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Electric Car Sales Increase 228 Percent

Automakers operate on a different calendar, in which the 2012 model year recently came to a close. As my colleague, Luke Tonachel, explains, this was the year of the green car, with record new fleet fuel efficiency, a 55 percent increase in hybrid sales, and more than a three-fold increase in plug-in electric car sales. The last of those three records might come as a surprise to some, given the prevalence of stories pronouncing the electric car dead on arrival. While it’s true that plug-in electric car sales still represent a very small fraction of total auto sales, model year 2012 saw about 38,000 Americans buying plug-in cars.* That’s a 228 percent increase over model year 2011.* Not bad for a new technology, introduced as the country recovers from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Critics often point out that plug-in electric car sales pale in comparison to incumbents such as the Ford F-series, Honda Accord, and Toyota Camry, but almost all vehicles fall short by that measure. Auto sales are lopsided; of the 265 vehicle models currently available, the top 20 comprise over 40 percent of all new sales. The Chevy Volt, often described by critics as a failure, falls right in the middle of the pack, outselling half the cars, trucks, and SUVs on the market. It may not be a smash hit, but it’s certainly not a flop as some would have you believe. In fact, the Volt is outselling many well-known models, including:

Mazda: Miata, CX-7, Tribute, RX-8, 2, and 5
Mercedes: S-Class, CL-Class, CLS-Class, SLK, SLS AMG, R-Class, G-Class, B-Class, and SL-Class
Land Rover: LR2, LR4, and Range Rover
Audi: A3, A5, A6, A7, A8, Q7, R8, and TT
Lexus: GS, GX460, LX570, CT200h, HS250h, LFA, SC430, and LS
BMW: Z4, X6, 1-Series, 6-Series, and 7-Series
Nissan: 370Z, Quest, Cube, GT-R, Xterra, Titan, and Armada
Porsche: Boxster, Panamera, Cayman, Cayenne, and 911
Chevrolet: Caprice, HHR, Cobalt, and Corvette

You don’t hear pundits dismissing all those cars as failures, though they’re all selling less than the Volt. In fact, five of the models named above made Car and Driver’s vaunted 10 Best Cars list for 2012.
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