At a glance, the news about U.S. green car sales in September doesn’t look so hot. The roster of diesel, hybrid, and electric vehicles on sale in America slumped nearly 10 percent on the month compared to the 2013 stats. Digging deeper, the sales of plug-in EVs actually grew by 10 percent, continuing the huge year for the industry segment that through September is up 39 percent in 2014.
Zeroing in further, the green car industry was largely propped up by seven vehicles in September. (As always, Tesla does not factor into these roundups because they do not break out monthly U.S. sales. The Tesla Model S remains on a roll.) Here are the seven stars that salvaged a month of mixed results for hybrid and EV sales.
7. Toyota Prius V
All told, the September narrative for Toyota Prius was that of a slump. Plug-in models plummeted 69 percent, leaving the nameplate down 10 percent on the month (year-over-year). The Prius V kept that number from getting ugly by posting a 13 percent sales gain (2,746 units total) over the previous year’s numbers. For the big picture, Toyota moved 14,277 models of the Prius, continuing its domination of the industry on the whole.
6. Buick LaCrosse eAssist
The General Motors green car lineup took a slight beating in September with a 33 percent drop over the prior year’s stats. Chevy Volt (down 21 percent) and the low-volume Chevy Spark EV (down 35 percent) were a few of the casualties. On the bright side, the Buick LaCrosse eAssist mild hybrid caught a bit of fire and moved 587 units on the month. While not a huge number in volume, it was the second-best-selling GM green car and a 39 percent improvement over September 2013. That’s worth something in a down month.
5. Ford Focus
Still unable to rack up volume sales, the Ford Focus Electric took a step back after a great showing in August 2014. September sales flattened out from 264 models to 176 units of the electrified Focus. While that was a month-to-month drop, the September stats did represent a 60 percent improvement over the prior year’s sales. Ford’s popular Fusion hybrid and plug-in hybrid EV dropped on a double-digit scale compared to 2013 numbers, but Ford overall is posting an improvement of 3 percent over the automaker’s 2013 green car sales.
4. Honda Accord Hybrid
While the Accord hybrid carries a higher price tag than some midsize competitors, its stellar fuel economy is worth the premium to many buyers. In a down month for nearly every Honda green car, the Accord hybrid shot the brand into the positive side of the ledger with 1,095 units sold. There were none on the market the previous year, so there is no comparison to make for 2013, but it showed the midsize hybrid has staying power in a market that has become more fickle about hybrids and diesels.
3. BMW i3
After exploding in August — when it nearly tripled its average monthly sales — the BMW i3 made another strong showing in September with 1,022 units sold in the U.S. That news was certainly welcome news in the BMW camp, but the arrival of the sexy i8 plug-in supercar was another noteworthy event for the luxury brand. BMW managed to move 58 units of the pricey ($136,650) i8 in its first full month on the market. Doesn’t sound like much, does it? For a bit of perspective, that’s 6 more units than GM sold of the Cadillac ELR (52 units) in September.
2. Toyota Avalon Hybrid
Yes, there is a Toyota Avalon hybrid on the market, and the full-size sedan did quite well for the automaker in September. Toyota managed to move 1,437 units of the Avalon hybrid on the month, representing a 30 percent gain over its sales stats from September 2013. Furthermore, the Avalon total was more than four times what the Prius plug-in model sold (353) in September. That makes the full-size hybrid a bona fide star for Toyota when reviewing its green car roster. No wonder the automaker is not bullish on plug-in EVs.
1. Nissan Leaf
As Auto Blog Green noted in its September sales roundup, every month is a “best month ever” for the Nissan Leaf. In September, 2,881 Leafs sold in the U.S., a record for any September of the EV’s past (as was August, July, and each of the past 19 months). Getting back to September, Nissan posted 47.5 percent sales gains with the Leaf compared to its 2013 numbers.
Nissan is putting up impressive numbers on the year as well. Through the first nine months of 2014, Leaf sales are up 36 percent with 21,822 units sold in the U.S. Good news came from Nissan corporate headquarters as well. Renault-Nissan Motors CEO Carlos Ghosn recently said the Leaf has been doing so well it is almost profitable for the automaker. Stop the presses, EV fans.