US green car sales in May jump 30% from a year earlier

Were American's going through hybrid withdrawal? That's a question worth asking after US advanced-powertrain sales jumped in May following a few months of relatively tepid demand.

Plug-in vehicle sales rose even faster, at a 69 percent clip, to 5,694 vehicles (not including the Tesla Model S, which we can only guess at).

Last month's US sales of hybrids, battery-electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and diesels jumped 30 percent from May 2012 numbers to more than 60,000, perhaps because Americans are gearing up for higher summer gas prices by buying more fuel efficient cars. Plug-in vehicle sales rose even faster, at a 69 percent clip, to 5,694 vehicles, and that's not including the Tesla Model S, which sold about 1,600 units a month during the first quarter but since Tesla doesn't release monthly figures, we can only guess what it sold in May.

Hybrid leader Toyota appeared to regain its footing as year-over-year Prius sales rose 9.5 percent to almost 23,522 vehicles on increased demand for the standard hatchback, C and V variants. While Camry Hybrid sales fell 3.1 percent, the newer Avalon Hybrid moved 1,514 vehicles while Lexus hybrid sales jumped 52 percent. Overall, Toyota's advanced-powertrain sales hit 33,922 units.

Nissan and Ford also came up big both on the plug-in and hybrid fronts.

Nissan and Ford also came up big both on the plug-in and hybrid fronts. Nissan's Leaf battery-electric had its second-best month ever, more than quadrupling year-earlier sales to 2,138 vehicles. Ford went one better by boosting sales sixfold to 8,334 units on a combination of its newer C-Max models and a fourfold jump in Fusion Hybrid sales to 3,335 vehicles. The C-Max Hybrid moved 3,261 vehicles, while the C-Max and Fusion Plug-ins sold 450 and 416 units, respectively. The Lincoln MKZ hybrid increased sales 49 percent from a year earlier to 715 units, while the Ford Focus Electric moved 157 vehicles.

And even Honda joined in on the fun, increasing year-over-year alt-fuel sales by 9.1 percent to 1,691 units. The CR-Z increased sales 44 percent to 427 vehicles, while the Acura ILX Hybrid saw sales jump almost sixfold to 195 units. Those gains offset the 19 percent drop in Civic Hybrid sales and the 17 percent decline in Insight sales. Additionally, the Honda Accord Plug-in and Fit EV moved 58 and 15 units, respectively.

Volkswagen increased its diesel sales by eight percent to 8,477 units while moving 473 units of its newer Jetta Hybrid. Mitsubishi i EV increased sales by 7.1 percent to 91 units.

Year-to-date, plug-in sales have surged 75 percent to 23,793 vehicles.

Meanwhile, General Motors' green car sales fell 9.9 percent to 4,435 units. Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in sales were down 4.3 percent to 1,607 units, while mild-hybrid models like the Chevrolet Malibu eAssist and the Buick Regal and LaCrosse eAssist saw sales fell a combined 12 percent.

More significant sales declines were confined to lower-volume German automakers. Audi, which last month introduced a diesel version of its A8, saw diesel sales drop 36 percent to 397 units, while Porsche hybrid sales fell 75 percent to just 55 vehicles.

Year to date, US alt-fuel vehicle sales, which were way up in January but leveled off during the ensuing months, have risen 15 percent to 260,636 units. Year-to-date plug-in sales have surged 75 percent to 23,793 vehicles.