June Plug-In Electric Car Sales: Year Won't Quite Double 2012

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Alex, Rick, David & Christine Prell with new 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV, Studio City, CA

Alex, Rick, David & Christine Prell with new 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV, Studio City, CA

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With half the year now gone, are plug-in electric cars on track to double their sales last year?

Not quite.

As of the end of June, roughly 41,000 plug-in cars had been sold in the U.S.

That number would need to be closer to last year's total of 53,000 to keep sales on pace to double the 2012 total.

Electric car sales might still pull it out, however, if the current price competition among makers continues.

Nissan has aggressive plans for its 2013 Leaf--both the car and its battery pack are now made in Tennessee--and Chevrolet will likely use pricing incentives to keep pace.

Tesla's sales are a bigger unknown, though we'll find out late this month or in early August how many Model S luxury electric sport sedans it sold from April through June, when it reports its second-quarter financials.

But those three are the only high-volume plug-in electric cars this year, which we'd define as selling more than 1,000 each month.

The rest are plug-in hybrids (from Ford and Toyota) and then a handful of lower-volume and compliance cars.

The Big Three

In June, Chevrolet Volt sales soared to 2,698, its best month since last October.

Those deliveries brought the Volt's six-month total to 9,855--ahead of the 8,817 sold at the same time last year, but seemingly about in line with last year's total sales of about 23,500.

2013 Nissan Leaf, Nashville area test drive, April 2013

2013 Nissan Leaf, Nashville area test drive, April 2013

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The Nissan Leaf stayed above a monthly average of 2,000 units for the fourth month, demonstrating the company's strong intent to use pricing to boost sales of the domestically built electric car.

June Leaf deliveries were 2,225, bringing the six-month total to 9,839--just a hair less than the Volt's total, though that included two months (January and February) of short supply.

As for the Tesla Model S, we're roughing in a figure of 4,500 cars delivered for the second quarter, or 1,500 a month.

Plug-in hybrids

After the three high-volume plug-in cars comes the next tier: the plug-in hybrids.

Toyota delivered 584 Prius Plug-In Hybrids, and Ford dispatched 455 C-Max Energi and 390 Fusion Energi models.

Honda, still cautiously and carefully ramping up its first-ever car in this segment, delivered 42 more Accord Plug-In Hybrid.

Totals after six months are:

  • Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid: 4,214
  • Ford C-Max Energi: 2,482
  • Ford Fusion Energi: 1,584
  • Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid: 200

The rest

Sales of every other plug-in car on the market are virtually a rounding error.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV battery-electric minicar fell back to 39 units in June, for a six-month total of just 882 deliveries.

Its maker has not yet announced a 2013 model, amidst rumors that the i-MiEV will be withdrawn from the U.S. market. (Canada did get a 2013 i-MiEV.)

In its second month on the market, the two-seat 2013 Smart Electric Drive added 53 units to last month's 60 units. It's the least expensive plug-in car on the market.

As for the compliance cars, the Ford Focus Electric sold 177 units in June, for a six-month total of exactly 900.

The Toyota RAV4 EV racked up just 44 deliveries, bringing the total through June to 408.

2013 Honda Fit EV drive event, Pasadena, CA, June 2012

2013 Honda Fit EV drive event, Pasadena, CA, June 2012

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Fit EV leases soar

June's big success (relatively) was the Honda Fit EV, whose deliveries of 208 were more than twice the January-through-May total of 88.

Honda's lease numbers soared due to a Fit EV price cut, producing widespread shortages, waiting lists, and later, a company apology.

And, finally, the first 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV was sold last month, along with 26 others.

That leaves only the Fiat 500e to round out the compliance-car stable, and first deliveries should take place at Fiat Studios in California this month.

Future prospects

There's only one more plug-in electric car coming during 2013, probably: the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid.

While it'll be the only plug-in hybrid crossover, it's not likely to move the sales needle much this year.

So the big determinant of whether 2013 sales can actually reach 106,000--doubling last year's 53,000--will be how aggressively Nissan discounts its Leaf, and how Chevrolet responds with its Volt pricing.

Where do you think total 2013 plug-in electric car sales will end up?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

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