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VW Jetta Hybrid
<p> VW Jetta Hybrid.</p>

Hybrids Outsell Most Segments in 2012

WardsAuto has been tracking sales of hybrids, electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids since the market emerged in 1999, and a study of the 2012 sales data for these alternative-fuel vehicles is particularly worthwhile.

U.S. consumers bought 427,605 hybrids last year, up from 261,507 in 2011, according to WardsAuto data. That’s a 64% increase.

In fact, hybrids as a group outsold all but a handful of segments, including midsize luxury cars, small cross/utility vehicles and each of the three SUV segments.

From 1999 to 2009, U.S. market share for alternative-fuel vehicles grew to 2.8%. The segment dipped slightly in 2010 and 2011 but then came roaring back in 2012, finishing the year with 3.3% of the U.S. market. That’s nearly a half-million vehicles, the vast majority of which are hybrids.

A market once pioneered and dominated by the Japanese now is populated by the Europeans, and not only in the luxury-car segment.

Volkswagen is launching the new competitively priced Jetta Hybrid in the U.S., and it’s arguably a hybrid of a different stripe, with a peppy engine and sophisticated transmission. It’s a lot of fun to drive, which you haven’t been able to say about all hybrids.

New hybrids have recently entered the market from General Motors, Ford, Honda, BMW, Hyundai and Mercedes, and others are on the way from Acura, Infiniti, Honda, Nissan and Subaru. Even Rolls-Royce has a hybrid. Toyota, the king of the hybrids, is setting out to have hybrid versions of every vehicle in its portfolio.

Don’t forget battery-electrics and plug-in hybrids. A more affordable version of the Nissan Leaf is on the way, as is a battery version of the Chevy Spark. BMW is bringing both a new full-electric vehicle and an extended-range EV, both with lightweight carbon-fiber bodies. And the extended-range Chevy Volt EV will be joined in GM’s lineup by the Cadillac ELR, a luxury version of the Volt.

Clearly, the market for hybrid-electric vehicles continues to grow. 

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