Plug-In Car Sales Soar In March, Led By Chevrolet Volt

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2012 Chevrolet Volt Gas Station Advert

2012 Chevrolet Volt Gas Station Advert

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Car sales overall continued their upward trend last month, but sales of plug-in cars soared in March to more than 3,800 units.

The bulk of those sales came from a resurging Chevy Volt, which logged its highest-ever single-month sales figure, along with the debut of the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid.

More plug-ins in total were sold last month than in any month since December 2010, when the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt--the first two mass produced electric cars of the modern era--went on sale.

Sales of the Chevrolet Volt spiked from the February total of 1,023 to 2,289, for a total of 3,915 sold so far this year. The comparable figure for January through March 2011 was just 1,210.

Volt sales were likely helped by the arrival of 2012 Volt models that qualify for solo travel in California's High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, which went on sale in the state last month.

Nissan Leaf sales too climbed, from February's 478 to 579 last month, for a three-month total so far this year of 1,733. In 2011, that figure was only 452.

Remarkably, Toyota sold 891 Prius Plug-In Hybrids in that car's first full month on the market--or about 3 percent of the 28,711 Priuses sold in March.

The plug in Prius is the third and newest high-volume plug-in car to go sale; 7 of them also found buyers in the very last days of February.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production version road test, San Diego, CA, Jan 2012

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, production version road test, San Diego, CA, Jan 2012

Enlarge Photo

Other plug-ins sold during the month include the Mitsubishi 'i', which logged 56 sales for a three-month total of 136.

For the second month in a row, Ford sold no 2012 Focus Electric hatchbacks. It logged 2 sales in January, and 10 delivered last December.

We also presume there were deliveries of the Coda Sedan--since the company publicized its first sales last month.

As usual Fisker Automotive declined to provide sales of its Karma range-extended electric car.

Tesla Motors reports global sales every quarter, and we'll learn later in the month how many of their dwindling supply of Roadsters the company sold from January through March.

As we noted last week, electric car sales will rise--but it will be slow. Still, the stellar March results following a new February high give some hope that far more electrics will be sold during 2012 than in 2011.


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Comments (49)
  1. The Volt sales are impressive. But what is going on with the Nissan LEAF? Seems like the rate is either holding steady or declining compared to late last year.

  2. I agree, what is going on with the Leaf? With the Volt, it was clear that there was a sale's lag with the plant shutdown and all and now things are picking up a little. But I haven't really heard much about how supply/demand are working out on the Leaf. John V., do you have any idea about this? Is this a production issue or a demand issue?

  3. March saw a jump in the price of Gasoline. Volt's are sold directly off the lot so their uptick is immediate. If there is an increased interest in the LEAF, we'll find out in May when March orders are delivered. If the numbers are low in May, we will know the LEAF isn't generating much interest. Those in northern climes will wait until the 2013 comes online with the better heater. The LEAF may go through a rough patch. Rising gas prices may save it's bacon.

  4. The Leaf will sell better if gas prices spike to $4.50-$5.00 however if will not be as large as you think because its rather expensive at $32,799 and poor people who can't afford gasoline will not be able to buy it. I say you will see a spike in minimalist samll cars like the Hyundia Accent and the Toyota Yaris as well as used Prius's and Toyota Yaris and other samll cars since they are much cheaper to buy. Once battery prices go down in 5 years or so EV's will take off especially if range can be brought up to 150+ miles.

  5. Except in Southern California so many of the dealers have sold their entire allotment that you can't buy them off the lot. Back to the pre-order process. And there are nearly none available now in Canada either.

    Nissan has been directing many of their sales to Japan before the tax benefits expire, and would like to see more dollar denominated Leaf sales. Perhaps in August when battery packs are made in the us. And definitely in December when Leafs are assembled in TN.

  6. The answer is simple: As soon as the Volt became eligible for the California carpool lane, nobody in California needed to buy the inferior LEAF anymore.

  7. Ouch.

  8. john,

    as you may already know, there are quite a few posters heavily biased for gm, for one reason or another.

    just make a negative post about anything about gm, and start counting the negative votes for your post.

    i find it quite comical.

  9. kent below at -8 is the worst i have seen so far - LOL !!!

