From its legendary big-block 427-cubic-inch engines of the late 1960s to the tremendously popular F-150 pickups, Ford hasn't always been synonymous with green-car powertrains. But last month, the Blue Oval turned out to be a bit of a savior when it came to advanced-powertrain vehicle sales. In fact, while April green-car sales were down overall, higher demand for the Fusion and C-Max hybrids prevented things from being downright depressing.

Higher demand for the Fusion and C-Max hybrids prevented things from being downright depressing.

April sales of hybrids, plug-ins, and diesels fell 17 percent from a year earlier to almost 36,000 units. Factoring out Volkswagen diesels, which were still part of a stop-sale in the wake of the diesel-emissions scandal, and green-car sales were pretty much dead even with year-earlier figures. Even better, plug-in vehicle sales were up 16 percent to about 9,700 units.

And the domestic brands did well, and not just because of Tesla Motors (which doesn't disclose monthly sales, but we estimated them to have risen about 45 percent from a year earlier, matching Tesla's disclosure for increased Model S orders last quarter). Ford's Fusion and C-Max Hybrid models boosted sales by 31 percent and 12 percent from a year earlier, while Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid sales almost doubled. Overall, Ford's green-car sales were up 20 percent to 6,288 units.

General Motors' green-car sales were down, but not by much, as the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in sales more than doubled to 1,983 units. That offset some of the losses from the Chevy Spark EV and Cruze Diesel models. In all, GM's green-car sales declined six percent from a year earlier to 2,717 units.

Toyota pretty much tread water. Sales of its four Prius variants were down 22 percent to almost 12,000 units, but Highlander Hybrid sales surged 45 percent from a year earlier, while the RAV4 Hybrid notched sales of 3,807 units. Overall, Toyota's green-car sales were down just 2.7 percent to 21,181 units.

BMW's "i" plug-in vehicle sub-brand sales were up 74 percent.

And while BMW's volume is far lower than Toyota's, the German automaker had a strong month with its "i" plug-in vehicle sub-brand, boosting sales 74 percent from a year earlier to 944 units.

All that activity helped offset down months from Nissan and Honda. The model most in need of an upgrade, the Nissan Leaf, saw its sales drop 49 percent from a year earlier to just 787 units. And Honda's green-car sales plunged 79 percent to just 403 units, with demand for models such as the Civic Hybrid and Accord Hybrid all but evaporating.

Through the first four months of the year, green car sales were down 21 percent to almost 125,000 vehicles. Plug-in vehicle sales advanced 11 percent to almost 33,000 vehicles.

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