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Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars of 2013

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.

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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.

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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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The Top 10 Electric Cars You Can Buy–Finally

Electric Car Price Wars

10 Best Fuel Economy Cars for 2014

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About Author: Michael Coates

is editor at Clean Fleet Report and an internationally recognized expert in the field of automotive environmental issues. He has been an automotive editor and writer for more than three decades. His media experience includes Petersen Publishing (now part of Source Interlink), Green Car Journal, trade magazines, newspaper and television news reporting. He currently serves on the Board of the Western Automotive Journalists.

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