  10. Well Anton may be GM-negative, or he may be right. Perhaps time will tell.

  11. There are more comments in this thread
  12. These sales figures only look good because of the very poor sales that preceded them. 12,000 cars per year is a small portion of the numbers originally predicted by GM for the Volt. And 12000 cars per year means almost exactly nothing in terms of either emissions or oil imports. Ten years production would also amount to totally imperceptible changes. The only significance of today's electrics is that (some of them) will be providing design blueprints for the deluge of electrics that will follow when battery economics allow. I'd say that Tesla's Model S has shown all the automakers a great deal about how EVs should be designed. The Volt and Leaf, Fisker, etc. have not; in the case of the Volt/Fisker, because they aren't electric cars.

  13. Very poor sales that proceeded it? How about no sales. This is a BRAND NEW market. Envy will grow this market. When ppl talk about never going to a gas station and not caring what gas prices are hits home sales will climb. Ppl are just going to have to change. Gasoline is always going to go up so get over it.

  14. My EV is generating a lot of interest. Few people want to be first to own an EV. I suspect that as people see more of them on the road, the sales figures will increase accordingly. If the Prius is any marker, 3% of all car sales would be very significant.

  15. Is that the best you can do, Kent? After claiming for months how the Volt would never sell, now it's selling and you still can't admit it... What a sad person...

  16. Today's sales are definitely significant. Largely because the OEM's that are bold enough to jump in at the shallow end of the pool now, will know exactly what to do in the EV markets of the future.

    And how to do it when the technology improves and the stakes are higher. Especially as the manufacturing skills become specialized and the investments required to compete are huge and fraught with high levels of risk suited to dynamic new ventures in an old and capital intensive industry. Exactly the worst of all worlds for those who choose to sit on the sidelines.

    It explains why Western Union is not a big presence in the terrestrial telephone business, and yet AT&T is big in the wireless telephone business.

  17. the single snowflake always start off slow.

    much is happening, but the results dont really show.

    at some point, people start noticing when it turns into a snowball.

    if the bigwigs really want evs, they will come in the timeframe desired by them. we dont have to worry about it.

  18. Yet you still read this blog. Wonder why, the bigwigs have it all under control apparently?

  19. notice the first word of my last sentence !!

    that should answer your question as to why i still follow the ev industry.

    i simply dont worry about the things that you guys do.

  20. IF the bigwigs really want evs

  21. When I respond, EV, is it me, or again, just those faceless bigwigs that myseriously control everything...?

  22. Seems to me "bigwig" Ghosn really wants to sell Leafs but not too many people are buying them....

  23. @robok2: fact is bigwigs do employ PR agencies to make them look better:

    Not suggesting you are one of those sockpuppets of're not are you?

  24. There are more comments in this thread
  25. Clearly Nissan is going through a rough face. Early adopters got their Leaf in 2011 and the rest of the market is slow to pick up on all electric vehicles. Nationwide out roll doesn't seem to kick in yet either. One thing is for sure: once that Smyrna production facility comes on line they will have to do something radical to avoid disaster. For starters a substantial price cut I suppose but they will probably need to address the range issue a lot sooner than they anticipated too. Of course the range improving heater system and the higher capacity on board charger for the 2013 models are already good steps in that direction.

  26. I know for me the biggest issue is range + an ability to wait + desire for other coming improvements

  27. It's easy to tap that little bad stuff or thumb button by mistake with iPhone and there's no "undue"

  28. "undo"

  29. thanks for the spelling corrections

  30. I know what you mean when I read my comment back and I read face when I mean phase obviously I really wish for an undo button too, but alas...

  31. Tesla Model S. 160 miles range in base form at $57,000 or $50,000 after the $7,500 tax incentive. Not enough range then another $10,000 gets you 230 miles range and $10,000 more get 300 miles range add the new aerowheels and 320miles range.

  32. If you have NETFLIX there is a great movie on there called The Revenge Of the Electric Car. Very interesting.

  33. Possibly the dumbest movie ever, and that's from an EV fan and a Volt driver... So full of lies and distortions... Feel free to check the other side out, too...

