Despite a few standouts, sales of ‘green’ cars for 2013 weren’t quite up to par with 2012, and ultimately posted a decline of about 12 percent year-over-year, while the industry at large managed to grow at a decent clip. Strong sales of alternative-powertrain vehicles — hybrids, diesels, and plug-in electric vehicles — in late 2012 made for some tough comparisons this time around.
On the positive end, Nissan’s (NSANY.PK) Leaf had a record setting December, moving 2,529 models — a 70 percent surge over December of 2012. Honda’s various hybrid models all showed relative growth as well, though none of them in high enough volume to make the list of the top ten best sellers for the year. However, Toyota’s Prius — while still the most popular hybrid on the market — lost some momentum throughout 2013, as sales for the Prius family slid 1.03 percent year-on-year. The Chevrolet Volt, also a perennial favorite, struggled to keep its numbers in the green, and saw a sales decline of 1.58 percent over 2012.
Nonetheless, the market for fuel-efficient vehicles as a whole seems to be faring quite well as prices decline, and EV and diesel infrastructures see greater adoption. Here are the best-selling ‘green’ vehicles from 2013, based on data from Autoblog Green. Notably, the Tesla Model S is not included on the ranking, as it does not disclose monthly or annual figures. Additionally, sales for information for certain cars have been lumped in as a group; for example, the Toyota Prius Family includes the liftback, the Prius c, and the Prius v. Volkswagen TDI covers all models sporting VW’s diesel engines.
10. Chevrolet Malibu with eAssist
Coming in at number ten, Chevrolet’s Malibu with the ‘mild-hybrid’ option sold 13,779 units during 2013, though it amounted to a 17.29 percent decrease over 2012. The Malibu uses an electric motor to replace the conventional alternator, which gives the car some hybrid-like properties and helps efficiency. However, there is chatter that the 2014 Malibu won’t have the option, as it is reportedly being replaced by the Malibu Eco.
9. Toyota Avalon Hybrid
Toyota’s full size hybrid sedan, the Avalon, moved 16,468 units during the year, enough for ninth place on the green best-selling list. The Avalon — which is Toyota’s largest sedan — uses a system similar to that found in the Prius to move the car around while achieving a combined 40 miles per gallon.
8. Nissan Leaf
The venerable Nissan Leaf is coming off one of its best years yet, and is showing that if the price is right, buyers will be more than willing to put down for an electric car. Nissan sold 22,610 Leafs for the year, ranking it at eight overall; however, it’s more than likely that the Leaf was the best-selling pure-electric car for 2013.
7. Chevrolet Volt
Like Nissan, General Motors has found that lowering the price of its green car has yielded a spark in demand. The Volt moved 23,094 units during 2013, and although it didn’t quite match 2012, it shows that there is prolonged interest in Chevy’s plug-in hybrid, which can travel nearly 40 miles before even using a drop of gasoline.
6. Ford C-Max
The Ford C-Max proved to remain a popular car even after a small debacle with the EPA, which asserted that the fuel consumption numbers for the C-Max were overshot. Ford still managed to sell 28,056 C-Max vehicles, and closer to 35,000 if the Energi models (the plug-in hybrid variants) are accounted for, despite having their EPA ratings downgraded back in August.
5. Ford Fusion Hybrid
Ford’s Fusion Hybrid has been the spearhead of Ford’s hybrid program, and remains razor sharp as it sold 37,270 units during 2013. The inclusion of the Energi plug-in model adds 6,089 more units to that figure; Ford’s Fusion offers about 47 miles per gallon combined, which ranks it near the top of its class for economy.
4. Lexus Hybrids
All told, Lexus sold 43,582 hybrid models, spanning the RX, CT (pictured), ES, GS, and LS model lines. The company as a whole sold enough hybrid models to rank number four for 2013; the more frugal CT offers in excess of 40 miles per gallon combined, while in the luxurious LS sedan, the hybrid system is likely more for smoother performance than meaningful fuel savings.
3. Toyota Camry Hybrid
The Camry managed to take the best-selling car of 2013 seat, so it’s none too surprising that its hybrid model was a best seller as well. Its 200 horsepower makes the Camry the most powerful hybrid sedan in its class, though it’s not quite as efficient as the Fusion. Toyota sold 44,448 Camry Hybrid models for the year to round out the top three.
2. Volkswagen TDI
Collectively, Volkswagen’s diesel range — consisting of the Jetta, Golf, Passat, and Toureg — sold 95,823 units, a number that even surprised the VW execs. Though they do not use battery packs or electric motors, diesel vehicles still offer an impressive return for fuel economy; many of VW’s models can average in the mid-40s on the highway and throughout the 30s in urban driving. As auto makers produce more cars that adhere to the U.S. emissions standards, diesel has started to catch on quite quickly.
1. Toyota Prius
It’s not exactly a surprise, but the Toyota Prius and its family — the c, the v, and the plug-in variant — were the best selling green nameplate for 2013, despite a 1 percent or so dip compared to 2012. Cumulatively, the Prius range sold 234,228 units, the bulk of which – 145,172 — was made up by the standard liftback model pictured above.