Electric-Car Market Share In 2013: Understanding The Numbers Better Page 2

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

2012 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid - production model

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Under our crude methods, we calculated that electric vehicles had about 1.4 percent market share at the all-important $25,000 price point--including the Volt and its healthy sales.

This would seem to be a more representative measure of electric cars' market success than the more widely reported 0.6 percent of the overall market. Why compare plug-ins to vehicle price segments (under $20,000) where there are no electric competitors?

Then there's the issue of vehicle types--specifically, the pickups and SUVs that make up almost half the U.S. market. As noted earlier, the only plug-in there is the low-volume Toyota RAV4 EV compliance vehicle.

U.S. plug-in electric vehicle market share 2013, removing light trucks, by approximate price point

U.S. plug-in electric vehicle market share 2013, removing light trucks, by approximate price point

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Ignoring truck segments: much better

Dividing the U.S. auto market by price point, and then backing out trucks and crossovers/SUVs (as well as the minimal 1,096 RAV4 EV sales), gives us the best context for analyzing the sales of electric cars.

Within that competitive set, we see that plug-ins capture:

  • a bit more than 1 percent of passenger-car (non-truck, non-SUV) sales;
  • almost 2 percent of the $20,000-plus market; and
  • just about 3 percent of the market for $25,000-plus vehicles.

(That makes for a pretty handy mnemonic device--at least for last year's numbers.)

So the next time someone asks you about electric vehicle sales, you may wish to offer up the "1-2-3s" of the data.

Then, of course, you can go on to explain how battery improvements and corporate commitment (from Nissan, GM, and BMW, in any case) mean those numbers will rise steadily over the coming years.

Tesla's huge first-year share

At the top of the market, by the way--cars $50,000 and up--the startup Tesla Motors has won more than 8 percent of luxury passenger-car sales in the United States, in its first full year.

If we calculate an estimate for the company's market share among passenger cars with a base price of $62,400 or more (the lowest Model S price after the Federal tax credit), the result soars to 17 percent!

It may take a frustratingly long time for electric vehicles to achieve substantial market share at the lowest price points in the U.S. market.

But compared to hybrids--with Toyota the only carmaker after 15 years to commit fully to hybrid technology across all vehicle lines--many auto companies are already embracing the plug-in path, with varying degrees of commitment.

Continuing improvements in battery technology, and those commitments, suggest that electricity is indeed the future we're driving towards.


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