Update: We’ve linked to the most recent tests or news of these cars, including some 2014 models.
Nissan LEAF is an all-electric car with 70 to 100 mile range. 50,000 have been delivered globally. Nissan delivers great value with the new 2013 price starting at $28,980. Drive it at 30 mph and you might get 140 miles; drive it at 70 mph running the air conditioner, 60 miles. LEAF Test drive. This 5-door, 5-seat, hatchback has the right size and range for many who drive under 100 miles daily, or for households with more than one car. The LEAF is the first electric car to earn five stars from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The Leaf has had its price dropped since introduction and dealers offer some attractive lease programs.
Chevrolet Volt was awarded Car of the Year by Motor Trend and Automobile Magazine and awarded Green Car of the Year by Green Car Journal. General Motors is the current plug-in hybrid leader with the Chevrolet Volt,which has 38 to 40 miles of electric range and total range of 380 to 400 miles by engaging a small gasoline engine that is coupled with an electric generator. GM has a complete Voltec Propulsion System roadmap, which envisions added offerings of pure battery-electric and diesel plug-in hybrids. Our Volt Test Drive showed that this is plug-in hybrid is sportier to drive than regular hybrids and a great 4-door, 4-seat sedan for those who want to minimize fill-ups and avoid range anxiety. The Volt has dropped its retail pricing and typically offers very generous leases. GM has augmented the Volt with a sister model, the much more expensive Cadillac ELR, in 2014 and also introduced the diminutive, but powerful pure electric Chevy Spark EV.
Ford Focus Electric starts at $39,200 with double the charge speed of the LEAF. You can go online and configure your car, select a dealer and place your order. Although Nissan and Chevrolet have been getting most of the electric car media attention, both automakers are worried about Ford who will give customers the widest choice of electric and plug-in hybrid cars and crossovers. Ford has also partnered with SunPower to offer an affordable rooftop solar system that will allow Focus Electric owners and other electric car drivers to “Drive Green for Life,” and charge with solar. Ford Focus Electric Test Drive
Ford C-MAX Energi, an exciting new crossover with more room than a small SUV. The 5-seat C-MAX Energi offers 550 miles of overall driving range using the lithium battery, electric motor, and gasoline engine – more than any other plug-in. Ford offers the passenger room and cargo space of the Prius V. Its 20 miles of electric range beats the Prius Plug-in, but falls short of the Chevrolet Volt. The C-MAX Energi starts at $33,745. Ford C-MAX Energi
Ford Fusion Energi SE is a beautiful 5-seat sedan with more safety and telematics features than any other car on this list. Drive this plug-in hybrid for 20 miles of electric range, then a small efficient gasoline engine extends your range by hundreds of miles. The Fusion Energi is a strong contender since its a midsize sedan with a good reputation for handling and reliability. According to EPA testing, the Fusion gets a combined 58 MPGe (combining its electric and gas modes). Models start at $34,700.
Toyota Prius Plug-in starts at $32,000. The Prius Plug-in cost about $8,000 less than the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid with a 40-mile electric range in comparison to the Prius PHEV’s 15-mile. The Prius Plug-in costs about $8,500 more than the classic Prius Liftback, but the difference narrows to $6,000 after Federal Tax Credit. In California, Toyota Motor Corp also offers the all-electric SUV, the RAV4 EV. Toyota Prius Plug-in Test Drive and Review vs. the classic Liftback.
Honda Fit EV. 2013 Fit EV can be purchased for $36,200 or leased at a rate competitive with other EVs on the market. The new compact 5-door 5-passenger hatchback electric car uses Blue Energy lithium-ion battery pack for a 100-mile all-electric range. The new 2014 Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid is a premium midsized sedan, also available as a hybrid, which we tested.
Tesla Model S Sedan has delivered its first 20,000 Model S electric cars and is still going strong, now charging into overseas markets. This luxury all-electric sedan that starts at $69,900 and has an optional battery pack for $20,000 more that gives the car a 265-mile range. Tesla will compete against these less expensive competitors with a luxury interior, electronics like a 17-inch display, 5 + 2 passenger capacity, switchable battery option, and up to triple the electric range of competitors. Tesla is now taking reservations for 2015 delivery of the new Model X SUV with all-wheel drive from two electric motors, breathtaking styling including winged doors, and the same roomy seating capacity as the Model S. Tesla Model S and Model X
Smart Fortwo Electric is driven daily by thousands of Car2Go car sharing members in San Diego and Portland and cities around the world. The new Smart Electric can be purchased for only $25,000 ($17,500 after federal tax credit). The 2-seat Smart Electric has a range of about 70 miles, which is great for dense urban areas, where its small footprint also helps with parking. The new third-generation Smart Electric has a more powerful 55kW EM-motive motor and 17.6kWh ACCUmotive lithium battery.
