Last year, U.S. car buyers drove home in roughly 17,000 plug-in cars, the bulk of them Nissan Leafs and Chevrolet Volts.

As several more plug-in cars enter the market this year, analysts will watch sales carefully to see whether retail and fleet buyers are willing to pay the significant surcharge that electric cars now require.

In January, Nissan sold 676 Leafs and Chevrolet sold 603 Volts, for a mass-market electric-car total of 1282.

For Chevrolet, that's just 39 percent of its December sales of 1,529. That's a number sufficiently grim to amplify the "sales failure" meme now circulating among Volt bashers.

Nissan, on the other hand, has had a smoother sales curve, with its January sales dampened compared to the 954 sold in December.

Mitsubishi sold 36 of its 'i' electric minicars, with first retail deliveries last month in several cities including Cypress, California, and Normal, Illinois.

Fisker and Tesla resolutely refuse to provide monthly sales figures, despite cajoling, pleading, begging, and demanding by many media outlets.

The two startup firms seem unswayed by the notion that real, professional, long-term carmakers actually have the confidence to report sales every month--just like the big boys.

Those numbers will filter out sooner or later, but you can safely ignore their volumes for the purposes of this report: They're low, as are those for the Ford Focus Electric.

In general, winter is not the ideal time to sell electric cars, as Automotive News notes (subscription required), quoting a Chevrolet dealer who says that the Volt's reduced electric range in colder temperatures can often be a deal-breaker.


Follow GreenCarReports on Facebook and Twitter.