April's alt-fuel sales rose 6.5% from a year earlier

Year-over-year advanced-powertrain sales numbers in the US continued to slow last month as Japanese automakers like Toyota and Honda failed to hit the demand levels seen in 2012.

A surge in Nissan Leaf sales, which helped push plug-in sales up 41 percent from a year earlier, and demand for newer Ford hybrids helped offset the effect of falling Prius sales. Still, advanced-powertrain sales rose just 6.5 percent to 52,671 units in April. Through the first four months of the year, Americans bought just over 200,000 advanced-powertrain vehicles, up 14 percent from a year earlier.

Sales of the Toyota Prius, still the world's best-selling hybrid, continued to plateau.

Sales of the Toyota Prius, still the world's best-selling hybrid, continued to plateau in popularity, as all four of its variants had declining year-over-year sales. Combined, the Prius models moved 19,889 units, down 21 percent from April 2012. The Prius Plug-in Hybrid was hit particularly hard, with sales plunging 64 percent from a year earlier to 599 vehicles. While Lexus hybrid sales climbed 27 percent from a year earlier and the newer Avalon Hybrid moved 1,423 units, Camry Hybrid sales fell 26 percent to 3,257 vehicles. As a whole, Toyota Motor Company sold 28,279 vehicles in April 2013, down 13 percent from the same month in 2012.

On the flipside, Ford's newer C-Max variants and its re-launched Fusion Hybrid helped surge sales for the US automaker. The C-Max Hybrid and C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV) sold 3,197 and 411 units, respectively, while Fusion Hybrid sales more than quadrupled from a year earlier to 3,625 vehicles. The Fusion Energi PHEV sold 364 units, while the Lincoln MKZ hybrid more than doubled year-earlier sales to 884 units. In all, Ford boosted alt-fuel sales more than sixfold to 8,628 vehicles.

Nissan also did well, with last month's sales of 1,937 Leaf battery-electric vehicles representing the second-best ever (to March's 2,236) and almost quadrupling year-earlier figures.

Still, things were pretty tepid for the rest of the automakers. General Motors' advanced-powertrain sales last month fell 10 percent from a year earlier to 4,051 vehicles. Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in sales declined 11 percent to 1,306 units, while sales of the Buick LaCrosse mild hybrid and GM's hybrid SUVs and pickups were down 43 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

Honda Insight sales plunged 47 percent.

Honda continued to lag year-earlier numbers, with advanced powertrain sales dropping 13 percent from April 2012 to 1,596 vehicles. While the recently introduced Accord PHEV and Acura ILX Hybrid moved 55 and 1,523 units, respectively, sales of the Civic Hybrid and CR-Z each fell more than 20 percent from a year earlier, while Insight sales plunged 47 percent.

As for the Germans, Volkswagen diesel sales dropped 8.7 percent to 7,301 units, while Europe's biggest automaker sold 353 Jetta Hybrids. Audi diesel sales declined 46 percent to just 348 vehicles. Porsche hybrid sales dropped 61 percent from a year earlier to just 51 vehicles.

Finally, Mitsubishi sales of its i EV jumped 61 percent from a year earlier. That sounds high, but it's just 127 vehicles despite aggressive discounts on the all-electric model.