LOS ANGELES (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co.'s expansion of hybrid and plug-in models and demand for Tesla Motors Inc.'s luxury battery sedans helped electric-drive cars and trucks grow faster in the United States in the first half than even surging pickup trucks.
U.S. sales of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery-only autos rose at least 23 percent to more than 287,000, based on data compiled by Bloomberg. Deliveries of full-size pickups climbed 22 percent.
"The number of entries in the segment continues to grow, so as a buyer you don't have to make a compromise to get what you want," said Alan Baum, principal of Baum & Associates. "Ford is obviously increasing sales, but what's more important is they're now a serious player in this space."
Environmental rules in the United States, Europe and Japan have pushed carmakers to offer more vehicles that don't emit climate-warming gases and consume less fuel.
Pressure on Toyota's Prius, the world's top-selling electric-drive vehicle, is growing as competitors work to replicate the hybrid hatchback's mass-market success.
Ford's hybrid and plug-in versions of the Fusion sedan and C-Max wagon boosted its electric-drive deliveries to 46,197, more than five times its year-earlier volume. Toyota Motor Corp. led with 176,506 such sales, up 4.4 percent.
Full-sized pickup deliveries exceeded 928,000 in the first half, more than triple sales of electric-drive vehicles.
Such trucks also are the top source of earnings for Ford, General Motors and Chrysler Group. Automakers make an $8,000 to $10,000 profit per pickup they sell, versus $3,000 per mid-size car, John Casesa, senior managing director at Guggenheim Partners LLC, said this week on Bloomberg Radio.
While first-half sales of the four-model Prius line fell 5 percent to 120,214, Toyota still plans to sell as many as 250,000 this year, Bill Fay, Toyota's group vice president for U.S. sales, said this week.
A revived advertising push, no-interest loans and discount leases are in place to help meet that goal, Fay said.
Tesla, which led North American rechargeable auto sales in the first quarter, topping GM's Volt plug-in and Nissan Motor Co.'s battery-electric Leaf, may have relinquished its volume lead in the first half.
The electric-car maker led by billionaire Elon Musk may have sold 8,931 units of Model S, priced from $69,900, this year through June, according to an estimate by Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based Autodata.
Tesla doesn't currently report sales on a monthly basis. The company will provide delivery figures when it releases second-quarter results, said Shanna Hendriks, a Tesla spokeswoman, who declined to confirm Autodata's estimate.
Tesla sold few electric vehicles in last year's first half after concluding Roadster sports car deliveries and starting Model S output.
The Volt, a plug-in hybrid that goes about 38 miles (61 kilometers) on battery power before a gasoline engine engages, had a 12 percent increase to 9,855 units in the first half.
That kept Volt just ahead of Nissan's Tennessee-built Leaf with 9,839 sales, tripling its year-ago sales.
Baum, who analyzes developments in the alternative-powertrain vehicle segment, said he estimates that electric-drive sales may have grown as much as 27 percent in the first half to a record 299,000.
The figures compiled by Bloomberg include data released directly by most automakers, and Autodata estimates for companies including Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp. and Tesla.