Car News

Plug-In Hybrids See Sales Success, SUVs Still Dominate

The plug-in Toyota Prius Prime hit the market strong last month, outselling the regular Prius nearly 4:1. But it wasn't the top plug-in, with the Chevrolet Volt having its second-best month ever. Here's a look at big plug-in sales last month and some of the reasons behind it.

March was big for sales of both plug-in and hybrid cars in Canada. The Prius Prime hit 500 sales, the biggest month for that car. It was close to being the number one plug-in, but the Volt had a banner month of its own selling 555 units. Other big plug-in winners included the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, which saw 351 sales and that vehicle's biggest month, and the Nissan Leaf which topped the 248-unit selling Chevrolet Bolt EV with a big 423 cars sold. That's more than double the Leaf's second best month.

While the regular hybrid Prius took a sales hit to the Prime (with 131 sold), Camry Hybrid sales were up 156 percent over March 2017, up 78 percent this year compared to last year hitting 683 year to date. Likewise, Highlander Hybrid sales were up 51 percent for March, 26 percent for the year. Toyota RAV4 hybrid sales remained flat but high at 585 sold, which makes it the most popular hybrid vehicle sold in Canada. Sales of the new Honda Clarity plug-in hit 119 for the month.

Sales in April of EVs will likely continue to climb, with deliveries of the Tesla Model 3 expected to start very soon in Canada.

As far as the overall market, sales were down 1.3 percent from 2017. A small drop, but nearly the same number as the total volume of plug-in cars sold in Canada in March. That tells you that electrified vehicles still have a long way to go before becoming mainstream. At the same time, SUV sales continue to climb. Up 19,724 to 188,900 this year compared with this time last year. Pickups are down 4.4 percent this year.

So what is boosting electrified sales? More choice. The Prius Prime, Nissan Leaf and Outlander PHEV are brand new, as is the Camry Hybrid and Honda's Clarity PHEV. Gas prices are also on the rise again.

BC's new carbon tax raised prices by one cent per litre, but refinery issues have seen gas there shoot up to more than $1.50/L in Vancouver. Across the country, the price of gas is up about 16 cents/L to $1.33.

As gas prices climb and electrified options get better, more buyers are choosing to plug-in more and pump out less. Crossovers still rule the market, but expect more electrification in that segment too if fuel prices continue to climb.