March 2015: The why bother edition
Are Lower Gas Prices Still The Primary Culprit?
Sure, some might point to lower gas prices as a reason why folks are less included to buy hybrids, plug-ins or diesels. US gas prices have been hovering between about $2.40 and $2.45 a gallon for the past month, substantially down from the $3.58 a gallon Americans were paying a year ago.
Whatever the cause, green-car vehicle demand is taking a hit. Last month, US sales of hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric vehicles and diesels plunged 23 percent from a year earlier to about 45,000 vehicles. And March plug-in vehicle sales were down 7.1 percent to 8,255 units. For the first quarter, plug-in vehicle sales were up less than two percent from a year earlier to almost 22,000 units, while green-car sales fell 14 percent to about 115,000 units.
There were a few bright spots. BMW continues to sell about 1,000 of its i brand plug-in vehicles per month. And Tesla Motors is steadily boosting sales of its Model S electric vehicle, but we don't know for sure how many were sold in the US. With North American sales accounting for about 55 percent of global sales last year, Tesla may be averaging almost 1,900 vehicles sold each month recently. The company doesn't disclose monthly sales, so this is a guess based on extrapolating Tesla's first-quarter sales report.
But that was about it for the green-car good news for March, as all of the other automakers appeared to suffer. Nissan, long a regular in the plus category, saw sales of its Leaf electric vehicle fall 28 percent from a year earlier to 1,817 units. Honda, which had been improving its green-car sales until recently, was also down, as its green-car sales dropped 30 percent to just 1,791 units.
Toyota continues see its hybrid sales decline. The four Prius variant sales fell 14 percent from a year earlier to about 16,000 units, while Camry and Avalon Hybrid sales were down 36 percent and 44 percent, respectively. Lexus hybrid sales did relatively well by falling just 10 percent. Overall, Toyota green-car sales fell 18 percent to 23,352 units.
Ford and General Motors both saw green-car sales plunge in March. Ford's sales fell 31 percent to 5,997 units, pulled down by a drop in Fusion Hybrid demand. GM's green-car sales fell 43 percent to 1,796 units. Notably, sales of the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in dropped 57 percent from a year earlier to just 639 units.
And, aside from Bimmer, the Germans didn't do so hot, either. Volkswagen's green-car sales dropped 40 percent from a year earlier to 6,029 units primarily because of a plunge in diesel demand, while sales of Smart's ED electric vehicle fell 45 percent to 103 vehicles.
Finally, Audi diesel sales fell 8.1 percent to 1,208. Which in March qualified as a victory.
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