BMW is now selling the all-electric i3 (which also comes in a range-extended version) cars. The i3 builds on the company’s experience with the ActiveE (which featured the i3 powertrain in a 1-Series body) in San Francisco’s DriveNow car sharing program and with lease customers. In 2014, you can order the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe that dazzled movie audiences in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. BMW will extend range with innovative super-strong, yet lightweight materials including an aluminum frame and carbon fiber reinforced plastic, or CFRP for short. The i3 body consists of two independent modules: the Drive Module consists of an aluminum chassis and the powertrain with the lithium-ion battery, the performance electronics and a compact but powerful electric motor.
Mitsubishi i (official name with small “i”) is bigger and with more zip for the U.S. market compared with its Japanese-market predecessor. This pure-electric city car is selling starting at $29,125. Mitsubishi will challenge the Nissan LEAF, Ford Focus Electric, and Honda Fit Electric. This fun-to-drive 4-seat 5 door, will have a wheel base 5 inches wider for the U.S. market, but the micro-compact will still be able to get those precious city parking spaces that no other car can take except the Smart. The more powerful U.S. version will have an electric range of 62 miles (EPA adjusted) with a 16kWh lithium battery. Mitsubishi Electric Test Drive
Fiat division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles surprised everyone with the 500e, an all-electric version of the Fiat 500 that is in the
2013 Fiat 500e
process of reintroducing the Italian automaker to America. The car surprised everyone because it was so good! While being presented to the media as a compliance car (i.e., the company would only build enough of them to meet California’s zero emission vehicle mandate and only sell them where credits toward that mandate would count), the early returns (including ours) lauded the car as exactly what an electric car should be – full of fun and projecting a personality commensurate with the significance of the vehicle for the environment.
EV Forecasts and Renewable Energy
Electric car sales will triple in the U.S. each year from 20,000 in 2011 to 60,000 in 2012 to 180,000 in 2013. This report is about freeway-speed U.S. available all-electric and plug-in hybrid light-duty vehicles. Accenture forecasts 1.5 million electric vehicles in the United States by 2015. Over 10 million electric vehicles are possible by 2020, especially if oil prices rise as battery prices fall. Single electric utilities have scenarios for charging over one million electric vehicles in their own service area by 2020. With renewable energy investment required of utilities in 30 states, these utilities are most interested in night time charging of electric vehicles with wind, geothermal, and hydropower. Utilities are also implementing smart grids and incentives for off-peak charging. More than 100 large and small competitors are fighting for share of the U.S. electric car and truck market. Some may be struggle to get significant share due to time delays and cost of safety and other regulatory approvals, delays in funding, or unpleasant surprises from a supplier. It’s a tough business. Even Tesla had to add 700 pounds and two years to get the first Roadsters in customers’ hands. We’ve been impressed with the performance of the VW e-Golfs that we’ve driven over the past few years and it is due to arrive late in 2014. Mercedes is in the process of preparing a B-Class electric for sale in the U.S. Electric cars with range extended by fuel cells continue to make progress. Hyundai is building 1,000 Tucson fuel cell vehicles and they are on sale in Southern California as of mid-2014. Mercedes has put 200 of the new F-Cell B-Class on global streets; Toyota putting 100 of its 400-mile range FCHV into fleet applications and has shown a concept of what the 2015 model will look like when it goes on sale; Honda also has shown its 2015 model in concept form and other auto companies are also moving forward with fuel cells. China could have several EV models delivered to U.S. customers in the near future from BYD or possibly other companies, but Coda’s experience trying to sell an electric version of a dated, poor quality Chinese model was not encouraging.
You say hybrid-we say Prius
Actually January through November, but we know the way this end.
We know the year isn’t over yet, but we also know the only thing that will change between now and Dec. 31 on the sales charts are the actual numbers. We’ve got a very good sense of which are the Top 10 best-selling High-MPG cars of 2013, so we’re not afraid to let you know early (in case it fits into your holiday shopping plans).
The year 2013 is almost over and the auto industry is moving toward the best sales year in half a decade. High mileage electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and clean diesels are drafting along with the positive sales year and going beyond, with each segment besting the overall market as new models enter and draw attention. The expectation is for aggressive selling to continue through the rest of the year, but it’s a good time to regroup and declare the Top 10 winners for the year.
