Small and Alternative Powertrain Vehicles the Big Sales Winners through June

Big SUVs and luxury sports models have fallen out of favor with U.S. drivers as fuel prices remain volatile and the economy sputters. Demand for small and mid-sized sedans, minivans, hybrids, and small and mid-sized SUVs and crossovers, however, has remained strong and led to a 15 percent increase in light vehicle sales during the first six months of the year.

Sales of smaller vehicles, including the Kia Rio, Chevrolet Sonic and Toyota Yaris, have surged 80 percent and sales of mid-sized sedans like the Chrysler 200, Volkswagen Passat and Toyota Camry, have increased 21 percent through June.

Overall, passenger car sales have increased 17 percent compared with a 13 percent gain in small truck sales.

Full-sized van and full-sized pickup truck sales have increased by 15 percent and 13 percent respectively.

AutoPacific analyst Ed Kim said, the increase in sales of full-sized vans indicates the U.S. economy is improving. Kim said, “When the economy is not doing good, fleets don’t buy vans; but when things start getting better, they start buying more of those types of vehicles.” He says the increase in demand for full-sized pickup trucks is further proof of the improving health of the housing market and the overall economy.

Demand for the full-sized Nissan Titan pickup truck has increased 20 percent, and Dodge Ram sales have increased 24 percent this year. Ford Motor Company’s chief economist Ellen Hughes-Cromwick said sales of F-series pickup trucks has increased 14 percent, due in large part to improvements in the housing market.

Sales of traditional hybrids and all electric vehicles surged 71 percent during the first six months of the year. The Toyota Prius was the big winner, with sales increasing 90 percent compared with last year.

Toyota Division Manager Bob Carter points to the increase in the number of hybrids available in the U.S. as evidence that the segment is gaining traction. Although there are currently 37 hybrid models on the market in the U.S., Carter says, Prius dominates the market. “Prius is doing exceptionally well and is ahead of track. We’re enjoying that positioning, and more competition helps expand the market,” said Carter.

Sales of the Chevrolet Volt hybrid also surged 221 percent, to 8,817 units, during the first six months.

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