Electric Cars, Plug-in Hybrids, Diesels Lead the New Year Charge
The year is half-over, so it’s time to tally up the winners and losers of the first six months of 2014 among alternatives to gas-only vehicles. Overall, the year has been a good one for the automotive market and generally the alternatives – diesels, plug-in hybrids and pure electric cars – have been outpacing the market. The big question mark is the hybrid market. But the Top 10 mpg cars for the first half of the year are fairly consistent.
For the past decade and a half this has been the first stop for folks looking for better fuel economy in their vehicles. Built on the outstanding reputation and mpg of the Toyota Prius, this market segment now has 43 vehicles contributing to its sales total. While hybrids still take more than 3 percent of the total car market, their total sales of 232,788 for the first half of 2014 is down almost 10 percent compared to last year.
You might speculate that buyers are opting for diesels, plug-in hybrids or pure EVs – all of whose sales are outpacing the overall market – but the numbers don’t add up. We’ve also seen stories in the past about Toyota Prius buyers (who still constitute a
sizeable percentage of hybrid buyers – 27 percent for the original liftback alone, 42 percent for the three Prius-badged vehicles and 66.75 percent if you look at the overall Toyota-Lexus brands) lacking loyalty to the brand, so that may be part of the decline. In addition, there are more choices out there – among hybrids, among alternative options like plug-ins and diesels and among traditional gas-powered cars that are now turning in fuel economy that challenges that offered only by hybrids in the past. What is clear is that the overall fleet fuel economy numbers keep going up so buyers are choosing more fuel efficient vehicles than the ones they previously owned, but that is not necessarily taking them to hybrids.
All in all, it’s a phenomenon that bears watching. In the meantime, our Top 10 mpg of sales are still dominated by hybrids.
Here’s a standing at the half-year market for various alternative categories:
- Hybrids were down 9.7 percent compared to January-June 2013
- Plug-in hybrids were up 58.9 percent
- Diesels were up 25 percent
- Pure battery electrics were up 12.5 percent
Other interesting observations from this first half of 2014 include a strong showing by Ford’s plug-in hybrids and regular hybrids in spite of having to restate their fuel economy numbers downward. Finally, it should be noted that some of the Top 10 mpg contenders are holding their positions in spite of declining sales compared to last year. Six of 10 have lower sales than last year. The exceptions are the Ford Fusion Hybrid, VW Passat TDI, Nissan Leaf and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.
Other insights from six months of sales:
- Porsche’s Panamera Plug-in Hybrid is outselling Cadillac’s ELR.
- BMW’s i3 appears to be ramping up sales quickly.
- The Chevy Cruze Turbo Diesel appears stuck around number seven in diesel sales, outpaced by more expensive sedans and SUVs from BMW and Audi.
Top 10 MPG Sales January-June 2014
On top of the group – always – is the Toyota Prius, well on its way to another solid year even with the drop-off in sales compared to last year. Most of the rest of the Top 10 are regulars, but represent the diversity that characterizes the 21st century automotive market – hybrids, diesels, battery electrics and plug-in hybrids all have representatives. In the chart below we’ve listed the sales for the first half of 2014 with the 2013 numbers in parentheses. We’ve also provided links to detailed road tests of the featured vehicles.
1. Toyota Prius – 63,037 – (76,809) The Prius is unchallenged as the leader among all of the alternatives, a mainstream car that ranks up with the best selling standard cars. But it is overdue for a remake and may be suffering in the market for that reason.
2. Toyota Camry Hybrid – 21,771 – (23,834) The Camry’s hybrid version’s sales have also slipped, but it remains where people turn when they want a hybrid.
3. Ford Fusion Hybrid – 20,800 – (20,283) Ford’s flagship hybrid is nipping at its rival Camry Hybrid’s heels and has even
outsold several months this year. The “restatement” of its fuel economy ratings has not seem to have negatively affected its sales.
4. Toyota Prius c – 20,283 – (20,575) The “baby” Prius continues to attract entry-level hybrid seekers and had a strong first half, with its sales dropping only slightly from last year.
5. Volkswagen Jetta TDI – 19,344 – (20,454) The clean diesel standard-bearer continues to slot itself right alongside hybrid competitors, even with a drop in sales compared to last year. Along with the Passat TDI, they account for more than have of all diesel sales at this point.
6. Volkswagen Passat TDI – 17,180 – (16,655) The Jetta’s midsize “big brother” has put a push on its sales in 2014, surpassing sales records for the TDI version set last year.
7. Toyota Prius V – 14,481 – (18,616) The Prius “wagon” is having a tough year so far, dropping even more in sales than the Prius Liftback, but still maintaining a good position in the overall sales chart and beating its main rival, the Ford C-Max Hybrid.
8. Nissan Leaf– 12,736 – (9,839) Nissan’s pure electric car continues to benefit from strong word-of-mouth and a price drop earlier in the year from a shift of most production to the U.S. It has been setting sales records and appears to have established itself as the lead pure-electric choice.
9. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – 11,349 – (9,851) Call it the stealth hybrid. Hyundai’s hybrid models flies under the radar somewhat, but has had a great first quarter maintaining a position it moved into last year. With the Kia Optima Hybrid using the same technology the combined sales from the Korean manufacturer have moved into the same realm as the Toyota Camry Hybrid and Ford Fusion Hybrid.
10. Ford C-Max Hybrid – 9,522 – (17,858) Ford’s hybrid wagon is coming off a strong initial year so year-to-year numbers don’t look great, but being back in the Top 10 after languishing earlier in the year is a good sign.
I know it’s a Top 10, but the next five models are very interesting and their numbers are quite close to those on the lowest rungs of the Top 10.
11. Toyota Prius Plug-In – 9,300 – (4,214) Toyota’s plug-in version of the Prius is bubbling just under the Top 10 after a very strong first half of 2014. Evidently perks such as HOV-lane access added to Prius’ reputation for reliability and fuel efficiency are landing some new friends. Or that may be where some of the Prius Liftback sales are going (it is almost enough to account for the drop).
12. Chevy Volt – 8,615 – (9,855) Volt’s sales are down so far this year, but it continues to draw attention with its range-extender approach to plugging in. When we tested it recently we thought it might be Chevy’s best bargain.
13. Lexus CT 200h Hybrid– 8,337 – (7,552) A redesign of Lexus’ small hybrid appears to have revived its sales and bumps it
close to the Top 10 for this half of the year. It’s taken over the lead as the best-seller among Lexus’ five hybrid models.
14. Tesla Model S – 8,200 – (9,900) 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 continues at a high level, but the shift of sales to Europe and soon Asia (as well as a potential saturation of the U.S. market) is affecting 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.
15. Toyota Avalon Hybrid – 8,099 – (8,348) We drove Toyota’s full-size hybrid recently and now understand why it has elbowed its way onto the charts. Despite its size, it delivers excellent fuel economy and feels like a luxury car.
Other similar stories you might like:
Ford Restates MPG On 6 Cars
The Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy–Finally
10 Best Fuel Economy Cars for 2014
The Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars of 2013