If you’ve been following our coverage throughout the year, you’ll recognize the players – the Prius liftback dominates the 42 hybrid models now on the market; VW’s Jetta and Passat takes the lion’s share of diesel sales (although now joined by 20 other models) and the plug-in segment (now totaling 15 models) splits fairly evenly between the pure electric Nissan Leaf and the extended range Chevy Volt. Then Tesla and Toyota carve up most of the rest of this segment, which has shown the most dynamic growth this year.
These three segments of high-MPG models (augmented by a few natural gas Honda Civics) are pacing the market and all three are adding new models, which portends continued growth. That said, the penetration of the by hybrids, plug-ins and diesels still totals less than five percent of the overall market.
Sales in 2014 Expected to Keep Rolling
Auto analysts predict the positive sales trends will continue into 2014 as the economy improves and all indications are that these high-MPG models will also keep ahead of the rest of the market. The Top 10 vehicles in sales are relatively consistent while a couple models on the margins of the sales numbers shuffle places among the top 14 or 15.
On top of the group – always – is the Toyota Prius. With a several year head start on most of the other cars on sales, it’s sales are typically triple those in the next tier. In the second tier are the models breaking into the mainstream, selling well enough to assure their continued existence in the market, but well below the Prius level. At this level the VW diesels – Jetta and Passat – are joined by the midsize Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion hybrids as well as two Prius variants, the c and V and the Ford C-Max hybrid. The electric Leaf and Volt are bubbling significantly below the second tier group and are joined by a group of hybrids along with the Tesla Model S.
Details on sales for the first 11 months of the year as well as the month of November (parenthetically) follow. It’s shaping up to be a solid year for these high-MPG cars.
1. Toyota Prius – 135,291 – (9,801) The Prius is unchallenged as the leader among all of the alternatives, a mainstream car that ranks up with the best selling standard cars. It captures almost a third of all hybrid sales even though it is well into its product cycle (it was introduced in 2009) and probably will need to kick up its game as its 50 MPG rating doesn’t make it stand out when compared with the mileage plug-in hybrids are delivering.
2. Toyota Camry Hybrid – 41,722 – (2,998) The Camry’s hybrid version is a solid second best among hybrids for the year though in November it dropped below the Prius c in sales.
A Hybrid with real-world acceleration
3. Volkswagen Jetta TDI – 41,089 – (2,936) The clean diesel standard-bearer is pushing toward the top of the second tier, virtually neck-and-neck with the Camry Hybrid in sales. It accounts for fully one-fourth of diesel sales at this point.
4. Toyota Prius c – 39,169 – (3,001) The “baby” Prius continues to attract entry-level hybrid seekers and had a strong November, second only to the Prius liftback. This smallest, least expensive hybrid in the Toyota lineup helped Toyota to a 1-2-3 podium finish among hybrid sales, Ford is mounting a challenge.
5. Ford Fusion Hybrid – 34,502 – (2,769) The flagship of hybrid fuel economy at Ford is leading a challenge by that automaker to Toyota’s dominance of the hybrid segment, although its approach to fuel economy includes also plug-in versions of the Fusion and C-Max, an all-electric Focus and its conventional EcoBoost engines.
6. Volkswagen Passat TDI – 32,754 – (2,432) The Jetta’s “big brother” has steadily maintained its sales trajectory during the year, setting sales records for the TDI version of the midsize model. The two VWs (and the company’s three other TDI models) give the company a dominating position in the diesel market similar to Toyota’s with hybrids with more than 70 percent of the diesel market.
7. Toyota Prius V – 32,879 – (2,227) The Prius “wagon” is having a good year, adding to Toyota dominance of the hybrid market, where Toyota and Lexus models take almost 65 percent of total sales.
Ford C-Max Hybrid
8. Ford C-Max Hybrid – 26,858 – (1,457) Ford’s hybrid “wagon,” along with the Prius V, demonstrates that there is a clear demand for more versatility along with good fuel economy, although C-Max sales have been slipping during the last few months of the year.
9. Chevrolet Volt – 20,702 – (1,920) The Volt is selling on par with last year as a price drop on 2013 models boosted sales and 2014 models carried on with lower prices.
10. Nissan Leaf – 20,081 – (2,003) Nissan’s pure electric car has been benefiting from strong word-of-mouth and a price drop earlier in the year. It’s heading for its best sales year and looks like it will stay in the Top 10.
11. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – 19,640 – (1,866) Hyundai’s hybrid models flies under the radar somewhat, but had a great November where it finished sixth among hybrids. With the Kia Optima Hybrid using the same technology the combined sales from the Korean manufacturer are almost at the Toyota Camry Hybrid level.
12. Tesla Model S – 16,950 – (1,400) Tesla’s pure electric has estimated sales numbers (they release the official ones when they report their quarterly earnings so we only get a glimpse of the real numbers intermittently. Production has been steadily increasing during the year as the company fills its orders for its expensive, but exquisite sedan and begins ramping up exports, which is already starting to affect U.S. sales (which is all we report). It does have the “honor” of being the most expensive car in this list by a good margin.
Bubbling below the Top 10 (or 12 in this case) are several models that help boost hybrid sales. The Toyota Avalon Hybrid, Lexus ES Hybrid, Chevy Malibu Hybrid, Kia Optima
Toyota has added hybrid models to the lineup like the Avalon Hybrid and Lexus CT 200h Hybrid don’t rack up big numbers, but they add to the strength of the segment – and cumulatively accounted for more than 50,000 additional hybrid sales.
This segment shows a great amount of strength as new models continue to be introduced. There were eight brand-new hybrid models in 2013 (and several more that were barely launched in 2012); six new plug-ins entered the market and the diesel segment added eight new models. The word is the new models are going to keep coming, which should keep the high-MPG car segment invigorated.
Photos from manufacturers
Posted Dec. 14, 2013 (compiled with Hybridcars.com & Automotive News information as reported by manufacturers)
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Chevy Volt – Bargain Charger
We all know about hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars, but please don’t lump them together. Doing so muddies the picture of the benefits and limitations of each technology and may result in some consumers giving up and retreating to the tried-and-true gasoline-only engine. Nothing wrong with gasoline-powered cars, but times are changing and the alternatives are becoming more prevalent and should be on your shopping list. Case in point is the 2014 Chevrolet Volt which uses a plug-in battery and gasoline engine technology to deliver a smooth, quiet and comfortable driving experience that will most likely get you to work and back without buying any gasoline, but then can take you across the USA – all while delivering in excess of 40 mpg.
Drivetrain – Volt-Smooth Operator
The front wheel drive 2014 Volt is powered by a 111 kW electric motor backed up with a 1.4L gasoline engine. The package delivers 98 MPGe in EPA testing. The “e” is for “equivalent” which is an EPA blended mileage using gasoline and electric power. The gasoline engine alone is rated at 37 MPG combined highway and city. In my 1,160 miles, driven mostly on highways (remember, the EPA figures are based on 55 percent city driving and 45
Volt supplies power and efficiency
percent highway), I got a very impressive 40.7 MPG. The 149 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque get the Volt to 60 mph in about 9 seconds, which is perfectly acceptable when driving Southern California freeways. The Volt is a series hybrid, or in Chevrolet terms – a Range Extender. This is where the electric motor and the gasoline engine deliver all the power through the electric motor, whether directly from the battery or the 54 kW generator driven by the gasoline engine. The gasoline engine kicks in when the battery is out of charge or when the driver has selected the “Hold Drive” mode, which forces the car to not use any of the battery charge. The transition between battery-only power and when the gasoline engine turns on is quiet and seamless. Other than the center stack gauge showing the energy flow, you will not sense the change. As with the electric-only Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Spark we tested recently, the Volt’s 16.5 kWh Lithium-ion battery is charged by plugging-in, augmented by the Regenerative Charging System that converts kinetic energy into electricity when applying the brakes or coasting. The Volt has four drive modes, one of which, “Mountain,” recharges the battery at a faster rate when coasting downhill. The primary method to replenish the batteries is by plugging in: 110V 9 hours: discharged to a full charge 240V 4 hours: discharged to a full charge The Volt does not come with a 480V Quick Charge option.
Driving Experience: On The Road
The five-door hatchback Volt weighs in at a seemingly hefty 3,800 lbs, but since electric motors provide instant and maximum torque, the Volt does not suffer any performance issues. The car does not feel heavy since the weight is well distributed due to the under-seat battery placement, resulting in a low center of gravity. The electrically assisted power steering, four wheel ABS and disc brakes, GM’s StabiliTrak electronic control system and front MacPherson Struts deliver a smooth highway ride. While not a sports sedan, takes corners without body roll and with confidence. There is very little wind noise and no transmission shifts, so the ride is smooth and quiet.
