Jan Plug-In Electric Car Sales: Volt Falls, Leaf Supply Woes

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2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

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Sales of plug-in electric cars tripled last year, so how's the New Year looking?

Based on January sales, being reported throughout the day by automakers, the year is starting slowly.

General Motors said it delivered 1,140 Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric cars last month. That's more than the 603 delivered in January 2012, but the lowest monthly total since last February.

Nissan's sales of Leaf battery electric cars, on the other hand, fell to 650 cars (a preliminary number).

The company explained that supplies of Leaf models are low, because it has already taken delivery of the last 2012 models produced in Japan.

Production of 2013 Leaf models is ramping up slowly in its Smyrna, Tennessee, assembly plant, and those cars will go on sale at Nissan dealers later this month.

As for the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, it actually outsold the Leaf--but at a low level of 874 units, the lowest total since last July.

January was the first month of (very limited) sales for the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, of which precisely 2 were delivered. The car now is arriving at certain Honda dealers in California and New York.

Ford won't report sales breakouts for its C-Max Energi model--perhaps along with first deliveries of the Fusion Energi sedan--or its Focus Electric until Monday.

Sales of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, on the other hand, were a relatively whopping 257 units--or 44 percent of the entire 2012 sales total for the car of 588.

Mitsubishi spokesman Dan Irvin attributed the sales to very attractive incentives on the battery electric minicar, which will continue through the month of February.

As for compliance cars, 8 Honda Fit EVs were delivered in January, along with 25 Toyota RAV4 EVs.

As always, Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] won't discuss monthly sales figures as every other carmaker does, saying owners and potential buyers don't care, and investors are content with quarterly reports.

The eagerly awaited statistic for deliveries of Tesla Model S electric sport sedans, although only through December, won't be revealed until Tesla releases its year-end financials sometime later this month.

As for Fisker, it also declines to report monthly sales, but it hasn't built any cars in about six months.

Coda Automotive, meanwhile, is struggling from challenge to challenge, with the latest reports of unpaid bills following two separate sets of layoffs within several weeks of each other.


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Comments (35)
  1. Tesla may not provide monthly sales numbers but it probably sold pretty close to Volt and Leaf sales combined last month. Of course that's just incidental. leaf sales should pick up dramatically with the new lower prices and better specs for the 2013 model.

  2. Based on my frequent sighting, I would say you are absolutely right. It is the 3rd highest frequency sighting for me in my area behind Leaf and Volt. (in that order)

  3. I never expected Mitsubishi managing to do that!? I'm impressed!

  4. PiP is available only in 15 launch states so far.

  5. GCR reported that those 15 states accounted for more than 90% of the sales in the case of the Volt...

    I don't think offering PIP in states such as Alaska, Montana, Idaho, South and North Dakotas will make all that much difference in sales number.

    The more interesting point is how many "dealers" offer those cars for sale.

    Not all Ford and Chevy dealers are offering their plugins for sale either.

  6. Tesla:
    In Canada, 95 Model S' were registered in the month of December (sorry, won't have number for January for a few weeks). By comparison, there were 22 Leafs and 66 Volts. So 95 was a strong first month! ...and Chris O, looks like you were pretty bang-on!

  7. Low sales also probably associated with the drop in gas prices, now that prices are going back up we can expect to see increased sales.

  8. There is also the government incentive to take into account. I am sure many purchasers in the end of the year have an eye on getting their tax rebate soon, but for January sales, they have to wait for another year.

  9. I expect Jan/Feb to be a traditionally low sales month. Volt is selling way about 2012 level for a great yoy increase.
    Plus, with lower gas price and colder temperature, the appeal of "electric" just went down.
    I seriously doubt anyone would be interested in finding out that Prius Plugin can't even stay in EV mode during their dealership short test drive when they turn on their heat...

  10. The Prius plug-in is a farce. The only use of the prius electric drive train is to smooth out the gas-guzzler peaks of start and initial acceleration. That it does well, but no better in mileage than a thrifty diesel. On the other hand its more expensive than a Corrola by 10K$ so it really does not make sense. In Israel i purchased the Renault ZE and 65K miles of electric- range unlimited driving for the same price as a Prius before gas and maintenance

  11. How long it stays in EV mode is irrelevant. What matters is how much total gas and electricity is used during a complete trip. If your trips are short, the Volt wins. If your trips are longer, the Plugin Prius wins. Your driving style, and the local cost of gas and electricity will determine the cross over point.

