September 2015: If-it-wasn't-for-them-stinking-diesels Edition

Plug-In, Hybrid Sales Up From A Year Earlier

All would've gone fine in the green-car world last month if it wasn't for that German automaker and those emissions shenanigans. September sales of hybrids and plug-ins were actually up from a year earlier, with both Toyota and Ford moving into positive territory. That would've all been fine and dandy if Volkswagen hadn't ensnared itself last month in a scandal in which its diesel engines were found to be programmed to understate emissions while being tested. The impact in the US appeared to be swift and strong, as VW diesel-vehicle sales tumbled 46 percent from a year earlier to 3,060 vehicles. VW hybrid sales were also down, and the 343 units of the e-Golf electric vehicle weren't enough to offset the plunge. Overall, VW's green-car sales fell 40 percent from a year earlier to 3,480 units.

Overall, green-car sales fell 4.1 percent from a year earlier to 40,639 units. Plug-in vehicles sales declined 4.9 percent to 8,732 units.

Toyota, which had seen falling sales numbers all year, boosted its September green-car sales units 8.6 percent from a year earlier to almost 23,000 vehicles. The four Prius variants combined to boost sales by 13 percent from a year earlier, with sales of the standard Prius liftback jumping up 25 percent.

Ford also boosted its green-car totals. The Blue Oval sold 5,517 hybrids and plug-ins last month, up 5.7 percent from a year earlier. Sales of both the hybrid and Energi plug-in hybrid versions of the Fusion were up, as were both the C-Max and C-Max Energi PHEV.

BMW was also a ray of light, as i3 electric vehicle sales jumped 67 percent from a year earlier to 1,710 vehicles, while i8 plug-in hybrid sales tripled to 182 units.

Beyond that, green-car sales suffered the blues. Nissan Leaf EV sales continued to stall as folks waited for updates to the model and bought just 1,247 of them. That's a 57-percent plunge from September 2014.

General Motors continued to be pulled down as people also held off purchases of the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in in advance of the new version. Volt sales dropped 32 percent from a year earlier to only 949 units, while demand for the Cruze Diesel and for GM's mild hybrids like the Buick LaCrosse and Regal, and the Chevrolet Malibu and Impala dropped. Overall, GM's green-car sales declined 40 percent from a year earlier to 1,583 units.

Honda continued to reflect weakening green-car demand as well. While sales for the Civic Hybrid and CR-Z were up, sales declined for all other green-car models under Honda and Honda's Acura badge. In fact, Honda's green-car sales fell 9.3 percent from a year earlier to 1,869 units.

Looking at all of the green-car sales for the first three quarters of the year, things don't look all that great, reflecting both waning demand for hybrid and plug-in models that are becoming long in the tooth and, of course, the VW issue. US sales of green cars through September declined 16 percent from a year earlier to about 404,000 units, while plug-in sales fell 13 percent to 77,724 units. Since the VW scandal broke in the second half of September, October will be the first full-month gauge of how the now-tarnished "clean diesel" name is playing out on the sales floor.

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