Even as sales of small cars drop in California and across the country, sales of electric cars continue to climb, breaking past 5 percent of the market so far in 2019. 

In its quarterly California Auto Outlook, the California New Car Dealers Association reported that even while sales of cars—besides SUVs and pickups—have fallen in the state through the first half of 2019, sales of electric cars have soared from 3.3 percent of the market in the first half of 2018 to 5.6 percent so far in 2019.

The trend, of course, points out the booming success of Tesla, and the fact that electric cars aren’t necessarily small. 

In detailing which automakers saw gains and losses in the state so far this year, the report shows that Tesla is the only automaker that posted a sales increase of more than a fraction of a percent. Its gain was 10 times that of almost any other brand, albeit Tesla is still a small company by automaker standards. 

Overall, sales of electric cars rose from 33,015 last year to 52,087 this year. 

Those gains for electric cars naturally come at the expense of some other car-types—and it isn’t mostly from big, thirsty SUVs and pickups. California has been known as the U.S. capital of small cars, with its long commutes and high gas prices. Yet the market share of fuel-efficient small cars is down four percent in the state, from 23 percent to 19, according to CNADA. All other segments are either up or flat. 

Volt leaves with some of the PHEV market

Perhaps more relevant to those interested in green cars was that sales of plug-in hybrids dropped from 29,622 to 21,193, representing a drop from 2.9 to 2.2 percent of the California market. Despite some new entries from Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and others, the drop is likely due mostly to GM’s decision to stop producing the Chevy Volt, which was by far the bestselling plug-in hybrid. 

Together, plug-in cars make up a steady 7.8 percent of the market in California, with the share skewing toward more all-electric models and away from plug in hybrids. That’s less than the 10 percent combined number of plug-ins sold for a single month last October, but still significantly more than the 6.2 percent they made up in the first half of last year. 

Conventional hybrids rebound

After dropping steadily since 2013, sales of conventional hybrids (those that don’t have a plug) rebounded somewhat in the first half of 2019, from 40,011 to 48,861, making up 5.2 percent of the market. Some of that comes better availability of SUVs with hybrid systems such as the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, and perhaps some comes from customers making other choices since the Volt left the market. Ford also plans to sell a hybrid version of its redesigned popular Ford Explorer starting this fall. 

As California goes, so goes the nation, they say. In the rest of the country, electric cars and plug-in hybrids are still far behind their statistics in California, making up about 2 percent of total sales nationally, where small cars are off even further and the share of light trucks sold is closer to 70 percent than 55 percent. But the new data from California points the way for the rest of the nation.