By Barbara Kessler

American automakers did not have a good year in 2007. Leading manufacturer General Motors reported U.S. sales were down 6 percent compared to 2006, and across the board automakers reported lower or flat sales in various categories, especially in December.yaris.jpg

What was selling? Green, smaller and more efficient wheels. Higher sales of high-mileage cars was part of why Toyota emerged in a stronger position at year’s end, with total sales of 2.62 million, up 3 percent over 2006. That was enough to knock Ford out of its traditional second place standing in domestic sales.

Toyota’s best selling Camry ended the year with a 5 percent annual increase in sales over 2006. But the affordable (under $15,000), high-mileage Yaris subcompact did quite a bit better, up 20 percent for the year, and hybrid standard bearer Prius saw its sales increase by a stout 70 percent.

However, Toyota’s new Tundra full size pick-up, with a combined EPA estimated mpg of just 14, also was part of the winning formula. The Tundra enjoyed an annual sales increase of 57 percent. Toyota’s RAV4 compact sport utility vehicle was up 13 percent.

The Tundra gets mediocre gas mileage, but does best some competitors, like say the Dodge Dakota 4WD (9 mpg in the city).

And Toyota’s luxury division was nowhere near tanking. Lexus’ luxury line car sales were up 9 percent for the year.

Even so, the green trend was undeniable as automakers reported 2007 sales. Nissan credited its subcompact Versa (27/33 mpg) with helping it end the year with a 5 percent sales gain.

Over at Honda, sales of the compact SUV CRV were up 29 percent and the Euro-esque compact Fit (27/34 mpg) did a double take, increasing its sales by 101 percent. The veteran Civic was up just 4 percent, but as one of the best-selling small cars on the road, its total number of 331,095 units sold dwarfed most other models.

“Honda continues to benefit from its position as the most fuel-efficient car company in America,” said Dick Colliver, executive vice president of American Honda.

Ford reported strong sales of its “crossover vehicles” which get better than average gas mileage (though we’re far more intrigued by its dreamy prototype hydrogen fuel cell Explorer).

With all the manufacturers packing big plans for new or revamped hybrids in 2008, let’s look for greener roads ahead.

Copyright © 2008 | Distributed by Noofangle Media