Driving Experience: Interior
My wife has the honor of riding in all the cars I review. After about 10 minutes on the freeway of our 1,300 mile trip, she looked at me and said, “This is really a nice car.” I could not agree more. The 2014 Chevrolet Volt just may be GM’s best car for the money when you consider price, options and fuel economy. A marketing observation: most cars have badges on the trunk designating option levels, but GM has stayed away from this with the Volt…and I think they are smart in doing so. The Volt should be recognized for its clean lines and technology and not rely on a confusing array of letters and numbers to make it seem worthy of your attention.
Inside the Volt
The Volt incorporates a twin cockpit design with the center stack separating the bucket seats. The car is comfortable to drive with everything nicely laid out and within easy reach. The front seats have good bolstering, but
Inside – a touch of luxury
do not come with lumbar adjustment, which would be nice for a car of this price and quality. It also does not have power adjustable front seats, which is something I did not find objectionable, as I am sure the cost-to-value for Chevrolet took into consideration the weight of the seat motors in an already somewhat heavy car.
Volts shows you everything that’s going on
The rear split seats, separated by an armrest with cup holders, are comfortable for two adults. The Volt should not be considered for four passengers on long driving trips as there is limited luggage storage in the hatch. With the rear 40/40 seats folded flat, there is ample luggage space for two adults to take long trips, and that would include golf bags. The base model Volt is well-equipped for convenience and safety including remote keyless entry with remote start, power door locks, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), eight airbags, three years of OnStar, three months of XM Radio, a USB port, Bluetooth, a 7-inch color screen and heated and power adjustable outside mirrors. Also available are a premium trim package and two safety package options, as well as upgrades for paint, audio system with navigation, polished aluminum wheels and the Bose 6-speaker system. The Volt I was driving came with all packages and options, which included driver and front passenger heated seats, leather-appointed seats, rear vision camera, 7-inch color touch screen, rear and front parking assist, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and the aforementioned paint, wheel, audio and speaker options. A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly GM representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader and after the three-year service plan expires it is well worth renewing.
The 2014 Volt base price is $34,185, including the $810 destination charge. That represents a $5,000 drop from last year’s price, putting the car almost into the realm of an average-priced car. The fully optioned Volt I was driving is priced at $40,540 including the destination charge. GM has also been offering special lease deals on the car as well. The Volt qualifies for federal and state tax credits and incentives that could reduce the final
The plug is the key to maximum efficiency
cost more than $10,000. Clean Fleet Report recommends contacting your CPA before considering a Volt purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits and incentives and how they will impact your individual situation. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best. Also worth noting is that in California the Volt qualifies for the coveted car pool stickers allowing the driver, without passenger, to use the HOV lane. This is no small thing when trying to get anywhere on a freeway in the Golden State. In other states there is a patchwork of financial and other incentives worth checking out. The 2014 Volt comes with these warranties: Basic: 3 years/36,000 miles (Bumper-to-Bumper) Volt Moves Away Smoothly Scheduled Maintenance: 2 years/24,000 miles Battery: 8 years/100,000 miles Drivetrain: 5 years/100,000 miles Roadside Assistance: 5 years/100,000 miles
Observations: 2014 Chevrolet Volt
The Volt should be on your consideration list when shopping sedans or hatchbacks, especially if you value comfort, fuel economy and a superior ride experience. The Volt’s build quality should have it competing against cars a class up and more expensive, and certainly ones that do not get as good of fuel economy. Give it a look next time you are checking-out cars and I am sure you will be impressed. Enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
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VW Passat TDI had a record month
August was a high-water mark for some of the pure electric cars and plug-in hybrids, stoking hopes that these alternatives were starting to gain traction in the market. The year 2013 is two-thirds over and auto industry sales overall are doing quite well (up 14 percent compared to July 2013, up 17 percent compared to August 2012 and up 9.6 percent over the year-to-date compared to last year). The record sales this month by the Passat TDI, Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf show that high mileage vehicles are definitely high on consumers’ shopping lists. More models continue to come onto the market, broadening consumer choices and adding to the ongoing discussion of fuel economy.
At this point in the year it is safe to say that the slice of the market held by hybrids, plug-ins and diesels will end the year near five percent of the overall market, which it topped in August by a good margin as all three sectors grew. As we’ve seen all year, each month may present a slightly different order, but the Top 10 vehicles are relatively consistent and a couple models on the margins of the sales numbers shuffle places among the top 14 or 15. That said, we also are seeing a couple distinct tiers of sales in this diverse group.
