Top 10 Best-Selling High-MPG Cars in May 2013



2013 Prius – King of the MPG Hill

The automotive year 2013 appears to be hitting its stride, setting sales marks that will mark it as a good year, one that showed the resilience of the industry and the market. A footnote to the year will be sales of high MPG cars as the industry climbs back to pre-recession sales numbers in the U.S. The models that consumers turn to for good fuel economy are hybrids, diesels and plug-in vehicles of two types (pure electrics and plug-in hybrids). Except for diesels, which appear to be in a lull awaiting some new models, the hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure electrics are outpacing a strong overall market.

A couple models are becoming established as the leaders in their categories while the overall mix of the top 10 best sellers has shifted month-to-month. The bottom line is that consumers have a great variety of powertrains, vehicle configurations and fuel choices and they are making those choices. Other than the basic Prius model, which has been on the market for more than a dozen years and retains its well-deserved image as the poster child of high-MPG, the variety of vehicles that end up on the best seller list as impressive as their fuel economy numbers.

The snapshot of May’s sales finds what are now becoming the usual suspects continuing to dominate the market (though the order shifts month-to-month). The same ten vehicles that are the best-sellers this month are also the best sellers for the first five months of the year.

The big sales news for high-MPG cars is that the segments appear to be gaining momentum. Toyota, the hybrid leader, has made it clear they expect sales of their high-mileage models to increase for the year even though they got off to a slow start.  With new models being introduced from Audi and Chevrolet and more coming from Jeep, Ram and Mazda, diesel will certainly pick up its numbers. Plug-in cars continue to tear it up in the marketplace, posting triple digit increases compared to last year.

Next month we’ll be able to look back over a half-year’s sales and confirm what we’re already seeing –the available models for high-MPG cars are increasing and have taken hold among consumers. Check out the tally at this point: Consumers can choose among about 40 hybrid models, 15 diesels and a dozen plug-ins. As sales continue to move up, it’s clear that buyers are not intimidated by the variety of choice.    Compared to this month last year, hybrid sales are up 14 percent (and 16 percent for the first five months of the year; diesels are up 11 percent for the month but down 5 percent for the year so far; and the stars, plug-ins, are up 8.6 percent for the month but a whopping 125 percent for the year (albeit against a start-up year where they posted small numbers).

Details on sales for the month of May follow. Parenthetically, we have noted the sales order of the models looking at the first five month of the year.

1. Toyota Prius – 15,330 – (1. for the first five months of the year) Prius sales went up this month even though there are no serious challengers in the high-MPG world. Prius now has its sights on establishing itself among the conventional models.

2. Toyota Camry Hybrid – 4,265 – (2) The Camry’s hybrid version saw sales pick up compared to a year ago, helping to keep Toyota in a dominant position in hybrid sales.

3. Toyota Prius c – 3,782 – (4) The “baby” Prius continues to attract entry-level hybrid seekers. This smallest, least expensive hybrid in the Toyota lineup had a great month.

4. Volkswagen Jetta TDI – 3,752 – (5) The clean diesel standard-bearer had a good month, landing as it has consistently during the year in the top 5 high-MPG models.

5. Toyota Prius V – 3,732 – (6) The Prius “wagon” has a good month as Toyota took the top four spots in this survey.

6. Ford Fusion Hybrid – 3,335 – (3) The flagship of fuel economy at Ford is mounting a challenge to the segment leading Camry and even though it had a down month, leads the two Prius models that finished above it this month.

7. Ford C-Max Hybrid – 3,261 – (7) Ford’s hybrid “wagon,” along with the Prius V, demonstrates that there is a clear demand for more versatility along with good fuel economy.

8. Volkswagen Passat TDI – 2,797 – (8) 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.

9. Nissan Leaf – 2,138 – (10) The top-selling pure electric continues to have a good year with lower prices spurring more sales.

10. Tesla Model S – 2,000 – (9) Tesla’s pure electric has estimated sales numbers, but overall has been a strong seller this year as production appears to be moving along at a solid pace and the cars are becoming a more common sight in Silicon Valley.

Bubbling below the Top 10 are several models that help boost hybrid sales. The Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, Toyota Avalon Hybrid, Lexus ES Hybrid, Chevy Malibu Hybrid and Lexus CT 200h Hybrid don’t rack up big numbers, but they add to the strength of the segment. The Chevy Volt has had up and down sales months but also appears to be heading to a solid sales year.

Posted June 27, 2013 (compiled with & Automotive News information as reported by manufacturers)

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About Author: Michael Coates

is editor and publisher 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 The Enthusiast Network), 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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