US sales of hybrids, plug-ins, and diesels advanced 23 percent last month from a year earlier to about 49,000 units, and made up a good chunk of the shortfall that had been plaguing green-car sales all year. More impressively, plug-in vehicle sales jumped 61 percent last month to more than 16,500 units.
Leading the charge (sorry, another pun) on the plug-in front was the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle and Toyota Prius Prime Plug-in Hybrid. The former model moved 579 units during its first month of sales, while the latter, the most recent generation of which debuted in the fall, had December sales of 1,641 vehicles.
With the exception of German automakers Volkswagen, BMW, and Daimler's Smart division, December numbers were either up or even from a year earlier across the board. General Motors almost doubled year-earlier sales to 5,109 units. In addition to the introduction of the Bolt, sales of the Volt extended-range plug-in jumped 75 percent to 3,691 units.
Ford also scored well for the holidays, boosting green-car sales by 41 percent from a year earlier to 7,628 units. Fusion Hybrid sales climbed 83 percent from a year earlier to 3,577 units, while C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid sales more than doubled to 1,289 vehicles.
Nissan's numbers benefitted from slowing sales in late 2015, and increased December sales of the Leaf electric vehicle by 41 percent to 1,899 units. Honda's green-car numbers almost quadrupled to 3,336 units, primarily on more than a tenfold jump in sales of the Accord Hybrid. Toyota came out almost dead even in December with green-car sales of 24,615 vehicles. The jump in Prius Plug-in sales as well as increases in Camry, Highlander, Avalon, and RAV4 Hybrid demand offset drops in sales of the standard, compact, and wagon versions of the Prius.
Meanwhile, Volkswagen e-Golf sales fell 27 percent to 443 units, while sales of BMW's i plug-in division dropped 56 percent to 924 units. And sales of the Smart ForTwo ED declined 78 percent from a year earlier to just 40 vehicles.
For the year, US green-car sales fell 11 percent to about 446,000 units, but plug-in vehicle sales rose 27 percent to almost 130,000 units.