  34. Easy there big fella

  35. It is not the 1%, who has more money than brains that buys cars, it is the 99% - the working class. If you price anything out of their comfort zone, you are not going to sell it, that should be a no brainer. I don't know why it is so difficult for the automakers, and other businesses, to understand that. If you want to sell it, price it where people will want to buy it. Apparently these automakers do not want to sell their cars.

  36. I would like to see a new Geo Metro type car however it most likely would not pass crash testing by todays standards but imagine this. Take a lightweight samall compact 4 door car and put in the mechanicals with a light weight 3 cylinder gas electric hybrid simular to the Toyota Prius and you could have a small car that gets 50+ mpg on the highway and 60+mpg in town on hybrid electric/gas drive. I say make it a minimalist car and it could be done for $20,000 or less and would really help reduce fossil fuel use. Make just a straight gasoline version with a small 3 cylinder engine and it could be done for $15,000 dollars or so.

  37. Prius C?

  38. James, I picked up a new Volt on Saturday for roughly $400/month, loaded. Considering I'll save $130-$150 a month in fuel, how exactly is that too expensive again? I'm paying an overall cost that's equivalent to a Corolla. Still too much for you?

  39. james,

    the automakers know exactly what they are doing. pricing it so that the cars they make will be sold.

    if they make 10,000 cars this year to sell, they dont need to put a price on it such that it will attract 100,000 customers.

    as supply grows, there will continue to be a new wave of customers who will be brought in by each new price reduction.

    it is curious to see what timeframe this will occur in ?

    they cant price evs too cheaply right now, or they would not sell any ices. and their main manufacturing process at the moment, is still with ices.

    they are just beginning the transformation.

    but we do have the leaf, the focus, the coda, and fisker, and a couple others. and i think quite a few others are slated to come out soon.

  40. so hopefully the ev transformation will continue.

    one thing that i have been told and researched is that apparently much of saudi arabia's deserts are in the transformation of being used to create electricity ?

    can anyone verify that to be true ? (with their own eyes ?)

  41. ...or maybe the Volt is so expensive because it's an immensely complex vehicle that according to some contains "more than 300 major components, compared to advanced gasoline engines, such as the Bugatti Veyron W16 Engine, that have around 100":

    And maybe the Leaf is expensive because it's new technology that doesn't have cost control down to an art yet like the ICE after more than a century of experience and because it's hampered by an unfavourable dollar/yen exchange rate. US production should fix that last problem.

    For the rest: I do agree it's wise to keep a keen eye on the machinations of vested interests. No doubt it's a real factor.

  42. @Chris O and EV Enthusiast. I don't think any of us (?) is denying the vested interests and power of the elite. The question we appear to disagree on to some extent is the degree even the elite have in fragmented markets, with new technologies, etc... I'll agree with Chris & others that the cost is naturally high at this new, low-volume stage. People whining that they should be cheaper than ICE vehicles are the ones who don't get it. We're not there yet, obviously... Things are getting better...

  43. we are just starting to ramp up production. even if they could make more, i am not sure they would.

    they want the highest prices they can get. this first wave is basically well-to-do people, such that price is not the only thing on their plate.

    i suspect that most of this first wave of prices is over with.

    so as i already stated, there will be successive price reductions, just big enough to bring in what will buy the next batch of cars.

    they no doubt have done extensive projections on what percentages of evs vs ices will bring in the most profit, each year.

    and no doubt that these projections will be adjusted as actual annual sales come in.

  44. Lets be clear, car manufacturers don't really want electric cars..if you look at the Nissan Leaf's maintenance schedule you will laugh since there is virtually no maintenance required. This cannot be good for all the dealers who rely on servicing to make tons of money.

  45. i made a mistake - the fisker is only a hybrid.

    besides the leaf, focus, and coda - what other evs are for sale, at the moment ?

    and which ones are slated to be sold within the year ?

  46. There are more comments in this thread
  47. I have been reading the articles on this site for 6 months now. And just a few minutes ago decided it was time to sign up so I can post comments along with everyone else. I am excited about EVs but would love to hear more news about fuel cells. I do think Ev sales will be higher this year than last year. Also regarding the price new tech is always high. Think of computers and flat screen TVs when they first came out and now they are far more reasonable.

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