The year that started off with the bang of big expectations for increased U.S. green-car sales from new models ended with a whimper as December marked yet another dropoff in demand for hybrids and plug-in vehicles.

U.S. green-car sales, which lagged about 1 percent from a year earlier in November, fell more than 10 percent last month to about 44,000 units. Plug-in vehicles alone, by our best estimate (Tesla doesn't release monthly U.S. sales figures), were up less than 1 percent at about 17,000 vehicles.

The likely cause was potential buyers who continue to wait patiently for the next-generation Nissan Leaf EV and the Tesla Model 3. Nissan was preparing first deliveries of the next-gen Leaf at the end of last month, and sold just 102 of the old Leaf model in December, down 95 percent from a year earlier. Meanwhile, production issues continue to plague Tesla and its efforts to make the Model 3 en masse. As a result, about 1,500 Model 3s were delivered last quarter, and the company said it won't reach its goal for 5,000 vehicles a week by mid-2018.

Nothing if not consistent, Toyota continued to lag year-earlier totals, as its four Prius variants' sales fell 24 percent from a year earlier to about 9,500 units. Offsetting some of that decline was a 34 percent jump in Camry Hybrid sales and a 58 percent increase in Highlander Hybrid sales. That said, Avalon Hybrid and Lexus Hybrid sales were down 57 percent and 26 percent from a year earlier, respectively. All told, Toyota's green-car sales declined 12 percent from a year earlier to 21,660 vehicles.

Honda, which had been boosting green-car sales all year, also ended the year on a downturn, recording a 13 percent drop to 2,903 units in December, largely on a drop in demand for the Accord Hybrid.

And Ford's December green-car sales fell 7.3 percent to 7,068 vehicles after being up all year. Most notably, Ford C-Max Energi sales plunged 66 percent from a year earlier to just 436 units. And BMW's sales within its i sub-brand of plug-in vehicles fell 19 percent from a year earlier to 752 units.

In fact, the only real bright spot for December was General Motors, and specifically its Chevrolet Bolt EV. Bolt sales jumped more than fivefold to 3,227 units, more than offsetting a 48 percent drop in sales for the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in. GM's green-car sales rose 14 percent last month to 5,828 units.

For the year, things looked rosier. Total U.S. green-car sales for 2017 advanced about 5.6 percent, to more than 477,000 vehicles. Plug-in vehicle sales rose 23 percent to almost 168,000 units.


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