2013 Honda Fit EV drive event, Pasadena, CA, June 2012
That means that Fiat and Honda will boost production to meet demand, right?
We've now talked to both carmakers, and neither has any intention of upping production beyond their originally planned numbers.
Compliance cars only
Remember, each of these cars is a compliance car--a vehicle built and sold only in California (and a handful of other states) in just enough volume to meet its zero-emission vehicle requirements, which started in 2012.
While its engineers produced a delightful electric car--perhaps nicer than the original gasoline Fiat 500--Fiat has said many times that every 500e will be built at a loss and the company is only selling the car because it has to.
Honda is equally dismissive of battery-electric cars, despite it too having built a fun, powerful, capable electric car.
Its position is indicated by its plans to lease just 1,100 Fit EVs over the three-year regulatory period--they're not for sale at any price.
After that it will take them back, relieving itself of 10 years' worth of parts and maintenance obligations. The fate of the cars themselves? We're not optimistic.
When Honda cut the lease price on the Fit EV, it was quickly swamped with orders--and had to apologize for the long waits.
Honda: pace won't change
But Steve Center, Honda's vice president of environmental business development, said in June that the company's pace of Fit EV production for the hand-built electric conversion won't change.
Each month, Honda's U.S. distribution arm will continue to receive 40 to 50 Fit EVs and allocate them to dealers based on the demand at the time.
That's because Honda assembles the hand-built electric conversion at the same low-volume factory that builds its FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle.
Parts for those cars are ordered in very small batches, and there's little ability to "ramp up" production as you might on a conventional assembly.
Each of Honda's 200 electric-car-certified dealers will get one Fit EV at a time, potentially meaning one every four months.
If you're in fourth position on the waiting list, that means you might wait more than a year for a car.
2013 Fiat 500e electric car, Los Angeles drive event, April 2013
Sold out, no plans to change
Ten days ago, we chatted with Jason Stoicevich, Fiat's new U.S. chief, during a Chrysler-Fiat drive event at the Chrysler Proving Grounds in Chelsea, Michigan.
Perhaps due Fiat's intriguing "Environmentally Sexy" marketing campaign for the 500e, was it true that the first year of production had already sold out--even before the first electric 500 arrives at a Fiat Studio this month?
"The 2013 model year [of the 500] through the fourth quarter is pretty much spoken for," Stoicevich confirmed. "The demand is absolutely fantastic."
OK, then would Fiat boost its production numbers if demand remained strong?
"We have no plans to turn it up," he said.
Stoicevich did note that the Fiat 500e is bringing in new buyers to Fiat Studios, with more than 80 percent of buyers and lessees new to the brand.
"It's a halo car" for Fiat in California, he said, "in a very, very difficult market to do business in."
So if you want a Honda Fit EV or Fiat 500e, be prepared to get on multiple waiting lists, be prepared to persevere--and be prepared to wait.