September Plug-In Electric Car Sales Surge, As Tesla Sells 200 (Or So)

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2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

2012 Tesla Model S beta vehicle, Fremont, CA, October 2011

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Sales of plug-in electric cars surged in September, after setting a new record in August.

And this month's notable event was the projected delivery of 200 or more 2012 Tesla Model S all-electric luxury sport sedans to buyers.

Tesla refuses to release monthly sales figures, as every other automaker does, but the company said it would deliver between 200 and 225 Model S cars by the end of the month.

That figure came from a quarterly report filed by Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] with the Securities & Exchange Commission. Tesla has not provided an exact total of the cars it sold last month.

Even without confirmed Tesla numbers, plug-in sales in September totaled more than 5,550 cars. That gives last month the highest total since modern electric cars went on sale in December 2010.

The Chevrolet Volt continued its recent strong sales, with 2,851 Volts delivered in September.

That number is just a fraction higher than previous highest-ever number of 2,831, registered last month, and it brings total sales for the year to 16,348 of Chevy's range-extended electric car.

New incentives and lower lease rates on the Nissan Leaf helped its September sales, which rose to 984 from 685 in August--the Leaf's best single-month sales total since September 2011.

Total sales this year for Nissan's all-electric hatchback are still only 5,212, fewer than the 7,199 that had been sold at the same time last year.

Sales of the 2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, the third of the three high-volume plug-in cars this year, were 1,652--just two units shy of its best month ever, which was this past April.

The September total is a huge increase from the 1.047 of its plug-in Prius sold in August, and Toyota has now sold 50 percent more plug-in Priuses (7,734) than Nissan has Leafs (5,212) so far this year.

Continuing its recent trend, 36 Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric minicars also found buyers. Ford Focus Electric sales numbers won't be available until tomorrow.

There were 16 sales of the 2013 Honda Fit EV, and no fewer than 61 copies of the 2012 Toyota RAV4 EVs sold in its inaugural month as well--though both models are still only limited-volume compliance cars.

Of the other makers of plug-in electric cars, Coda Automotive and Fisker Automotive decline to provide any monthly sales data.


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Comments (28)
  1. Well, done Chevy. Great to see the sales numbers continue so high.

  2. predicted 850 LEAFs sold but was quite frankly shocked at the great lease deals. they have made a LEAF as a very capable 2nd car a no brainer decision

  3. Although Tesla refuses to disclose numbers, reservationists have created a couple of threads in order to track just that. See and

    I understand that these are rough estimates and that the delivery tally, which is the biggest concern right now, is not up to date. Hopefully that will change soon so we can track production.

    The reservation tally looks good none the less. :)

  4. The increased Leaf sales proves that there are LOTS of EV fan out there who are "nervous" about the technology and does NOT want to commite a large chunk of money at this early stage.

    I think Nissan's "new" approach is correct. Cheap lease deal and allow those on the sideline to try out the technology without worrying about long term effect and in 3 years, something better will be here. Plus, it gets them in the door of Nissan dealership.

    The same thing worked for the Chevy Volt as well.

    That is also probably when Honda only offers the "lease" program on their Fit EV.

    But I am surprised that Volt continued its "strength" in sales since the supper good low price Lease deal expired just after Labor Day.

  5. Maybe 60% or so of the month's sales happened in the first 3-4 days of the month.

  6. @Anton: For which vehicle(s)? And can provide a source for that statistic?

  7. No he can't cause he just made it up.

  8. Keep jabbing at Tesla, John. I'm sure they'll cave eventually ;)

  9. @Mittar: Errrrrr ... what jabbing?

    You mean the utterly factual statement (repeated in every month's sales report) that Tesla does not release any sales data, as real car companies do?

  10. Yep, that jabbing.

  11. I still say it doesn't make a lot of sense to release "sales" data. Between the Model S and Model X Tesla has 15,000 reservations (each of which has given Tesla a deposit that is between $5,000 and $40,000). Should Tesla report those numbers?

    Or should they report it as a "sale" when a customer signs the contract? It's very likely that literally thousands of the reservation holders have locked in their MVPA's at this point which makes their (huge) deposits non-refundable. Should Tesla report those as "sales" when it's going to be a couple of months before those cars are delivered and they receive final payment?

    Or should they report the raw production numbers? If that's the case, they reported those 3 times in September alone.

  12. And just to make clear, I don't think Tesla has any obligation to report their sales numbers (however you define it) to anybody.

    Half of the reporters in the country just use those numbers to make up their own false storylines about EV's.

    Reporters have already spun the Tesla announcement about their production numbers into stories about how Tesla has a problem because nobody wants to buy their cars (ie Tesla ONLY managed to "sell" 200 cars).

    To me the number for Tesla that comes closest to traditional auto sales is the monthly reservation rate, which has been running at ~950/month since June, and accelerating. If Tesla had inventory, those would likely be sales instead of reservations and thus is the best analogue to judge raw demand.

