November Plug-In Car Sales: Volt Sparks, Leafs Fall

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Ryan Reynolds Nissan's latest Leaf Spokesperson

Ryan Reynolds Nissan's latest Leaf Spokesperson

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It's the first of the month again, and that means: It's sales report time!

Last month, Chevrolet sold 1,139 Volts and Nissan sold 672 Leafs.

The November numbers bring totals for 2011, with only December left, to 8,720 Leafs delivered (plus 18 last December) and 6,142 Volts (plus 326 last December).

Those two models represent by far the bulk of the plug-in electric cars sold in the U.S. over the past 12 months, together totaling more than 15,000 sales.

The two cars have swapped the sales lead, with Volt sales plummeting during changeover from 2011 to 2012 production in July and August, and Leaf sales suffering from the same effect in October and November.

Volt sales surging, but...

Last month, the Chevy Volt outsold the Nissan Leaf for the first time since March. That trend continued in November, with almost 1.7 Volts sold for every Leaf.

But plug-in buyers have still purchased roughly one third more Leafs than Volts over the last 12 month. Chevrolet has almost completed its national rollout of the Volt to selected dealers, while Nissan will add several further regions early next year.

Waiting lists remain for both cars in at least some regions.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

2012 Chevrolet Volt

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While Chevrolet has said consistently that during 2011, it will build 10,000 Volts to be sold at retail, the actual sales numbers now seem likely to lag that total. This will likely bring a further flood of "Volt is a failure" articles, many of which miss the greater context in which plug-in cars have gone on sale.

(Those plug-in cars also bring customers into dealerships, which ends up selling a bunch of gasoline cars too.)

On Monday, GM North America president Mark Reuss said GM had built 11,448 Volts in total, with sales at the end of October of 5,003 plus 326 in December 2010, the first month in which a Volt was delivered to a retail buyer.

Reuss said there were exactly 3,086 Volts in dealer stock on Monday, leaving roughly 2,800 dealer demonstration cars plus a few hundred that are likely owned by GM [NYSE:GM] or otherwise unavailable.

Other makers: We're not saying

As for the other makers selling plug-in cars this year, all have refused to break out monthly sales--which are likely low.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] consistently declines to release sales data for the $109,000 Roadster and $128,500 Roadster Sport models, which is only visible after it files required reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

We got no responses from Think USA, which sells the City two-seater; Wheego, which offers the Whip LiFe two-seater; and Fisker, which should have logged its very first retail sales of the Karma range-extended electric sport sedan in October.

Smart, now sold in the U.S. by Mercedes-Benz, also declined to report its monthly sales of the 2011 Smart Electric Drive. It delivered the first electric Smart ForTwo in January, and said its U.S. sales this year would be roughly 250 cars.

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Comments (16)
  1. Glad to see the Volt taking the lead. I drove one at the LA autoshow and WOW is it nice. Love the constant torque and the high tech features of the car. Even my wife who is anti-hybrid was impressed.

  2. coda and ge combine efforts

  3. Tesla has basically discontinued the roadster, which it never actually built, for several reasons. They are selling the last sliders that Lotus built,which mostly (or entirely) have been spoken for. A new von Holzhausen (Pontiac Solstice)designed roadster by 2014. But the number of Model S sedans on order IS known precisely, at all times, unlike the Volt. Pre-orders require a $5,000 deposit and last time I looked was over 6,500, which exceeds their 2012 production output. Just as the case with their roadster, the Model S is proving to be the first electric car that isn't desirable only to those enamored with electric drive trains. Considering the relatively small 25% price difference, one wonders why anyone would even consider the Volt.

  4. Well, all electric cars still fit in the kitty costume

  5. Fair point (re volt vs model S price) but bare in mind that that is only for the 160 mile version. The 300 mile version $78K.

  6. JB has noted that the 25% price difference is misleading and the Volt is for a vehicle that's already released. I strongly doubt Tesla will even come close to the official price targets, which were released before rare earth magnets multiplied in price several times. The increase in traction/main motor costs alone will be $2k-$5k. I realize so many here work on the side as Tesla's cheerleaders, but let's see what actually gets to market at what cost before we start talking...

  7. Of course, the Model S won't actually use any rare earth metals, and claiming the Model S won't come in at the price Tesla already decided for it is just your own opinion, apparently based on some misconceptions on your part.

  8. Chris, while you're correct in Tesla's case that they're still using AC induction motors, that's by far the exception to the rule until very recently. Most traction motors do use massive amounts of neodymium and lesser amounts of dysprosium and other RE materials.
    And Chris, yes, let's see where the price comes in at. I mean, Tesla has done such a remarkable job in the past of meeting deadlines and price points it has stated publicly beforehand... Even aside from RE costs, exactly how many EV makers so far have met the price targets they initially stated? And how many have never developed a car before, since the Roadster was a glider, not a real development. But I'm sure they'll get everything right... Actually, I hope they do.

  9. That's right, Tesla is insulated against Chinese economic warfare by not using rare earth, and Toyota is cooperating with Tesla to develope RE free motors as well (more $ for Tesla!). The Nissan Leaf is RE free too.

    As for not meeting deadlines and pricepoints: Musk knows he needs to get it right this time and why not: Tesla is not a clueless upstart anymore, they are experienced EV builders supported by large firms like Toyota and Panasonic. Personally I think things look very good for Tesla and it will prove it's detractors wrong.

  10. There are more comments in this thread
  11. i saw my first leaf on the road while i was on my bike. i turned around to talk to the driver, but she took off before i could get her attention. the color was a burnt red.

  12. I think it is most important to point out that VOLTs have a backlog in inventory that far outpaces LEAF.

    LEAF is a simple pure can only improve over time.

    VOLT is an engineering nightmare and when you factor in all costs over time, it is a money guzzler of the worst sort.

    Edsel, Yugo, Titanic, Tiny Tim, VOLT, Edible Panties....we need a museum for these fantastical failures.

  13. "Leaves" fall?

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