April Auto Sales: Gas or Electric?

As April sales figures roll in, gas prices seem to be having an effect. But they are pushing customers into gas-powered compacts, not electric ones.

Four-cylinder models account for 39 percent of GM sales versus 27 percent a year ago, says Don Johnson, GM’s veep of U.S. sales. “Sales of fuel-efficient vehicles are rising rapidly,” Johnson told the Detroit News, noting GM is seeing many consumers rethink their vehicle choices.

But that rethink does not include electric. Chevy’s new compact Cruze, for example, sold a record 25,160 in April. Meanwhile, the plug-in Chevy Volt — built on the same platform — saw sales drop from 608 units in March to 493 in April.

Granted, the Volt is hand-made on a special Detroit line (lacking the full-robot-line ability to fill orders like the Cruze). But the figures also speak to the fact that there is more demand in the compact segment for a $20,000, 3- mpg gas-powered Cruze than a $40,000, 35-mpg (electric and gas combined mileage) Volt.

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