Rising gas prices help sales of efficient vehicles, while the new EVs come slowly off the production line.
Colin Wright - CleanMPG
- April 11th, 2011
2011 Chevrolet Cruze ECO – $18,425 not incl. D&H to start and comes with a 28/42 mpgUS city/highway rating.
They're back, and this time you can buy them. After one false start that crushed the dreams (and in some cases the cars) of many EV enthusiasts, the public can buy electric cars from companies everybody's heard of. At least some people can buy them in some areas. The rest of the population will receive them later, honest.
The Tesla Roadster showed people what's possible if you make something really, really expensive. But these new cars are "just" expensive and, aided in part by the generosity of politicians with other people's money, in the reach of a much larger percentage of the population.
The Nissan LEAF and the Chevrolet Volt are coming, carefully, off the assembly lines of two of the world's largest automotive companies. Although underneath the Volt's a hybrid, it's a plug-in hybrid so most of the time its owners are enjoying the smooth and silent joy of moving around using electricity.
Right now, the Volt has more sales in the USA, but that's just because Nissan have been selling more of their output to Japanese people before subsidies ran out. Globally the LEAF has more sales. More Nissan LEAFs have now been sent to the USA, with 1,500 in the latest shipment. Unfortunately, that may be the last for a while as the devastating earthquake and tsunami destroyed some LEAFs and have interrupted manufacturing.
2011 Nissan LEAF - from $32,780 MSRP, $7,5000 federal tax credit available, 99mpge EPA
The Nissan LEAF is the battery electric vehicle. With a range of 100 miles according to Nissan, 73 miles according to the EPA and wildly varying ranges according to how, where and in what weather you drive, it's a real test of range anxiety. But it seems that for 20,000 EV enthusiasts on the waiting list it's a dream come true. Those enthusiasts, some already experienced in living with an EV, have crunched the numbers, liked the answer and are now waiting, most of them patiently, for notification that their dream car is on its way.
Nissan's plan for the LEAF is very aggressive: produce 500,000 per year by 2013. That's Prius-like. The Prius might only be a small percentage of the total US market but seeing one is an everyday occurrence. Wouldn't it be something if you could say the same about EVs?
2011 Chevrolet Volt - from $40,280 MSRP, $7,5000 federal tax credit available, 60mpge EPA
The Chevrolet Volt, a symbol of rescue, rebirth or both, is General Motors (in?)famous plug-in hybrid. With an EPA estimated range of 35 all-electric miles (if you're not running the heater) it can allow drivers in the USA to commute to work on electric power without the range limitation of the LEAF. Well, it has a range limitation but only in the same way as a regular car, where range is just a question of how far you can travel without stopping at a gas station. Unfortunately the range on the gasoline engine is relatively low due to a small gas tank and very ordinary estimate of 37 miles per gallon. Given that most of the driving on the gasoline engine will be on highway trips, this isn't a car for people who do a lot of long trips. Of course, neither is the LEAF.
The relatively poor efficiency in electric mode, combined with the ordinary gas engine economy, a high price of $41,000 before tax credits, limited rear legroom that turned our CleanMPG's own Chris Bernius into Crushed Bernius, and only 2 rear passenger seats have prompted some to predict poor sales. Time will tell, but those who have bought it so far, 1,210 at the end of March, love it as much as the automotive journalists and awards panels who don't have worry about banal details such as price and practicality.
Fuel Efficient Non-Hybrids
When we last posted information in May 2010 the list of fuel-efficient non-hybrids was a lot shorter. With higher gas prices increasing consumer demand, global market conditions making US-specific development less lucrative and government pressure forcing the manufacturers' hands the list of efficient choices has increased markedly.
The Honda Civic posted sales of 31,213 in March 2011; up 33.8% compared to 22,463 in March 2010. Even though its at the end of its life and its EPA ratings are worse than newer models from Ford and Hyundai, sales of the Civic were strong last month, beating the Corolla to lead the C segment.
The Toyota Corolla posted sales of 30,234 in March 2011; down 1.7% compared to 29,623 in March 2010. Although aging and ready for a 2012 update, sales of the Corolla remain strong, even though they are clearly affected by greater competition.
The Hyundai Elantra posted sales of 19,255 in March 2011; up 125.4% compared to 8,225 in March 2010. The new Elantra is here and Hyundai's strong reputation and the Elantra's segment-leading mileage and great price have combined to see its sales soar.
