October Electric Car Sales: Chevy Volt Outsells Nissan Leaf

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2011 Chevrolet Volt on test in Little Rock, Arkansas, July 2011

2011 Chevrolet Volt on test in Little Rock, Arkansas, July 2011

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New-car sales figures are out for October, and in the plug-in electric car arena, Volt supporters can let out a muffled cheer. Finally.

The hometown favorite outsold the imported Nissan Leaf by almost 260 units, the first time in many months it's been able to best the battery electric hatchback from Japan.

During the month, Nissan sold 849 Leafs, bringing in the 2011 total to 8,048 (plus an additional 18 during December 2010, when Nissan sold its first 2011 Leaf). The company continues to be on target for meeting its goal of 10,000 or more Leaf sales during calendar 2011.

Nissan spokeswoman Katherine Zachary noted that the company is now between the 2011 and 2012 model years for the Leaf, so deliveries lagged slightly this month over last month's total of 1.031.

In October, GM sold 1,108 Volts--better than last month's 723, and ahead of the Leaf for the first time since early this year--squeaking the 2011 total past the 5,000 mark by only three cars. The company also sold a further 326 Volts last December, the first month in which a Volt was delivered to a retail buyer.

Chevrolet has consistently said it will build 10,000 Volts for retail sale during 2011. But it now seems likely that it won't sell 10,000 of them, leading us to ask last month if GM has a Volt sales problem.

Here's how Rob Peterson, long-suffering Volt spokesperson, explained that because Volts are built in the center of the country and must be trucked to early-sales markets on the coast, there's a 15-day minimum lag time between production and sales. That's could amount to 1,000 units.

2012 Nissan Leaf

2012 Nissan Leaf

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So if Chevy can sell 1,500 Volts each month in November and December, it could hit a total of 8,000 sales for this year--which would bring it close to the numbers it's been touting.

Meanwhile, Nissan hopes to sell about 1,000 Leafs per month over the same period, bringing its total to about 10,000.

We'll be watching. Tune back in at this same time next month.

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