January: The happy-new-year edition

Late-2016 green-car sales surge may not have been a fluke.

The list keeps getting shorter, but the numbers are getting larger. Automakers are continuing to shed low-performing hybrids, plug-ins, and diesels, but are boosting sales of green-car models they're keeping on their lots. Gone, at least for now, are the diesels made by Volkswagen and its Audi division — courtesy of the stop-sale the German automaker put into place in late 2015 — as are models such as the Toyota RAV4 Electric Vehicle, Acura ILX Hybrid and General Motors' handful of hybrid pickup truck and SUV models. Meanwhile, the Honda CR-Z and Cadillac ELR continue to sell a smattering of units, but those numbers will continue to dwindle since the automakers have discontinued those models as well.

The good news, though, as that the gains in green-car sales that marked the latter part of last year appeared to carry over into 2017. January sales of hybrids, plug-ins, and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles rose about 27 percent from a year earlier to about 32,700 units (numbers continue to be inexact because Tesla doesn't release monthly US totals, while automakers such as Hyundai and its Kia affiliate don't disclose hybrid or plug-in vehicle sales). Plug-in vehicle sales surged about 74 percent to about 11,700 units. It's also worth noting that plug-in vehicles continue to account for an increasingly large percentage of US green-cars sold. Plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles made up about a fifth of green-car sales in 2015 and about 29 percent of them last year. In January? Plug-ins made up about 36 percent of green-car sales.

The most notable development, of course, was the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which doubled in sales between December and January to 1,162 units. The Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in sales jumped 62 percent to 1,611 units. Overall, GM's green-car sales more than doubled from a year earlier to 3,138 vehicles.

Ford also doubled its green-vehicle sales to an even more robust 6,931 vehicles. Most notably, the Ford Fusion Hybrid more than tripled its sales from a year earlier to 4,856 vehicles, while the Ford C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid sales rose 35 percent to 473 units.

Honda also came up big on the strength of the sales of its updated Accord Hybrid, which surged by a factor of 23 to 1,711 units. Overall, Honda's green-car sales quadrupled to 1,870 vehicles.

BMW doubled the sales of its i sub-brand of plug-in vehicles to 432 units. And while Nissan's Leaf EV continues to lag sales of the Chevrolet Volt and, as of last month, the Bolt, demand rose by about 2 percent from a year earlier to 772 units.

All of those gains more than offset a relatively tepid month for Toyota, where green-car sales fell 9.5 percent from a year earlier to 14,330. Big sales gains from the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid and RAV4 Hybrid were more than offset by lagging demand for the other Prius variants as well as lower sales for models such as the Camry Hybrid, Avalon Hybrid, and Lexus hybrids.

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