  12. But I do expect the C-Max and Fusion Energi to have some "pop" in sales.

    I saw additional 2 C-Max Energi in the area, 1 blue and 1 black. I have yet to see any Fusion Energi but I do see a lot of regular Fusion and Fusion hybrids here.

    I also see a lot of Leaf in the Northern California as well (almost more frequently than Volt). I hardly see any I-Miev (only about 2). In fact, I haven't seen any Focus/Fit EV on the road.

    So far, I have seen more Tesla S in my area than all the Prius Plugins, C-Max Energi and i-Miev combined. That is a statement in itself!

    Actually I am starting to get sick and tired of seeing all the Tesla S in my area. It just makes me more jealous every day. =) (I see one about every 2-3 days).

  13. I have to wonder if Ford's strategy of having a hybrid and a plug-in (energi) will limit the sales of the later (for both the C-Max and Fusion). Cost is pretty close if you qualify for the $7,500 and wait for tax season to get it. Will the hybrid just seem equal but more convenient and end up wildly outselling the engergi?!?

  14. @Scott: The C-Max and Fusion Energi models don't qualify for the $7,500 Federal income-tax credit. Based on the size of their battery packs, the credit amount is $3,750.

  15. Too bad that Ford only sold 338 C-Max Energi and 81 Focus EV. I was hoping for more...

  16. come on guys...

    you try to boss Tesla with this eyeroll,

    "Tesla Motors [NSDQ:TSLA] won't discuss monthly sales figures as every other carmaker does"

    and two paragraphs down write,

    "As for Fisker, it also declines to report monthly sales,"

    while I understand, you'd love to be able to add Tesla monthly sales to complete a chart, why badger Tesla? a) Fisker is doing the same, b) the Model S is a historic car because they are willing to not do what convention calls for.

  17. @Steve: I'm certainly in no position to "boss Tesla," but we would like them to release monthly sales--just as every legitimate, long-term automaker does.

    I split Tesla and Fisker because, frankly, Tesla is building and delivering cars and Fisker isn't (nor is Coda). I think it puts them in two very different categories: Tesla's sales are far more important to monthly totals than are Fisker's.

    Until Fisker gets a new investor or partner (or is sold), its sales are much less important--which is why I worded it the way I did.

    Hope this helps.

  18. John, valid point as to Fisker not building cars at this point. Frankly I hadn't taken it into consideration.

    I can also understand in the long run why you would want them to put out monthly sales as other companies do.

    In the short term, I think you have to take in consideration they're future's been on the line over the pace of production ramp up. Why potentially inflame existing speculation of bankruptcy each month with official sales numbers (scares consumers & suppliers). this remains an issue. let's say they have a supply issue that stops production for two weeks... monthly sales figures will spell this out in bold letters, where it would be diluted in a quarterly report.

    as you may have put together, I am an investor.

  19. Steve: you are absolutely right. Tesla is (or at least was) in the ramp up phase of production and releasing sales numbers during that phase does not actually reflect demand, something that could easily be misinterpreted by the media. Even though it's frustrating for those who want to know everything about Tesla I think it is unavoidable that Tesla manages this sort of info to a certain extend during this vulnerable phase.

    This has been a recurring discussion here but John Voelcker takes a different view, apparently interpreting Tesla's quarterly rather than monthly numbers as a sign that Tesla is not a real, legitimate, long-term car maker. Time will tell if he is correct about that, but so far Tesla seems to be going strong.

  20. @Chris O: Although I don't agree with it, I understand Tesla's argument for not releasing sales figures during production ramp-up. Especially since it took longer than originally expected.

    Now Tesla has said it's at full production, which eliminates that concern. And obviously it's delivering cars as fast as it can to keep the cash coming in.

    Is there any reason for Tesla NOT to release monthly sales now?

  21. @ John Voelcker: I do agree that at some point Tesla runs out of excuses to do quarterly rather than monthly numbers like the "big boys" do. Keep in mind though that this is not a big boy, it's a small company and Elon Musk needs to keep a lot of balls in the air simultaneously to make it through the valley of death. Some understanding for that would be in order rather than incessant suggestions that Tesla is not a real, legitimate company because it really is. So far between the rave reviews,the awards, production at full speed, no major quality issues and an endless list of reservation holders there also isn't really any concrete indication that Tesla is not a long-term car maker.

  22. @Chris O: I'm glad we can agree that at some point Tesla should start reporting sales like any other car company.