On top of the group – always – is the Toyota Prius. With a several year head start on most of the other cars on sales, it’s sales are typically triple those in the next tier. The second tier are the models breaking into the mainstream, selling well enough to assure their continued existence in the market, but well below the Prius level. At this level the VW diesels – Jetta and Passat – are joined by the midsize Toyota Camry and Ford Fusion hybrids as well as two Prius variants, the c and V and the Ford C-Max hybrid. In August the Chevy Volt also joined this group although its year-to-date sales drop it into the third tier.
The third tier is more crowded and is where the most shuffling takes place on a month to month basis. Looking back over the first eight months of the year this group would include the Volt mentioned above, the pure electric Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Sonata Hybrid and Tesla’s Model S. Knocking on the door of this group are a variety of hybrids – The Lexus CT 200h, Kia Optima Hybrid, Lexus ES Hybrid, Malibu Hybrid and Toyota Avalon Hybrid. Of note in this group is the fact that most of them are cars sharing technology with others in their corporate family so the incremental costs of the technology is spread across more platforms. Their sales numbers may not be as critical as what they add to the cumulative totals of hybrid sales for Toyota-Lexus, Hyundai-Kia and General Motors.
Details on sales for the first eight months of the year as well as the month of August (parenthetically) follow. It’s shaping up to be a solid year for these high mpg cars.
1. Toyota Prius – 106,448 – (16,157) The Prius is unchallenged as the leader among all of the alternatives, a mainstream car and something for the rest of this group to aspire to. It captures almost a third of all hybrid sales
Toyota Prius sells in a different level
and is charting among the top 10 selling cars in the overall market.
2. Toyota Camry Hybrid – 32,756 – (4,729 The Camry’s hybrid version is a solid second best among hybrids for the year though in August it dropped to fifth in sales in the group.
3. Volkswagen Jetta TDI – 31,151 – (5,876) The clean diesel standard-bearer is pushing toward the top of the second tier, in August once again second only to the Prius Liftback in sales. It accounts for fully one-third of diesel sales at this point.
4. Toyota Prius c – 29,850 – (5,478) The “baby” Prius continues to attract entry-level hybrid seekers and had a strong August. This smallest, least expensive hybrid in the Toyota lineup helped Toyota to a 1-2-3 podium finish among hybrid sales, Ford is mounting a challenge.
5. Ford Fusion Hybrid – 26,891 – (3,694) The flagship of fuel economy at Ford is leading a challenge by that automaker to Toyota’s dominance of the hybrid segment, although its approach to fuel economy includes also plug-in versions of the Fusion and C-Max, an all-electric Focus and its conventional EcoBoost engines.
6. Toyota Prius V – 25,976 – (3,932) The Prius “wagon” is having a good year, helping Toyota to continue to take four of the top six spots in this survey.
7. Volkswagen Passat TDI – 25,122 – (4,470) The Jetta’s “big brother” had a great August, setting sales records for the TDI version of the midsize model. The two VWs give the company a dominating position in the diesel market similar to Toyota’s with hybrids.
8. Ford C-Max Hybrid – 22,536- (2,411) Ford’s hybrid “wagon,” along with the Prius V, demonstrates that there is a clear demand for more versatility along with good fuel economy. It’s the top-seller among new models for this year.
9. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – 14,354 – (2,303) Hyundai’s hybrid models flies under the radar somewhat, but with the Kia Optima Hybrid using the same technology their combined sales are almost at the Toyota Camry Hybrid level.
10. Chevrolet Volt – 14,994 – (3,351) The Volt had a record August as it dropped prices in the hotly competitive plug-in market. It’s 2014 model will be on sale soon and likely will continue its strong performance.
11. Nissan Leaf – 14,123 – (2,420) A strong August looks to keep the Leaf on track for a good year and just kept it out of the Top 10 by a few hundred sales.
Tesla’s Model S – surprise top seller
12. Tesla Model S – 13,150 – (1,700) Tesla’s pure electric has estimated sales numbers (they release the official ones when they report their quarterly earnings so we should know real numbers in two months), but production has been steadily increasing during the year as the company fills its orders for its expensive, but exquisite sedan and begins ramping up exports. If the production continues to increase, it could potentially move up this survey, though realistically it will remain in the bottom group. It does have the “honor” of being the most expensive car in this list by a good margin.
Bubbling below the Top 10 (or 12 in this case) are several models that help boost hybrid sales. The Toyota Avalon Hybrid, Lexus ES Hybrid, Chevy Malibu Hybrid, Kia Optima Hybrid and Lexus CT 200h Hybrid don’t rack up big numbers, but they add to the strength of the segment – and cumulatively accounted for more than 50,000 additional hybrid sales.
