"Now and again, I get the feeling, well if I don't win, I'm gonna break even," Tom Petty sang on his 1994 nugget You Wreck Me. And while we're not out to wreck any hybrids or electric vehicles, it's safe to say that the sentiment of that lyric is an appropriate one when analyzing last month's green-car sales.
With 2014's first quarter in the books, US green-car sales have emerged from deep-negative territory to show year-over-year gains for March, albeit barely. All told, Americans bought 59,544 green cars, up 0.9 percent from 2013. Year-over-year green-car sales going into March were down 19 percent, so last month represents a victory of sorts.
In Q1 2014, Americans bought 59,544 green cars, up 0.9 percent from 2013.
Nissan led the parade as the Japanese automaker boosted sales of its all-electric Leaf by 12 percent from a year earlier to 2,507 units, its second highest-ever monthly total ever (behind December 2013's 2,529 units sold).
Tesla, which doesn't break out monthly sales of its Model S, would've boosted its March sales by 45 percent from a year earlier to 2,300 vehicles if it maintained its sales pace from the fourth quarter, a reasonable expectation.
Honda, meanwhile, is leaving its laggard days behind thanks to solid sales of its newer Accord Hybrid. Specifically, the company moved 1,346 Accord Hybrids, which more than offset the effect of a 22 percent drop in CR-Z hybrid sales and a 41 percent plunge in Civic Hybrid sales. Overall, Honda boosted March green-car sales by 53 percent to 2,549 units.
And despite Ford C-Max Hybrid sales being down 49 percent, the Blue Oval boosted green-car sales from a year earlier by 7.1 percent to 8,685 units, as sales of the Fusion Energi Plug-in Hybrid and Lincoln Lincoln MKZ Hybrid each more than tripled.
The Germans also did well, with Volkswagen's diesel sales rising 15 percent from a year earlier to 9,767 vehicles. VW also sold 276 Jetta Hybrids. Audi's diesel sales quadrupled to 1,315 units, while Porsche hybrid sales more than doubled to 152 units.
All of those gains more than offset tepid green-car sales from both Toyota and General Motors. Toyota continues to bump up against strong 2013 sales, with March 2014 numbers for its four Prius hybrid variants dropping 16 percent to 18,582. And while Lexus hybrid sales rose 3.6 percent, Camry Hybrid sales fell 3.9 percent from a year earlier, while Highlander Hybrid sales dropped 30 percent. Overall, Toyota and Lexus green-car sales fell 12 percent to 28,623 units.
March 2014 numbers for the four Toyota Prius variants dropped 16 percent to 18,582.
General Motors also fell short as sales dropped 22 percent from a year earlier to 3,160 units. While GM's Chevrolet division moved 644 Cruze Diesels and 81 Cadillac ELR extended-range plug-ins, Chevy broke even by selling 1,478 Volts (the exact same amount as in March 2013) and saw sales of its mild hybrid Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Buick Regal eAssist and Chevrolet Malibu ECO all plunge from a year earlier.
Break out the plug-in vehicles and the results get better, though, as Americans bought 9,950 plug-ins last month, up 37 percent from a year earlier. For the first quarter, overall green-car sales fell 11 percent from a year earlier to 136,843 units, while plug-in sales jumped 38 percent to 24,527.
Break out the plug-in vehicles and the results get better.