When it came to January alt-fuel sales, there was Toyota, and then there was everyone else.
While the world's biggest maker of hybrids appeared to get back on track and get its supply chain in order after last year's Japan tsunami hampered production, most advanced-powertrain models other automakers sold in the U.S. experienced a substantial dropoff despite the fact that gas prices were up about 10 percent from a year earlier.
Toyota, whose Prius generally accounts for about half of the hybrids sold in the U.S., sold 11,555 units of the model, up 8.7 percent from a year earlier after sales fell 3.2 percent for all of 2011. Meanwhile, Toyota, which didn't disclose figures for any other individual hybrid models, boosted sales of its non-Prius hybrids by 54 percent from a year earlier to 3,087 vehicles, indicating that buyers appear to be taking to the Camry Hybrid that debuted late last year. And Toyota's Lexus luxury badge increased January sales by 60 percent to 1,963 vehicles, likely a reflection of demand for the Lexus CT 200h hatchback that launched last year.
Other automakers weren't so fortunate.
Other automakers weren't so fortunate. Honda, whose 2011 hybrid sales fell 5.9 percent from a year earlier, continued to see lagging demand for its models. January hybrid sales plunged 58 percent from a year earlier to just 1,304 vehicles, with Honda's best-selling hybrid – the Insight – moving just 492 vehicles. The Honda CR-Z sport-coupe hybrid had a 59 percent drop in sales to 363 vehicles, while the Honda Civic Hybrid sales fell 31 percent.
Meanwhile, Ford didn't fare much better, taking a 35 percent hit in hybrid sales from a year earlier to 1,209 vehicles in January. The U.S. automaker, which will start selling the Ford Focus Electric this year, saw all three of its hybrids – the Escape, the Fusion and the Lincoln MKZ – have sales declines north of 30 percent.
The only other bright spots, aside from Toyota, were General Motors and Nissan. Nissan, whose Altima and Infiniti M-Series Hybrids sell in very limited numbers, boosted January sales of its battery-electric Leaf almost sevenfold from a year earlier to 676 vehicles.
The only other bright spots, aside from Toyota, were General Motors and Nissan.
GM also boosted alt-fuel sales from a combination of more demand for the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in, and from sales of the new Buick LaCrosse eAssist. The latter model moved 803 vehicles and accounted for about 20 percent of all LaCrosses sold in January, while the Volt almost doubled year-earlier sales to 603 vehicles.
Still, a closer look indicates a potential tapering off in interest for some electric-drive technology, at least for now. Leaf sales fell 29 percent from the 954 vehicles sold in December, which may just as well reflect the overall drop in car sales between January and December (Prius sales in January were down 32 percent from a month earlier). Volt sales, on the other hand, plunged 61 percent from December, which was a monthly record for the vehicle. And the Mitsubishi i battery-electric vehicle, which debuted in the U.S. in November, moved just 36 units last month, less than half of the 76 vehicles sold in December.
As for diesel-powered models sold by German automakers, the results were split. Volkswagen in January boosted diesel-vehicle sales by 30 percent from a year earlier to 4,789 units, while Audi's diesel sales fell 10 percent from a year earlier to 703 vehicles.
|BRAND/COMPANY||Vol%||Jan. 2012||Jan. 2011||Vol%||YTD2012||YTD2011|
|Ford Motor Co.|
|Ford Escape Hybrid||-33.65%||345||520||-33.65%||345||520|
|Ford Fusion Hybrid||-36.95%||611||969||-36.95%||611||969|
|Lincoln MKZ Hybrid||-31.62%||253||370||-31.62%||253||370|
|FORD MOTOR TOTAL||-34.97%||1,209||1,859||-34.97%||1,209||1,859|
|Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid||na||na||na||na|
|Buick Regal Hybrid||na||na||na||na|
|Buick LaCrosse Hybrid||803||0||802.6||0|
|Cadillac Escalade Hybrid||na||na||na||na|
|Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid||na||na||na||na|
|Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Hybrid/GMC Sierra 1500 Hybrid||-84.48%||9||58||-84.48%||9||58|
|GM ALT-FUEL TOTAL||273.25%||1415||379||273.25%||1415||379|
|Nissan North America|
|AUDI DIESEL TOTALS||-10.07%||703||782||-10.07%||703||782|
|Kia Optima Hybrid||na||na||na||na|
|Hyundai Sonata Hybrid||na||na||na||na|
|Toyota Motor Co.|
|All other Toyota hybrids||54.33%||3,087||2,000||54.33%||3,087||2,000|
|TOYOTA MOTOR TOTAL||19.80%||16,605||13,861||19.80%||16,605||13,861|
|Porsche Cayenne S Hybrid||-36.36%||112||176||-36.36%||112||176|
|Porsche Panamera Hybrid||na||39||0||na||39||0|
|Honda Civic Hybrid||-31.24%||449||653||-31.24%||449||653|
|AMERICAN HONDA TOTAL||-57.95%||1,304||3,101||-57.95%||1,304||3,101|