2014 Chevrolet Volt
As the year winds toward a close, U.S. car sales are at their highest levels in years. And modern plug-in electric cars will set a new sales record too.
With one month left, November deliveries of cars with plugs looked like they'll hold steady with last month's--but as the final numbers came in, November's total of less than 9,000 sales was down about 1,400 units on October's total of more than 10,000.
The Chevrolet Volt sold 1,920 units last month, against 2,022 in October, bringing its sales for the year to date to 20,702.
Sales of the Volt through the first 11 months of the year are now essentially equal with those from last year, despite a $5,000 price cut on the 2014 Volt in August.
2013 Nissan Leaf, Nashville area test drive, April 2013
Neck and neck with the Volt, the Nissan Leaf battery-electric car logged 2,003 deliveries, precisely one car more than the October number of 2,002.
That raises the Leaf's 2013 sales so far to 20,081, just 621 units behind the Volt. Nissan noted that, once again, Atlanta was the hottest market for Leaf sales.
No Tesla numbers
Sales are not known for the third of the three highest-selling electric cars, the Tesla Model S, because Tesla doesn't report monthly sales at all. Its third-quarter U.S. deliveries ran about 1,500 cars a month. (Nor does Chrysler break out Fiat 500e sales numbers.)
Overall, it's looking like plug-in electric cars will total between 90,000 and 100,000 sales for 2013, out of a U.S. market of more than 15 million vehicles.
That's almost double last year's total, which itself tripled the 2011 number.
It doesn't hold a candle to one other country, though: In Norway, electric cars took fully 12 percent of all new-car sales last month--due to strong government incentives to buy zero-emission vehicles.
2013 Ford C-Max Energi - Driven, June 2013
Plug-in hybrids on a roll?
But back to the U.S. Had plug-in hybrid vehicles from Ford, Honda, and Toyota continued October's trajectory, they would end the year stronger than ever before
While sales of the Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid have been below 100 units a month, Ford and Toyota together sold more than 4,300 plug-in hybrids in October.
Toyota sold exactly 1,100 Prius Plug-In Hybrids, less than half October's all-time high of 2,095 but right in line with this year's monthly average. The November sales pushes the total number for the year to 11,169.
Meanwhile, Honda delivered 68 more Accord Plug-In Hybrids, bringing the yearly total since January to 488.
Both of Ford's Energi plug-in hybrids were down in November against their record October numbers for 2013: 941 C-Max Energi hatchbacks against 1,092 in October, and 870 Fusion Energi plug-in sedans in November against 1,087 the prior month.
Ford still outsold Toyota in plug-in hybrids in November, though of course its sales are conventional hybrids remain a fraction of Toyota's. In October, Ford issued a press release touting the fact that its two Energi cars had outsold Toyota's plug-in hybrid for the month.
2012 Ford Focus Electric NASCAR pace car
Low-volume & compliance cars
Bringing up the rear of the sales charts are the seven plug-in electric cars with sales of less than 150 units a month.
Some are clearly "compliance cars" built solely to satisfy California laws for zero-emission vehicle sales.
Sales of the Chevrolet Spark EV totaled 87 in November, bringing the total sold over six months to 463; the Ford Focus Electric came in at 130 deliveries, for 1,580 year to date.
The Toyota RAV4 EV logged 62 sales last month, a third lower than October's 91 and well below its best month of August, when 231 were sold. The yearly total is now 1,068.
The Honda Fit EV racked up only 23 deliveries, for a yearly total of 518.
Two additional models, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Smart Electric Drive, sell in low numbers because of their small size and low number of dealers.
The Smart ED delivered 153, bringing it to 756 for the year, and the little i-MiEV has the lowest sales of any production plug-in car, with a sad 12 cars in November--bringing its yearly total to just 1,018.
And another plug-in joined the U.S. market in November: 39 units of the 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid were delivered to buyers in selected markets.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Porsche later clarified that it had not sold any plug-in Panameras in November.]