Plug-in Electric Car Sales in Canada For January 2013

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

2012 Nissan Leaf winter test

Earlier this month, we covered January's plug-in electric car sales in the U.S., noting that sales fell by about half from the last few months of the prior year.

As a percentage, plug-in cars were 0.3 percent of the American market in January 2013--down from 0.5 percent in December, but still twice as high as the prior January.

Now we turn our attention to deliveries in neighboring Canada, to follow our recent rundown of all 2012 plug-in electric sales in Canada.

Canada: land of the 0.1 percent

January was the fourth month in a row in which reported plug-in electric vehicle sales represented about 0.1 percent of the Canadian new-car market.  The readily available data shows 118 electric car sales, a slight uptick from 115 in December.  (These numbers don't include Tesla sales, because Tesla does not release monthly sales data.)

Among reporting auto companies, the Chevrolet Volt spent its eleventh consecutive month as Canada's the top-selling plug-in car, with 44 sales. This was a slight drop from December (57), and the lowest total since the Volt sold a combined 18 units in Jan/Feb 2012 at the tail end of the NHTSA safety investigation.

The Nissan Leaf spent a second month as the runner-up, moving 37 units (December sales: 27) seemingly on the strength of continued incentives to clear out 2012 inventory before North American-built 2013 models arrive. Sales were the highest since December 2011, when the Leaf achieved its Canadian sales record (59).

The Toyota Prius plug-in rounded out the top three, achieving its best monthly sales (33) in its five months on the Canadian market. (Available since March 2012 in the U.S., it made its Canadian debut in September.)

Just four Mitsubishi i-MiEV's were sold in Canada in January, its lowest monthly sales since its launch 15 months ago. Given the i-MiEV's sales performance in the US -- selling half as many vehicles in January 2013 as it did in all of 2012, on the back of incentive programs -- the company probably isn't overly concerned.

ViEV le Quebec, Canada's plug-in car sales leader

While automakers don't release province-by-province sales data, it's a safe bet that Quebec again led the way for Canadian plug-in sales in January.  Through December 2012, slightly more than half (1,128 of 2,222) of reported electric-car sales in Canada took place in la belle Province.

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

The accomplishment is all the more impressive given that the province has just 24 percent of the country's population -- meaning Quebecers' electric-vehicle adoption rate is twice that of other provinces.

Observers might think British Columbia -- birthplace of Greenpeace, home to Canada's most temperate cities, and the country's per capita hybrid leader -- would lead the way with electric cars. Surprisingly, this is not the case: BC's share of plug-ins (14 percent) is almost exactly in line with its proportion of the population (13 percent).

With that in mind, a review of some factors for Quebec's electric vehicle successes is warranted, especially given the province's harsh winters -- by some measures, it's home to three of the seven coldest cities in Canada -- which would normally be expected to decrease plug-in popularity.

Government policy in Quebec

Quebec has offered generous incentives for electrified transportation: as noted in January, the province offers comprehensive Canada-leading rebates, ranging from $500 for regular hybrid vehicles, up to $8500 for certain plug-in electrics. 

Rebates will end after the 10,000th vehicle, and at time of writing, only 600 rebates remained, all for regular hybrids.  As such, the coming months will offer a chance to assess the price sensitivity of Quebec plug-in electric car buyers.

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