By The Numbers

January 2014: Happy blue year?

Green-car enthusiasts are probably hoping that Toyota's Super Bowl ad with the Muppets will pay for some brand equity with the Japanese automaker because soft demand for the company's batch of hybrids continue to sink US green-car sales.

Green car sales plunged almost 14 percent from last year.

American purchases of advanced-powertrain vehicles last month plunged almost 14 percent from a year earlier to 36,737 units as lower Toyota hybrid sales more than offset likely gains from Tesla Motors and the first recorded sales of the Cadillac ELR extended-range plug-in.

Green-car sales at Toyota, which used the Muppets to try to sell the company's Highlander SUV during the big game, dropped 25 percent from a year earlier to 18,195 vehicles as combined sales of the four Prius hybrid variants fell 23 percent from January 2013. In fact, sales of the Camry, Highlander and Avalon Hybrids all fell from a year earlier, while Lexus hybrid sales declined 9.1 percent from 2013.

General Motors fared even worse.

General Motors fared even worse, as green-car sales plunged 27 percent from last year, down to 2,186 units. While the Cadillac ELR moved 41 units, sales of the Volt extended-range plug-in fell 19 percent to 918 units. Sales of both GM's mild-hybrid sedans and hybrid SUVs also fell. And while the newer Chevrolet Cruze diesel moved 357 units - down from 495 in December.

Ford did slightly better, though also experienced a green-car sales decline with C-Max Hybrid sales plunging 60 percent from a year earlier to 947 units while Fusion Hybrid sales fell 14 percent to 2,607 vehicles. That more than offset the effect of higher sales for plug-in hybrid models such as the Fusion and C-Max Energi. In the final tally, Ford's green-car sales dropped 9.5 percent to 5,384 vehicles.

Mitsubishi sold just one lonely i EV last month.

Meanwhile, Volkswagen's green-car sales fell 17 percent to 4,597 units, with diesel sales down 21 percent from a year earlier. And Mitsubishi sold just one lonely i electric vehicle last month, down from 257 in January 2013.

Such results more than overshadowed positive results from Nissan, Tesla (we think), Honda and Audi. Nissan, which more than doubled sales of its battery-electric Leaf last year, boosted January sales by 93 percent to 1,093 units.

Audi almost quadrupled January 2013 diesel sales to 1,093 vehicles. Honda's green-car sales jumped 36 percent from a year earlier to 1,632 vehicles, as the Japanese automaker moved 525 units of its newer Accord Hybrid while holding steady on Civic Hybrid and Insight sales. And with Tesla implying that the demand for its Model S is on the steady upswing, the company's monthly sales rate of 2,300 units during the fourth quarter would represent a 45 percent increase from early last year. Finally, Daimler's Smart division sold 97 of its ForTwo ED electric vehicles last month.

While overall green-car sales were down, US plug-in sales did increase 36 percent from a year earlier to 6,729, with about half of that increase attributable to the estimated Tesla sales increase.

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