California has long been a leader when it comes to eco-friendly living, and much of that has been born of dire necessity. The southern part of the state was once caught in the chokehold of oppressive smog, but decades of regulations designed to reduce emissions have done a lot to clear the air. It’s no surprise, then, that California is the country’s biggest market for sales of green vehicles. A recent report sponsored by the California New Car Dealers Association ranks the best-selling alternative-powertrain vehicles in the state for the first half of 2019.
- The research shows that the Tesla Model 3 was far and away the best-selling green vehicle in California for the first six months of this year, with a whopping 33,005 new retail registrations.
- With 6,246 new retail registrations, the Ford Fusion hybrid was a distant second.
- The Toyota Prius hybrid came in third, with 5,619 new retail registrations.
Toyota has been at the forefront of the green-car movement for years. This has paid off in California, where the manufacturer has three vehicles among that state’s top five best-sellers in the green car segment. In addition to the third-place Prius hybrid, Toyota has the RAV4 hybrid in fourth place and the Prius plug-in hybrid in fifth.
The Jeep Wrangler made a surprise showing at number seven on the list with its available hybrid feature. (Photo: Jeep)
EV sales are rising
The big news in this report is the dramatic rise in the sale of EVs. Compared to the figures from the first six months of 2018, electric vehicle sales in California have increased by 63.7 percent. Sales of hybrid vehicles are up by 22.1 percent. California can sometimes be diverse in its preferences, but these trends hold true in both the northern and southern sections on the state. Combined electric and hybrid vehicle sales have increased by 14.9 percent in Northern California and 9.9 percent in Southern California.
Certainly, the rise in EV sales is encouraging to anyone who has championed the adoption of these vehicles. Still, this growth comes with a caveat, since most of the upswing in this segment is attributable to sales of one vehicle: the Tesla Model 3. This begs the question: Are California’s car buyers embracing all EVs more broadly, or is the rise in sales simply a reflection of their love affair with the Tesla Model 3?
So, which regions in the Golden State have the biggest appetite for EVs? The largest market for zero-emissions vehicles is San Francisco, according to this data. Next up is San Diego County, followed by the Central Valley, with Los Angeles and Orange Counties right behind.
While EV sales are rising, sales of gas-powered vehicles have declined. Sales of vehicles with internal combustion engines are down 7.3 percent year to date in California. Still, these vehicles remain solidly ahead of alternative-powertrain cars in total sales. Sales of gas-powered vehicles made up 81.6 percent of California’s market for the first half of the year.
The Tesla brand is a California favorite. (Photo: Roberto Nickson/Unsplash)
Tesla snatches Toyota’s crown
The report revealed another significant shift in the status quo. Thanks in large part to the success of the ubiquitous Prius, Toyota has typically been the brand-share leader in California’s green-car segment. That changes this year, with Tesla taking the top spot. That luxury brand’s market share comes in at 32.6 percent. Toyota trails with a market share of 20 percent. It’s followed by Honda, whose market share totals 8.7 percent.
WHY THIS MATTERS
California has done a lot over the years to clean up its act when it comes to smog. In many ways, the state has become a poster child for what is possible when there’s a concerted effort made to reduce air pollution. Legislation is an important part of the mix, but consumers also play a huge role via the vehicles they choose to purchase. Since California is a trailblazer on the green-car front, the state’s car-buying trends may be predictive of what’s to come nationally.