Something to keep an eye on are new models just coming into the market that might make an impact in the second half of the year. The new hybrids include the VW Jetta Hybrid and Audi Q5 Hybrid – new hybrid models for the best-selling cars for those two brands. In the diesel world the big news is the Chevy Cruze Diesel, which went on sale in June and appears to be a slow starter, while a Ram 1500 Diesel pickup and Mazda6 Skyactiv-D Diesel will be out later in the year. Plug-ins will welcome the Chevy Spark EV and Toyota RAV4 EV, both of which are being priced competitively to try to stimulate sales in this portion of the market.
Posted August 8, 2013 (compiled with Hybridcars.com & Automotive News information as reported by manufacturers)
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Prius-Still Leader of the Pack
Well, 2013 is one-third gone, so it’s a good time to see what is working in the marketplace in high MPG cars. Rather than just focus on what was selling well last month (hint: it’s the usual suspects: Prius/Fusion/Prius c/Prius V/Camry/C-Max/Jetta), let’s take a look at the models that are leading the way four months into the new year and also look at how they’re doing compared to last year, since that presents some countervailing trends.
The big news is how these high-MPG segments are doing compared to the overall market. We look at four different segments–hybrids, plug-in electrics (hybrids and pure electrics), diesels and natural gas, the latter of which barely registered in the light-duty car market. Hybrids have been around for more than a dozen years and top 3% of the overall market; diesels came online in 2009 and are still under 1% of the passenger car market while plug-in electrics are just finishing a second year on sale, but have already topped 1/2% with a trajectory that appears to be heading up fast.
Compared to last year, hybrid sales for the first four months are up 12.3%, almost double the overall market’s gain. Plug-ins, as mentioned, are on a tear with 130% growth, but on relatively small numbers. Diesels have taken a dip so far this year, dropping 6.2%, but are expected to rebound when high-volume cars like the Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, Mazda6 SkyActiv-D, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 hit showrooms later this year. Both the hybrid and plug-in electric segments are also adding models as well.
At the one-third of the year mark the sales patterns of the high-MPG models appear to be settling into place. While a couple models have shifted positions up or down from month-to-month, the overall makeup of the Top 10 is relatively stable–and shows a fairly broad representation of technologies. If the list is expanded to the top 15, which is logical based on the relatively close sales numbers, the diversity of the models is even more pronounced.
Sales breakdown in roughly three clusters. The lonely top “cluster” is the traditional Prius model. Even though sales are down compared to last year, it continues to more than triple the sales of the next competitor. Prius, even with a drop in sales can expect to end up the year around 150,000 units.
The second group include seven vehicles with 10-15,000 sales for the first third of the year. This group includes two Prius variants and the Camry Hybrid. Rounding it out are two Ford hybrids and two VW diesels.
The last group is those with 5-10,000 sales during the first quarter. This group includes the hot Tesla Model S, another pure electric, the Nissan Leaf, t plug-in hybrid Volt and hybrids from Chevy, Toyota, Hyundai, Toyota and Lexus.
Details on sales for the first four months of the year follow. As mentioned, because of the closeness of sales numbers, we’ve expanded this Top 10 to include five additional models.
1. Toyota Prius – 47,413 – Even with declining sales, which could be attributed to the other Prius models (c, V & Plug-in) sapping customers for the classic hatchback, the Prius continues to amaze as its sales remain strong and help keep Toyota as the king of hybrids and the go-to car for MPG. The car can be considered a mainstream vehicle and is on track to hit 150,000 units for the year.
2. Toyota Camry Hybrid – 15,691 – The Camry’s hybrid version, with sales basically flat from a year ago, helps to keep Toyota’s dominant position in hybrid sales. The value for Toyota is this iteration of its perennial best-selling is it extends the volume of the Hybrid Synergy system and gives an MPG image-leader for the Camry.
Ford Fusion Hybrid tops non-Toyota vehicle sales
3. Ford Fusion Hybrid – 13,891 – The flagship of fuel economy at Ford is mounting a challenge to the segment leading Camry and leads Ford’s surge in the high-MPG segment (Ford contends its hybrids and plug-in models have taken about 15% of market share from Toyota). The Dearborn-based auto company is serious about fuel economy, whether its hybrids, plug-ins or its Eco-Boost high-efficiency engines now showing up across the board in models from the Fiesta to the F-150. The Fusion’s new look and features have helped propel it into being a true contender in the tough midsize segment along with the perennials–Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Nissan Altima.
