Plug-In Electric Car Sales In April: Leaf Widens Lead, Volt Flat Again: FINAL UPDATE

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2014 Nissan Leaf

2014 Nissan Leaf

Sales of plug-in electric cars last month stayed about level with last month's, based on the reports from all makers of plug-in electric cars sold in the U.S. (except for two that refuse to provide sales data).

With all data now in, it was a steady month for plug-in sales, but not a spectacular one.

The Nissan Leaf battery-electric hatchback continued its stronger sales trend from March: 2,088 Leafs found new owners, lower than the March number of 2,507 (its second-best month ever, after December last year).

That figure, however, brings the total number of Leafs delivered in 2014 to 7,272, fully one-third higher than the same four-month period last year.

And it widens the Leaf's lead over the Chevy Volt range-extended electric car, which logged 1,548 deliveries, bringing its total for the first four months of 2014 to 5,154. That's less than last year's 5,550 during the same period.

2014 Chevrolet Volt

2014 Chevrolet Volt

Volt sales were 1,478 in March, identical to the number in March of 2013. Together, the 2014 sales figures so far may be an indicator that sales of the mainstream plug-in Chevy will remain flat again this year--as they did in 2013.

The Volt, in fact, only narrowly outsold the plug-in version of the well-known Toyota Prius hybrid. An updated 2016 Chevrolet Volt is expected to be launched at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show next January.

The last of the three top-selling electric cars is the Tesla Model S. As usual, there is no sales data for that car, although Tesla will release global first-quarter sales (January through March) in a financial report due May 7.

Analysts estimate that 1,200 to 1,500 Model S luxury electric cars are delivered in the U.S. each month.

Plug-in hybrids

Sales of the next tier of electric vehicles, the plug-in hybrids that combine all-electric range with gasoline engines, will be released today and tomorrow.

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The highest-selling model in that category is the Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, of which 1,741 were delivered in April--putting the four-month total at 5,037, less than 100 units behind the Volt--potentially making the plug-in Prius the third best-selling plug-in car in the U.S.

Sales of Ford's two Energi models, the Fusion and C-Max,  fell sharply, with their combined total less than the plug-in Prius sales--for the first time since last August. Ford delivered 525 plug-in C-Max hatchbacks and 743 Fusion Energi mid-size sedans.

Honda delivered 37 Accord Plug-In Hybrids, for a year-to-date total of 106 (exactly one-third the sales of the far pricier plug-in hybrid Porsche Panamera, we note).

2015 Ford Focus Electric, 2014 New York Auto Show

2015 Ford Focus Electric, 2014 New York Auto Show

Low-volume and compliance cars

Sales of all the other plug-in cars available in limited U.S. markets will likely continue at their traditionally low numbers.

Compliance cars, built only to meet California zero-emission vehicle requirements, sell only in the volumes needed to meet those rules.

The Chevrolet Spark EV sold 97 units, bringing its total to 369 over four months; the Fit EV's figures are 50 and 150, respectively; and the Toyota RAV4 EV found 69 new drivers, for a total of 306 so far this year.

Chrysler refuses to provide sales figures for its Fiat 500e.

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Among other low-volume all-electric models selling in similarly small quantities, the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive set a new monthly record of 203 sales in April. That's the highest total since the current generation went on sale in May 2013, bringing the year's total to 608 electric two-seaters.

The Ford Focus Electric, on the other hand, delivered just 116 units, bringing its 2014 total so far to 522 units.

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