November Plug-In Car Sales: Volt Falls By Half, Leaf Steady

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Sales of plug-in electric cars fell slightly in November, with continued steady sales of the Nissan Leaf not enough to make up for a decline in Chevy Volt numbers.

This month's total may not quite equal last month's plug-in sales of 6,784. The big unknown, however, is deliveries of the Tesla Model S--which Tesla won't discuss.

With just a month left in the year, up to 50,000 electric cars are likely to find buyers during 2012--almost triple the 2011 total of about 17,500.

This year's sales leader, the Chevy Volt range-extended electric car, logged 1,519 sales.

That brings the Volt's total so far this year to 20,828, though the November number is barely more than half the October total of 2,961--a number helped by now-expired sales incentives.

"Volt sales were modest in November due to availability in most key markets including California, our largest market," said GM spokesperson Michele Malcho.

"We had a really low daily stock for most of the month," she continued, "and expect to have more Volts available in December."

Sales of the Toyota Prius Plug-In, the second best-selling car with a plug, were 1,766 units, making November that car's second-best month after the 1,889 units sold in October.

A total of 11,389 Prius Plug-Ins have been sold since the car went on sale in February. Though that car has the lowest electric range (6 miles continuous, 11 miles total) of any plug-in car, it clearly benefits from being part of the best-known family hybrids in the world.

Sales of the Nissan Leaf battery-electric car rose to 1,539, almost matching last month's total of 1,579, and more than double its November sales of 672 a year ago. November marks only the second time this year that more than 1,000 Leafs have found buyers.

That still leaves the Leaf in third place, however, with 8,330 sales so far this year. If the December sales keep pace, it will at least ensure that more Leafs are sold this year than last year's 9,674.

Surprisingly, Ford took fourth place in plug-in sales, selling a (relatively) whopping 1,259 C-Max Energi plug-in hybrids in only that model's second month on the market.

It also sold 172 Ford Focus Electric battery-electric hatchbacks, bringing that car's sales for the year to 518--narrowly beating the total for the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

As for Mitsubishi's electric minicar, now entering its 13th month on sale in the U.S., the i-MiEV sold 42 units--bringing its year-to-date sales to 511.

As for the zero-emission compliance cars, 32 Toyota RAV4 EV crossovers were sold in November--bringing sales since September to 140--and 26 Honda Fit EV hatchbacks were leased, for a five-month total of 74.

Ford will break out the sales of its plug-in Energi models, along with the battery-powered Ford Focus Electric, in a report due tomorrow.

Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] is still not reporting sales of its new Model S all-electric luxury sport sedan, though the Internet abounds in rumors about what that number may be.

Aaron Chew, an equity researcher at Maxim Group, suggests total Model S deliveries may now be approaching 1,800 cars--of which, he said, about 540 were delivered in October.

For November, he wrote, "we estimate deliveries--based on (1) the trajectory of its production targets, (2) [Tesla's] 4Q12 guidance, and (3) recent confirmation it had achieved free cash flow in the last week of November--of ~1,150 for a cumulative total of 1,775."

The actual number won't be known until Tesla's quarterly report in early January.

Smaller makes Fisker, Coda, and Wheego also do not report monthly sales.

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