• Prius sales were up 101 percent last month
  • The sales increase was mainly due to the new Prius C and Prius Plug-In Hybrid variants
  • GM also posted big sales increases for hybrids, including the Chevrolet Volt

Sales of hybrid vehicles skyrocketed in April thanks to rising gas prices and two all-new models from Toyota. The recently released Prius C hatchback and fully electric Prius Plug-In Hybrid spurred a massive boost in Prius sales, while other automakers also reported major sales increases for their greenest vehicles.

According to Toyota, the Prius lineup recorded more than 25,000 sales last month for an increase of more than 101 percent compared to April 2011. While the traditional Prius hatchback made up around 14,000 of those sales, new variants like the subcompact Prius C and larger Prius V recorded nearly 5,000 sales apiece. Even the brand new, fully electric Prius Plug-In Hybrid helped the model line hit its impressive sales number, recording 1,762 units sold.

But while the Prius Plug-In Hybrid only accounted for around 7 percent of the model's total sales last month, the new variant made a huge splash among electric vehicles. That's because the hatchback outsold major established rivals like the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf in April, despite being in its first full month of availability. While demand may subside in the coming months, the Prius Plug-In's early sales totals prove it can go toe to toe with the top electric vehicles - and that the all-electric segment still has room to grow.

Despite being outsold by the Prius Plug-In Hybrid, the Chevrolet Volt also posted big numbers in April, recording 1,462 units sold - an increase of nearly 200 percent compared to April 2011. General Motors further reported an increase in popularity among its mild hybrids - the Buick LaCrosse eAssist, Buick Regal eAssist and Chevrolet Malibu Eco - which combined for more than 8,000 sales last month alone. In all, hybrid vehicle sales jumped more than 95 percent over April 2011.

Why the sudden increase in hybrid sales last month? For one, the segment is gaining attention, with the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf finally arriving in dealerships nationwide and Toyota advertising its expanding Prius range to a growing number of buyers. But it's also due to rising gas prices, which are up nearly 50 cents per gallon on average from just six months ago. Regardless of the reason, it's likely that "green" vehicles will continue to make up an increasing piece of the pie each month, especially as automakers continue to aim for tightening fuel economy regulations by expanding the number of hybrids and environmentally friendly vehicles in their lineups.

What it means to you: With hybrid popularity rapidly increasing, it's getting harder to find good deals on environmentally friendly new cars.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on AutoTrader.com.

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