  13. @Thomas: See comments below, which crossed with your second post.

  14. @Thomas: Vehicle sales, or deliveries, are the best indicator of a car's competitive appeal in the market. Not all reservations, even those with deposits, translate into completed sales.

    For startup carmakers like Tesla, completed sales are also what contribute the bulk of the company's revenue. That number is the single biggest indicator of whether the company can survive: Can it sell enough cars at high enough prices to cover its costs AND fund its future model plans?

    That's why we focus on sales, not on production or reservations or any other metric. There's a standard definition of a "sale," which roughly translates to, "Customer hands over check, gets keys in exchange, drives away."

  15. They are practically giving the Leaf away and they still sell under a thousand cars a month. This car is dead in the water.

    The Volt is a much more practical car. Not difficult to see why it will continue to outsell the Leaf my a wide margin.

    When Leaf sales figures go back to 300-400 by November, Nissan's going to have to decide whether to keep building this albatross.

  16. Well, the Leasing deals just happened recently and it already showed "progress" in sales.

    The Prius Plugin also benefited from Toyota's new sales program with low APR financing recently.

    I think those are all good programs for those who worry about technology.

    I am curious on what would Ford do with its new C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi models...

  17. So any car that only sell 300 to 400 month is a albatross?

  18. Financially speaking, yes, if you've based your business model on sales much higher and spend $6 billion already on development cost, much more than any other OEM and you're still getting publicly criticized and losing money hand over fist.

    But... Nissan/Renault's purpose is to develop the technology long term and the LEAF is just the first baby step, so if you look at things long term, even a losing financial situation can have other advantages. But again, financially, albatross is accurate. I work for a supplier and if the actual volume for this program were 1/3 (just an example) of projections, we'd be getting piece price increases on our components... Angry suppliers, price increases, losses, etc.

    300 Ferraris, M5, different story.

  19. With attractive enough leases Nissan might revive the Leaf. The big technical problem with the Leaf is the extremely high battery degradation. A lease solves that problem from a customer standpoint, and the car isn't terrible for its intended use as a commuter car.

    That said, I think the Volt is a way better car and even a better value than the Leaf.

  20. I'm loving all the Vote haters who promised us that August's record would never be repeated because it was "fake" due to expiring lease deals... And then September outdoes August....

    Apparently, people actually want the Volt.

  21. (Try to sound like one of those naysayers armed with lies),

    No way, All the Volts are being bought up by the government, GE or the Military directed by the President [lies]. Now with additional 2,851 sales. It just meant that GM lost additional 2,851 x $49,000 = $140 Million [bad math]. Tax Payers will never recover those loss [more lies]. Nobody want the car and it only sold 2,851 when Chevy Cruze sold for over 10x that [distorted lies, Over $100 Million in revenue for GM and $40 Million in profits]

    Do you see the pattern here? It doesn't matter when it comes to the "naysayers". They will find any way to twist the facts and make up lies...

  22. That is just the truth. Volt is extremely politicized. As long as the Republican Party continues to use it as it's whipping boy it will never be as successful as it could be.

    That said, its increasingly clear that the Volt is a success even in a market that is half as big as every other U.S. car enjoys.

  23. Not to mention that there are Chevy Dealers who REFUSE to sell the Chevy Volt b/c of the political reasons and there are dealers that are completely clueless on how to sell the Volt. Despite all that, Volt is continuing to do better each month.

    I don't think this is much different from what Prius experienced in its early days. Well, okay Prius had "less political" attack than the Volt is getting today.

  24. Very true. I feel Chevy needs to stress how great of a car the Volt is rather than trying to sell it like medicine. Chevy needs to say it quiet and acelrates smoothly and quickly and if you drive only 40 miles or so a day and plug it in you will seldom need to buy gas for it.

  25. I could not agree more with Mark, especially after six months with my Volt. I probably leased it mainly for the mileage and emissions advantages, but I love it because it's just a great car for me, if not everyone. Even for those who oppose GM, The President, incentives like the Volt and other vehicles receive, etc., just ignore that and check out the car itself. Even if you eventually buy/lease from another OEM, you'll end up with a similar (whether pure EV or otherwise) powertrain eventually anyway.

  26. Omg people don't be so ridiculous! Ghosn is still melking the early adopters with the Leaf. In December, the factory in Smyrna is starting to produce and then they will announce ... surprise, surprise ... a cheaper leaf, maybe with more range or something like that.

  27. I have never seen a tsla driving down the road or parked anywhere and I get around a lot, I see toyotos volts fusions leafs, but no tesla and read elons tales of 20,000 cars a year, I read about them everywhere, see them on the internet constantly, but in real time they are missing on the streets of america

  28. @Jackie: Please do us the favor of telling us where you live. Tesla sales are heavily concentrated in just a few regions, and they are already ubiquitous in Silicon Valley:

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