California may need this winter's El Nino rainfall to help cure years of drought, but the perfect storm that appears to have hit the US green-car industry isn't nearly as welcome. A maturing market for the Toyota Prius and a late-year release of an updated Chevrolet Volt, combined with a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle awaiting its next generation and lower gas prices conspired to push demand for hybrids and plug-in vehicles down last year. Gas prices were also down, pushing many people away from more fuel-efficient vehicles. And if that wasn't enough, Volkswagen's diesel-emission scandal, which broke in September, torpedoed diesel sales.

All told, 2015's green-car sales for companies that report them fell 16 percent from a year earlier to about 516,000 units. Plug-in vehicle sales fared slightly better, abetted by higher Tesla electric vehicle sales, and fell "only" seven percent to about 110,000 vehicles.

To put those numbers in perspective, 2014's green-car sales fell almost seven percent overall from 2013, but plug-in vehicle sales were up 20 percent.

The most notable decline was the Nissan Leaf, whose sales fell 43 percent last year to 17,269 units, but the market didn't seem to discriminate which ones took a hit. Chevy Volt sales had a late-year surge thanks to the new model, but still fell 18 percent to about 15,000 units.

All of Ford's green-car models had lower demand, and the Blue Oval's sales fell 24 percent last year to almost 72,000 units. GM's green-car sales declined 26 percent to about 27,000 units. Honda's green-car sales tailed off dramatically late in the year, falling 25 percent to almost 21,000 units in 2015.

Things were really and unsurprisingly bad for Das Auto. Volkswagen, whose green-car sales were down just 5.5 percent through August (the month before the diesel-emissions scandal broke), had a 25-percent drop in green-car sales to about 59,000 for the year.

Lower gas prices, while appreciated by some consumers, didn't help matters. Gas prices are averaging about $2 a gallon, three cents less than a month ago and 19 cents less than a year ago, according to AAA.

And those lower prices likely impacted sales at Toyota, the world's largest seller of hybrids. Toyota green car sales declined 14 percent last year to 269,100 units, or about half of the domestic green-car market.

Bucking the trend were Tesla Motors and BMW. The former company doesn't disclose North America sales, but based on educated estimates, Tesla likely saw domestic sales jump at least 70 percent last year. And BMW's i series of plug-in vehicles doubled their 2014 sales to almost 13,300 units.


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