4. Toyota Prius c – 13,351 – The “baby” Prius continues to attract entry-level hybrid seekers. This smallest, least expensive hybrid in the Toyota lineup continues to draw more buyers and looks to be on the way to a solid year of sales. Like the Camry Hybrid model, it’s a derivative platform so the hybrid version should just mean incremental sales at relatively low cost.
5. Volkswagen Jetta TDI – 12,762 – The clean diesel standard-bearer rounds out the Top 5, even though its sales, like the Prius are down substantially from last year. Like the Prius, the sales drop could be attributed to a sister model (the Passat TDI) stealing sales that otherwise would have gone to the Jetta. Its sales may be limited by the number of diesel engines Volkswagen can supply to the Mexican plant that builds the Jetta, which could change as the company ramps up production south of the border.
6. Toyota Prius V – 11,897 – The Prius “wagon” has been posting solid sales numbers in the first third of the year and maintains a slim lead over its newer rival, Ford’s C-Max Hybrid in spite a sales drop from last year.
7. Ford C-Max Hybrid – 11,708 – Ford’s hybrid “wagon,” along with the Prius V, demonstrates that there is a clear demand for more versatility along with good fuel economy. Unlike its Toyota rival, the Ford wagon also has an even higher mileage plug-in version, which adds more sales to the platform.
8. Volkswagen Passat TDI – 10,037 – The Jetta’s “big brother” continues to hold a solid second place spot in the clean diesel market, giving VW the domination in the diesel market similar to Toyota’s with hybrids. In the same way Ford is starting to challenge Toyota in hybrids, VW may see some serious competition when the Chevy Cruze and Mazda6 diesels hit the market late in the year.
9. Tesla Model S – 6,850 – This is a big, if pleasant, surprise. The Tesla Model S is the best-selling pure electric and it’s by far the most expensive model among top-MPG vehicles. Tesla has ramped up production and is still filling pre-orders for the Model S (these numbers are a combination of Tesla’s reported sales for the first quarter plus and estimate for April sales), but appears to be on track for delivery of its projected 20,000 units this year.
10. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – 5,703 – Hyundai’s flagship hybrid model (which shares most of its componentry with its sister car, the Kia Optima Hybrid) has snuck into the Top 10 with consistent sales throughout the first part of the year, even though its numbers are down about 16% from last year. The Hyundai has a lower starting price (compared to the similar-size Camry and Fusion hybrids) than some of its competition, but also doesn’t deliver quite as high MPG.
11. Chevrolet Volt – 5,550 – Volt sales are up slightly this year, but not enough to keep it in the Top 10 for the first third of the year. It looks like the plug-in hybrid will deliver a reasonable sales total for the year, although falling substantially below GM’s original sales projections. The company is already starting to talk up its next generation model.
12. Nissan Leaf – 5,476 – A surge in sales as 2013 models with lower prices started shipping out of the company’s Tennessee plant put the Leaf in the Top 10 for the first time this
Nissan Leaf is looking like it will have a big sales year
year last month and probably portends and upward trend for the pure electric model this year. Nissan clearly sees this as the start of a strong year and is putting marketing dollars behind its halo eco model.
13. Toyota Avalon Hybrid – 5,440 – Toyota’s newest hybrid has garnered a solid portion of sales of the recently remodeled Avalon., adding to Toyota’s hybrid arsenal.
14. Lexus ES Hybrid – 5,276 – Like the Avalon, the Lexus ES’ hybrid model is taking a good share of the buyers being drawn to the redesigned model.
15. Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid – 5,145 – The Malibu Hybrid is a bit of a surprise. It’s take-rate among Malibu buyers is lower than expected by GM and sales of the new model overall have been disappointing, but it is still charting and could help raise GM’s profile as a place to find high-MPG vehicles.
While Toyota dominates hybrids (64% of all hybrid sales in April), it is facing a strong challenge from Ford and other companies (GM and Hyundai/Kia in particular) with new models or market advantages. Volkswagen does the same with diesels (84% of all diesel sales in April), but similarly is going to face new challengers later in the year. The plug-in market is much more divided and looks like it will remain so for some time. Nissan, Tesla, GM, Ford and Toyota carve up most of the total sales with the leader seeming to shift every month. It’s a healthy, growing, high-profile though still small market. New models will be coming into the market during the next few months and promise to keep the energy level high.
We’re one-third of the way through the year and the focus on fuel economy remains strong and growing. With some new models here and even more coming, it promises to be an exciting year for high MPG cars.
Posted May 5, 2013 (compiled with Hybridcars.com & Automotive News information as reported by manufacturers)
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