The Chevrolet Cruze posted sales of 18,018 in March 2011; the Chevrolet Cruze was not sold until September 2010. While established elsewhere, Cruze is new to the USA and is bringing Americans back to GM. However, after a great February the Cruze sales leveled off and it was overtaken by the Hyundai Elantra and sales put it fourth in its segment.
The Nissan Sentra posted sales of 17,851 in March 2011; up 97.1% compared to 8,721 in March 2010. February sales had been the best since CARS and March was a record month for Sentra sales. When people come looking for efficient cars, it seems that Nissan are ready to do a deal on the below-par offerings.
The Nissan Versa posted sales of 11,075 in March 2011; down 22.8% compared to 13,811 in March 2010. The Versa has a been a clear leader in the B segment, but is facing competition from the efficient new Fiesta and the well-marketed Kia Soul. For 2011 Nissan has added more conveniences as standard to its 2nd-level 1.6, but it may still lose its lead, particularly to the Fiesta.
The Ford Fiesta posted sales of 9,787 in March 2011; the Ford Fiesta was not sold until June 2010. After a slow start, perhaps influenced by production problems, gas price shock has brought a big jump in sales. The Fiesta is the 3rd bestselling car in the B segment and rapidly closing in on the Versa.
The Honda Fit posted sales of 6,955 in March 2011; up 43.4% compared to 4,670 in March 2010. Efficient, well equipped, well designed and well made, the Fit has consistently shown that at least some Americans will pay good money for a good subcompact. Like its siblings, the Fit had a good month.
The Hyundai Accent posted sales of 5,739 in March 2011; up 30.6% compared to 4,233 in March 2010. The Accent's sales have been steady. A new model is imminent and is widely expected to be the segment economy leader. If the Fiesta's sales are anything to go by, the Accent will be one to watch. Interesting indeed.
The Mini Cooper posted sales of 4,358 in March 2011; up 16.2% compared to 3,610 in March 2010. Mini has had steady US sales with the mini-subcompact Cooper. As a premium vehicle it could never be expected to lead the B segment, but with some good numbers in March it still beat some of the standard B segment vehicles.
The Toyota Yaris posted sales of 2,825 in March 2011; down 42.1% compared to 4,699 in March 2010. The current Yaris is at its end of life and is losing market share, but it still saw a bump in sales over the beginning of the year.
The Chevrolet Aveo posted sales of 2,715 in March 2011; down 34.3% compared to 3,979 in March 2010. Blah. The Sonic is coming and there will be little mourning for the rebadged Daewoo.
The Mazda2 posted sales of 2,500 in March 2011; the Mazda Mazda2 was not sold until July 2010. The Fiesta's more exciting cousin has had extremely poor sales. Now, with people wanting to zoom zoom without pump pumping too much, the Mazda2 has finally sold in numbers respectable enough for a niche player in the US market.
The Kia Rio posted sales of 2,070 in March 2011; down 10.7% compared to 2,231 in March 2010. Young Americans are obviously not rolling with this despite higher gas prices Rio sales are lower than last year while sales of their gas-sucking B-segment box have soared.
March 2011 Fuel Efficient Non-Hybrid Sales Summary
| || ||Month|| || ||Year to Date|| |
|Make and Model||March 2011||March 2010||DSR* % Change||March 2011||March 2010||DSR* % Change|
DSR* There were 27 selling days in March 2011 compared to 26 in March 2010. There were 75 selling days in the year to March 2011 compared to 74 in 2010.
The Toyota Prius posted sales of 18,605 in March 2011; up 52.0% compared to 11,786 in March 2010. Once again, higher gas prices are bringing buyers back to the Prius, with sales at their highest since CARS and the price peaks of 2008.
The Honda Insight posted sales of 2,782 in March 2011; up 62.2% compared to 1,652 in March 2010. The Insight has been a disappointment for Honda, but the higher gas prices are bringing more people to subcompacts in general and sales may have been helped by the LX now being well-enough equipped for typical US buyers.
The Lexus CT 200h posted sales of 2,199 in March 2011; the Lexus CT 200h was not sold until March 2011. The CT 200h is the new luxury hybrid leader, with a combined 42mpg EPA rating. Initial sales suggest it will be the segment leader for quite some time.