    I understand quite well that Musk has to juggle a lot of balls (at 3 companies, no less). But Tesla's ability to survive as a carmaker depends entirely on the finances at this point: Can it build and sell 20K Model S cars a year and not only pay the bills but earn enough money to fund development of the next product line?

    That's why the Q4 and full 2012 numbers will be so important, when that call happens sometime this month.

    I still don't believe Tesla will remain independent over the long term; I think their venture backers will sell. But, hey, I've been wrong before.

  23. @Steve: Thanks for being transparent about your interest in Tesla's success as an investor.

    I understand the argument about the potential for negative commentary over monthly sales fluctuations. Perhaps in the rampup to production, that's a fair reason. But now Tesla itself has said it's at full production, and it's obviously delivering as many cars as it can.

    But big-boy car companies seem to survive media coverage, so I hope that Tesla will decide--sooner rather than later--that production is at the desired levels, so it can provide monthly sales.

    Otherwise, not releasing sales figures makes many analysts think the company has something to hide.

    Unless it's pure arrogance, of course.

  24. John I can understand what you're saying (including your mentioning arrogance).

    Have they indicated they will release monthly sales in the future?

    For now, it's still an issue. Isn't it realistic Tesla might shut down production a couple of weeks some point in coming months (supply issue, changing supplier, equipment or QC issue...). With monthly sales figures that would jump out within a month or two. Guys like John Shinal would spin stories of Tesla's imminent collapse (he did with far less a grain of truth 6 weeks ago).

    Perception would effect supplier and consumer confidence.

    I've been long enthused about green car tech, TSLA stock is a recent byproduct. The possibility of the tech is bigger than the stock or anyone's arrogance.

  25. Correct me if I am wrong but it seems to me that the production rate of the Model S has a lot more bearing on cars delivered than say a Volt or a Leaf. Tesla makes cars by order and not to fill lots. Chevy could stop production for a week or so and still have Volts to sell and deliver. If Tesla shuts down the line , for whatever reason, they have no cars to deliver.

  26. This has been a telling week - yesterday I parked my Leaf next to another at lunch, was followed by a different Leaf on the freeway going home, and passed by a third in the streets heading to my house. Earlier in the week a coworker's brother drove his Tesla S down from Santa Rosa (over 400 miles) averaging 240 miles/charge, and I got to go for a spin in his beautiful car. I think with all the fiscal cliff hype many were leery of a large purchase; plus the whack in payroll tax has certainly slowed my spending down.

  27. I see a lot of Tesla S in the North Bay (wine country) for some reason...

  28. I suspect that's because when you're going to Napa, having a Tesla S makes it a lot easier to find a designated driver.

  29. Great point! Who wouldn't want to be the "designated driver" in this case? :)

  30. Unless all these EV's fix the range problem, using the Batt Swap system, they will never sell. Range anxiety devours everything - except here in Israel when its solved.

  31. Sorry to burst your bubble but battery swapping is on its way out. Expensive and cumbersome battery swap stations can never be build at the right places and in sufficient numbers to make for the sort of dense grid that would really make EVs more long distance capable. Fast charge stations however could be and therefore fast charging is the future.

  32. @ Chris O - I think you are right on. The Tesla S has the capability to do fast battery swaps but I doubt it will ever be used on a wide scale. I have used the Tesla superchargers and charging high-voltage DC at 250 amps is awesome to behold.

  33. Battery swaps will become irrelevant as battery technology rapidly evolves, making them cheaper and more power dense. Already the Tesla S has outstanding range which would cover nearly anyone's needs, and their super-charging stations can reload them in about a half hour. Also, my solar panels are a much cheaper way to recharge those batteries than being trapped in a $250 - $500 /month swap contract. Sorry, I'll choose freedom.

  34. I'm going to hope that as it is the start to a new year and people are paying holiday bills from 2012, this plays into the low numbers.

    Personally, I fail to understand how the LEAF and other EVs are not catching on and flying off the lots. My family has been driving a LEAF since December and we are thrilled with its performance. This is the coolest car I have ever driven, and with the lease being as low as it is I cannot fathom why people are not getting one.

    My only complaint is the infrastructure. We need more charging stations, in particular the Level 3 Quick Charges. The installation of those would truly change the EV industry and lifestyle on a whole.

    I'm optimistic for 2013. I am.

  35. I think it has something to do with cars sitting on the lot, as in no dealer near me has a Leaf on the lot and my local Chevy dealer doesn't have a Volt on the lot. {They don't know how to sell a Volt either from the way their salespeople are so unfamiliar with the capabilites. Ask a question, get a "deer in the headlights" look in return.

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