December 2012 alt-fuel vehicle sales continued to trend well ahead of 2011 figures and pushed 2012's sales of hybrids, diesels and plug-ins past the half-million vehicle threshold. Plug-in vehicle sales totaled 6,769 units for December, which was more than twice as high as a year earlier and just 15 units shy of October's monthly record of 6,784. Last year's plug-in sales, which were just shy of the 50,000-unit threshold (not including lower volume cars like the Tesla Model S) were spurred by consistent demand for the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug in and a late surge of sales for the Nissan Leaf battery-electric.

December sales marked a 45-percent increase from 2011.

US alt-fuel sales last month totaled 55,096 units, up from November's 46,216 vehicles. December sales marked a 45-percent increase from 2011 and represented last year's second-highest monthly total, behind March's 57,130 vehicles.

Among automakers, Ford showed the largest advances, more than tripling its December alt-fuel total from a year earlier to 8,124 vehicles and thus becoming the second-largest seller (behind Toyota) of hybrids and plug-ins in the US. The Ford C-Max Hybrid, which was introduced in September, continues to be the US automaker's largest alt-fuel seller, with 3,339 units sold last month. The Fusion Hybrid was close behind at 3,244 vehicles, or more than triple year-earlier numbers for that model. Ford's C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid sold 971 units, which was down almost 300 from November, while the Focus Electric sold a monthly-record 167 units.

Toyota remained the US alt-fuel leader, though year-over-year growth slowed from late 2011.

Toyota remained the US alt-fuel leader, though year-over-year growth slowed from late 2011, when the Japanese automaker was back up to speed after being hampered by the effects of the Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami earlier that year. Toyota's 30,788 alt-fuel vehicles sold still marked a 33-percent jump from December 2011. The company sold 20,040 Prius hybrids, including 12,536 Liftback ("standard") hatchbacks, about 3,000 each of the Prius V and C wagon and compact variants and 1,361 Prius Plug-in Hybrids. The Camry Hybrid more than doubled its year-earlier total to 4,443 units, while the Avalon Hybrid moved 747 vehicles in its first month of sales. Toyota also sold 52 RAV4 electric vehicles, while its Lexus badge boosted December sales from a year earlier by 29 percent to 4,918 units.

The Chevrolet Volt sold 2,633 units, up 72 percent from 2011 and pushing its 2012 total to 23,461.

General Motors almost doubled its year-earlier alt-fuel sales with 5,430 vehicles sold last month. Most notably, the Chevrolet Volt moved 2,633 units – up 72 percent from a year earlier – which pushed its 2012 total to 23,461, three times what the car sold in 2011. GM's mild hybrid models like the Buick LaCrosse and Regal and the Chevrolet Malibu totaled about 2,400 units last month.

Nissan Leaf sales continued to improve in December, jumping 56 percent from a year earlier to 1,489 units. Such a jump allowed total-year Leaf sales to leapfrog 2011's numbers and reach 9,819 units.

Volkswagen diesel sales in December appeared to continue to be bolstered by high gas prices, rising 23 percent from a year earlier to 7,349 units. As for lower-volume alt-fuel brands, Porsche hybrid sales for December were up 13 percent from a year earlier to 130 units, while both December sales of Audi diesels and the Mitsubishi i battery-electric were little changed from December 2011.

Honda remained the only automaker truly struggling in the alt-fuel field.

Honda remained the only automaker truly struggling in the alt-fuel field, with December sales dropping 40 percent from a year earlier to 1,084 units. While Civic Hybrid sales were down slightly, demand for the CR-Z and Insight plunged.

For the year, US alt-fuel sales reached 540,181 vehicles, which marked a 63-percent surge from 2011. Plug-in vehicle sales totaled 49,962 units, almost three times as many as were sold in 2011. Toyota's 327,413 sales represented 61 percent of all US alt-fuel vehicle sales. The new Prius variants undoubtedly helped keep the Japanese automaker at the top of the list.

VW sold 82,981 diesels for the year, up 32 percent from 2011. GM followed up, more than quadrupling 2011 sales to 57,440 on rising demand for both the Volt and the company's mild hybrids. Ford's late year surge on its new C-Max variants allowed the automaker to report a 32-percent rise in 2012 alt-fuel sales to 35,719 units. Finally, Honda saw a 46 percent drop in 2012 alt-fuel sales to 16,208 units.

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