Winners and Losers from a Half-Year of Ups and Downs
We’re in a whole new game for those looking for an alternative to gasoline-powered transportation. The first half of 2015 paints a complex picture of where the market is heading.
Hybrids, the high-mileage darlings of the 1990s, are proliferating in number of models, but sales of the segment overall are dropping. Pure electrics and plug-in hybrids are adding models and gaining market share, but working off of low numbers and not hitting a consistent mark. Diesels are outpacing the market in growth, but mainly on the strength of truck and SUV models.
The good news is the choices out there are more plentiful and better than ever—the Top 10 only skims the surface of the 95 models out there. The number of EV, plug-in hybrid, hybrid and clean
diesel models continues to grow. You could even argue that a high-mileage gas car may give you a better $/mile efficiency than some of the more exotic hardware and plenty of choices are available there as well. State and federal Incentives are still out there for many advanced technology models and automakers are not being shy about adding their own spiffs at the dealer level to keep moving models out of the showroom.
As usual, a tip of the hat to Jeff Cobb at hybridcars.com and Baum & Associates, who crunch the numbers each month.
Before we dive into some Top 10 lists, let’s look at the big picture. Was it a good year for our favorite vehicles? The overall auto market has done well, up 4.4 percent from a solid 2014 with sales clocking in at 8.49 million vehicles. Double that and you’re looking at an almost 17 million unit year, but second half sales don’t always work that way so we’ll need to see how things shake out. Overall, though, no one in the auto industry is complaining so far.
On the alternative side, the picture is not so smooth. Hybrids continue a slide that started last year, down 18 percent but still the volume leader among alternative technologies. Diesels flat in sales compared to last year, which also was a flat year for them (of course these sales numbers don’t include the popular heavy-duty pickups, a segment dominated by diesels). Pure electric cars are having a solid year as new models are added and some older ones drop off. Plug-in hybrids are off, but hopeful a couple refreshed models (Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius) will reinvigorate the segment. Here are the charts for January-June 2015:
Hybrids 46 models Sales=190,970 down 18% compared to 2014
Plug-in Hybrids 9 models Sales=18,509 down 36.5%
Battery Electrics 13 models Sales=35,435 up 26.3%
Diesels 27 models Sales=89,180 down 0.4%
The total tally for these four segments (throw in a couple hundred CNG Honda Civics if you’d like) is just under 335,000 or about four percent of the overall market. Fuel economy and reduced petroleum consumption appears to remain high on the agenda of a good-size group of consumers.
Our Top 10 for the year so far in sales has a familiar feel to it, but some of the players have shifted positions this time around. We’ve linked to our road tests of the vehicles where available.
Top 10 Best MPG Cars
- Toyota Prius – The Prius in its traditional form continues to lead the high-MPG world in sales, appearing to be on the way to another 100,000+ sales year, clocking in at 54,173 for the first half of the year.
- Ram 1500 EcoDiesel – A newcomer to these charts is half-ton Ram pickup, which has been a strong seller since its introduction. It ended the first half of the year with 29,658 units sold.
- Toyota Prius c – The “baby” Prius continues a strong performance as the quartet bearing the Prius brand (the original Prius liftback, the c, the V and the plug-in Prius) remain the most visible symbol of a fuel-economy focused automobile and have the numbers to back up their image. The c sold 18,921 vehicles in the first six months of the year.
- Toyota Camry Hybrid – The hybrid variation of the strong-selling Camry midsize sedan has always sold well and continues to hold a spot in the Top 10, selling 15,571 models during the first half of 2015.
- Toyota Prius V – Closing out four of the top five spots for Toyota is the wagon version of the Prius, reinforcing a concern for functionality along with a desire for fuel economy. The V sold 14,165 cars from January to June.
- Ford Fusion Hybrid – Ford has been charging hard into the fuel economy space and making a name for itself with EcoBoost engines, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and full electric cars. The Fusion Hybrid is the bestseller of the group, moving 12,683 units in the first half of the year.
- Tesla Model S – The big Tesla sedan continue to add U.S. sales while also expanding overseas. New variations on the full electric car, including an all-wheel drive model and some performance enhancements, appear to be keeping sales up. Tesla sold 11,900 Model S during this time frame.
- Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – The Korean automaker has moved up methodically in the rankings as the hybrid model of its strong-selling Sonata midsize sedan hit 11,838 in sales from January to June. A little further down the ranks the sister car to the Sonata, the Kia Optima Hybrid, has also been selling well.
- Volkswagen Passat TDI – VW’s midsize sedan has passed up its compact brother to take the lead in diesel segment sales. In spite of a sluggish year for VW sales and diesel as well, the Passat TDI clocked 11,746 models sold in the first half of the year.
- Volkswagen Jetta TDI – The traditional leader of the diesel segment dropped notch while still selling 11,692 units in this period. The switch of the Sportwagen model to the Golf brand may have contributed to knocking it out of its leadership position.
While we’ve called out the Top 10, we should also mention some models just bubbling under that deserve some attention, particularly as we look forward to a changing landscape where electrics and plug-in hybrids become more readily available.
the Chevy Volt, rounds out that group of five. In the next batch are the VW Golf TDI, which is surging in sales this year, the BMW i3 (available in both pure electric and range-extended electric versions) and the Ford Fusion Enegri, the plug-in version of Ford’s midsize sedan.
It would be hard to go wrong with any of the cars on this list, although you do have to factor in your individual life situation to make sure the technology fits your needs.
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