole. February's cold winter stifled most automakers sales. "Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee on Feb. 27 about monetary policy, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen pointed to “unseasonably cold weather” as the root cause for recent declines in employment, retail sales and manufacturing output." Nobody is immune to environment.
        Marco Polo
        • 6 Hours Ago
        @Joeviocoe
        @ Joeviocoe You raise an interesting point. I guess economic activity is slowed by "Snow, Cold, and Winter ". I suppose major purchases are delayed while people hurry home. Australia doesn't really have much in the way of Snow and really cold weather, so I'm glad you brought up that explanation. (The UK's weather is traditionally so miserable, that a bit of Snow is an exciting relief :)
      Joeviocoe
      • 6 Hours Ago
      This February has been MUCH colder and snowier than last February.... and is more than enough to account for the differences in sales. Especially when you look at how automakers did on the whole. This is ANOTHER reason why "month-to-month" sales reports are misleading at best and akin to reading tea-leaves. No predictive power whatsoever.
      lasertekk
      • 6 Hours Ago
      Where do a Fiat 500e sales fit in?
      Smoking_dude
      • 6 Hours Ago
      Is the panamera e-hybrid (phev) included in the panamera hybrid numbers? It is advertised on the US website. And Mitsubishi should bring the outlander phev to the us soon. It does perform very well, and in Germany some ppl trade their Amperas (Volt) against it because they need 4x4, and to tow a trailer, still wanting a phev. also interesting how ford, and toyota were affected but honda stayed on a level.
        offib
        • 6 Hours Ago
        @Smoking_dude
        Yes, I think the Panamera Plug-In is included. Mitsubishi, you guys in the US have to wait an agonising year for it. The only upcoming EV from Mitsu as we all know is the new i-MiEV with a cheaper price tag. The EV market has always surprised us every year with a new or old car that suddenly became popular. The i-MiEV is the most likely candidate but sales would likely be around 500 per month which is spectacular enough for Mitsubishi, but who knows until April or May.
      Spec
      • 6 Hours Ago
      The up-tick of the plug-in versions compared to their conventional hybrid counter parts is interesting. C-Max Energi, Fusion Energi, and Plug-In Prius all up . . . . but C-Max hybrid, Fusion hybrid, and Prius all down.
      David Murray
      • 6 Hours Ago
      I wonder, since they are counting the Plug-in Prius separately from the regular Prius, I am sure most of those purchases resulted in a sales loss for the regular Prius. That could partially explain the drop in sales. But I suspect most of the explanation has to do with gas prices. They have sort of settled into the "new normal" and thus people no longer see them being high anymore. Just wait for the next jump. I wouldn't be surprised if this conflict with Russia might affect gas prices.
      Joeviocoe
      • 6 Hours Ago
      How about this ABG... create a poll that lists these vehicles and asks if they should really be on the list. Oh, or are you pulling this list from somewhere else and are too lazy to do any real work compiling a list, and getting sales figures yourslelves?
      Wm
      • 6 Hours Ago
      Interesting! Plugins where almost all up with the exception of the Volt. Diesels were all down, or at least all that had numbers for the previous year. Many hybrids were down, but with a number of exceptions. It looks like the green market may be showing a preference for plugins. I can't help but think that Nissan could do well with a plugin hybrid.I can't wait to hear more about the Focus Energi.
      Joeviocoe
      • 6 Hours Ago
      http://www.ibtimes.com/here-are-february-2014-big-8-us-auto-sales-numbers-gm-ford-chrysler-toyota-honda-nissan-kiahyundai http://www.ibtimes.com/us-new-auto-sales-february-2014-nissan-chrysler-leap-double-digits-gm-fell-slightly-ford-down-61
      Spec
      • 6 Hours Ago
      So when you look at the hybrid and plug-in market, plug-ins are taking around 1/5th of that market. Not bad. Of course, I'd like to see the hybrids & plug-ins grow.
        Ziv
        • 6 Hours Ago
        @Spec
        I don't know Spec. I am increasingly being PHEV'd out of the free chargers near my house. It is kind of irritating to have some "sippy cup" of an electric car take the spot instead of my EREV Volt! Do you think that is what the BEV people think of my EREV plugging in as well? LOL! Seriously, though, the PHEV10 and PHEV21 may be the entry drug for electric cars so I say more power to them! So to speak...
          Joeviocoe
          • 6 Hours Ago
          @Ziv
          And that is why we need automated cars. They can remove themselves from the charger when their sippy cup is full.
          Spec
          • 6 Hours Ago
          @Ziv
          Yeah, I agree on all counts. EREVs and PHEVs should not hog chargers since they can use gasoline. But I'm happy for EREVs and PHEVs to be the gateway drug for electrics. I just hope they have decent battery packs. 25 miles should be the minimum all-electric range. The damn government pays for the batteries so use it!
      2 wheeled menace
      • 6 Hours Ago
      Automakers are making very fuel efficient compacts that cost less and actually end up competing with the prius and other green vehicles. Hey.. i can buy a 41mpg highway Mazda3 for $17k and it will do 0-60 in 8 seconds, for example. For $8k more, you get a 10 second 0-60 car that is fairly lifeless but achieves 10mpg more. IMHO, as someone who likes to stand on the pedal from time to time, a car like the Mazda3 2.0L with a stick would be my choice, if i wasn't thinking about the awesome fuel economy of the prius.
        Mark Schaffer
        • 6 Hours Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        To be clear you are quoting the highway mileage and the difference is more substantial with a hybrid around town...where quickness is more of a ticket to a traffic ticket or an accident.
        Letstakeawalk
        • 6 Hours Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        An 8th gen Honda Civic can easily get 40mpg hwy, and low 30's city, and can be had around $10k.
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