The new year started off with a bang – overall car and truck sales were up more than 14 percent compared to January 2012. High mileage hybrids, plug-ins and diesels also had a good month to begin the year, bettering the high bar set by the overall market. Hybrids pushed past 3 percent of the total market, close to the categories high-water mark. Here are the top 10 best sellers in these categories with some background as to how the market is going:
1. Toyota Prius – 9,685 – the old standby still rules. Even with newer Prius models and a host of competitors on the market, the basic Prius liftback is still far and away the biggest seller in the segment with more than double the numbers of the next contender.
2. Toyota Camry Hybrid – 3,826 – on the market almost as long as the Prius, it remains a solid #2 player.
3. Ford Fusion Hybrid – 3,043 – coming up quickly on the Camry. Ford is making inroads in the hybrid market with the Fusion leading the way. It has fresher and sportier styling than the Camry and appears to be finding good response in the market.
4. Toyota Prius c – 2,691 – the “baby” Prius. This smaller model appeals to price-sensitive customers looking for the lowest-cost hybrid. And it carries the Toyota Prius name.
5. Volkswagen Jetta TDI – 2,690 – the clean diesel standard-bearer. As the VW brand grows, this model could move up. It outsold the hybrid Jetta by more than 11:1.
6. Toyota Prius V – 2,522 – the Prius “wagon” continues to post good numbers.
8. Volkswagen Passat TDI – 1,770 – the Jetta’s big brother continues in its #2 role among diesels.
9. Lexus ES Hybrid – 1,324 – one of the newer hybrid models offers more luxury than its Toyota cousins.
10. Hyundai Sonata Hybrid – 1,192 – along with the sister Kia Optima hybrid, the Sonata keeps posting solid sales numbers.
Bubbling just below the Top 10 is the Chevy Volt plug-in (or extended range as GM likes to describe it) hybrid with 1,140 sales last month. These three categories totaled 46,587, which, if it carries through the year, would mean more than a half million sales of high mileage cars this year. There are now more than 40 hybrid models on the market, 12 plug-in vehicles with variable availability and 15 diesel models. And that doesn’t factor in the high-mileage conventional gasoline models that are also proliferating.
Of course projecting what the year-end total might be also can’t account for unknown factors such as whether the Nissan Leaf’s expanded U.S. production and lowered prices push its sales up, whether Tesla’s planned Model S production increases actually take place or whether new diesel models like the Chevy Cruze, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 spur more interest in their category. Where gas prices go this year (as in how high) will also be a factor.
But high-mileage cars are off to a good start for the year and automakers are doing their best to keep sales moving with incentives such as lease deals and low-interest loans. It could be a very good year.
Posted Feb. 16, 2013