The Ford Fusion/Lincoln MKZ posted sales of 2,081 in March 2011; up 12.3% compared to 1,784 in March 2010. Ford have reported that over 20% of MKZ sales are hybrids, meaning that at least 628 of the combined Fusion-platform sales in March 2011 were the MKZ, so at most 1,453 Fusions were sold. March 2010 figures included the Mercury Milan. The Fusion Hybrid has sold at a steady rate but has never looked like it would break the Prius' stranglehold. It has clearly outsold the aging Camry Hybrid, but will soon face competition from the Sonata Hybrid. With the Sonata Hybrid being cheaper and better on the highway we can expect to see the Fusion Hybrid lose sales, unless higher gas prices make more Fusion buyers to overcome their hybrid anxiety.
The Honda CR-Z posted sales of 1,685 in March 2011; the Honda CR-Z was not sold until August 2010. The CR-Z sales have been lackluster, but March saw a large jump from 1,091 in February.
The Lexus RX 450h posted sales of 1,438 in March 2011; up 10.7% compared to 1,251 in March 2010. The RX has a fairly good hybrid conversion rate, though not as strong as that of the Fusion. This month it was the leading hybrid SUV.
The Toyota Camry posted sales of 1,437 in March 2011; down 10.7% compared to 1,549 in March 2010. Even though sales are down, it was actually close in sales to the Fusion. However, with the Sonata Hybrid about to enter the segment, the Camry Hybrid sales are likely to take a further hit.
The Ford Escape posted sales of 1,195 in March 2011; down 9.1% compared to 1,266 in March 2010. March 2010 sales included the now-discontinued Mercury Mariner.
The Toyota Highlander posted sales of 797 in March 2011; up 29.2% compared to 594 in March 2010. While sales are up, it's not surprising that they lag behind the RX 450h: at $40,000, an extra $3,000 doesn't seem like much. However, 797 buyers wanted that 3rd row of seats.
The Chevrolet Volt posted sales of 608 in March 2011; the Chevrolet Volt was not sold until December 2010. The numbers are still small, but a big jump on February's 281, perhaps indicating the increasing in production.
The Honda Civic posted sales of 441 in March 2011; down 26.7% compared to 579 in March 2010. The Civic continues to sell poorly even as gas prices rise, perhaps in part due to buyers waiting for the new model due later this year.
The Nissan LEAF posted sales of 441 in March 2011; the Nissan LEAF was not sold until December 2010. Sales are limited by supply. Next month should see a jump, with a shipment of 1,500 arriving, after that, who knows.
The Lexus HS 250h posted sales of 230 in March 2011; down 85.2% compared to 1,494 in March 2010. While sales had already been falling, sales dropped dramatically at the beginning of the year. It seems that buyers have jumped either to the Lincoln MKZ or to the CT 200h to get an efficient luxury hybrid.
March 2011 Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Sales Summary
Automobile Manufacturer's US Sales Rank - March 2011 vs. March 2010 and Totals
| || ||Month|| || ||Year to Date|| |
|Make and Model||March 2011||March 2010||DSR* % Change||March 2011||March 2010||DSR* % Change|
|Lexus CT 200h|
|Ford Fusion/Mercury Milan**/Lincoln MKZ|
|Lexus RX 450h|
|Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner**|
|Lexus HS 250h|
DSR* There were 27 selling days in March 2011 compared to 26 in March 2010. There were 75 selling days in the year to March 2011 compared to 74 in 2010
** Mercury Milan and Mercury Mariner retail production ended in September 2010.
- Ford up 19.6% to 212,777
- GM up 9.6% to 206,621
- Toyota down 5.7% to 176,222 vehicles sold
- Honda up 25.3% to 133,650 vehicles sold
- Chrysler up 31.4% to 121,730 vehicles sold
- Nissan up 26.9% to 121,141 vehicles sold
- Hyundai up 31.6% to 61,873 vehicles sold
- Kia up 44.7% to 44,179 vehicles sold
- Mazda up 33.3% to 30,905 vehicles sold
- VW up 22.7% to 27,176 vehicles sold
- BMW up 21.7% to 26,382 vehicles sold
- MB up 12.7% to 22,546 vehicles sold
- Audi up 14.3% to 9,818 vehicles sold