Plug-in electric car sales in Canada, March 2016: springing forward


Though many countries opt out of daylight savings time, the Canadian auto market always "springs forward" in March.

Last month set a Canuck record for total March auto sales, at 175,000 units; depending on Tesla volumes to be reported this month, the plug-in electric vehicle segment may have broken its own monthly record as well.

Those potentially record numbers were assisted by renewed policy support in Ontario and British Columbia, and broader product offerings from carmakers.

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The second-generation Chevy Volt racked up 246 sales in March, easily its best-ever month in Canada.

That was 10 percent better than its 222 sales in April 2014, and more than double the 102 it sold in February. The totals fell just short of the 255 Model S cars Tesla sold last September, and the 250 it sold in March 2015.

(Last month was also the first time in six months that the Volt was outsold by the standard Toyota Prius liftback, which notched 274 sales of its own.)

Plug-in electric car sales in Canada, March 2016

Plug-in electric car sales in Canada, March 2016

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In a sign of crossovers' dominance, the hybrid RAV4 is handily outselling both the Volt and Prius, moving about 1,000 units in the three slowest months of the Canadian auto sales year (December through February).

Hopes are high that Toyota will break out Prius Prime plug-in hybrid sales figures when it debuts this fall, or that it will get its own separate line item in vehicle registration data.

Nissan sold 98 Leafs in its best March ever, roughly doubling its 51 sales in February.

WATCH THIS: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime plug-in hybrid video preview

BMW reported 62 i-series sales in March (the company doesn't separately break out i3 and i8 sales in Canada), also about double its February registrations of 15 i3 and 11 i8 vehicles.

Mitsubishi sold 7 i-MiEV electric minicars in March, in line with its nine-month average, and Cadillac added one more ELR range-extended luxury coupe.

As usual, their maker refuses to provide Ford C-Max Energi and Ford Fusion Energi sales.

2016 Tesla Model X with 2011 Tesla Roadster Sport, photographed by owner Bonnie Norman

2016 Tesla Model X with 2011 Tesla Roadster Sport, photographed by owner Bonnie Norman

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To quote a Ford representative: "I have looked into this and unfortunately we are not inclined to provide this level of detail for Canada. The numbers are very small, as you might imagine."

Managing X-pectations

Turning to February vehicle registration data, Tesla sold 88 Model Ses in February, up from 47 in January, logging easily its best Canadian February.

CHECK OUT: Plug-In Electric Car Sales For 2015 Fall Slightly From 2014

No Model Xes appear to have been sold in Canada through the end of the quarter, perhaps owing to Tesla working its way through Transport Canada's regulatory protocols.

After kicking off 2016 by selling 49 Soul EVs in January, Kia followed up with another 30 in February, despite offering the car only in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec, the three provinces with plug-in electric vehicle rebate programs.

Moving to German brands, Audi sold 27 A3 e-trons in Canada in February, while its brand-mates at Porsche sold 16 Cayenne S E-Hybrids and 2 Panamera S E-Hybrids.

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid [photo: Gary Renick, Twin Cities region]

2016 Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid [photo: Gary Renick, Twin Cities region]

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For each of the three vehicles, the plug-in hybrids have represented about 15 percent of monthly Canadian sales. That's consistent with Volvo's recent claim that about 20 percent of its XC90 sales have been for the plug-in hybrid variant.

As for the Volvo XC90 T8 'Twin Motor' plug-in hybrid crossover SUV itself, nine were sold in Canada in February, being 9 percent of the vehicle's 102 sales.

BMW sold another six X5 xDrive 40e plug-in hybrid luxury crossovers in February, while Mercedes sold three Smart Electric Drive two-seaters, and Ford moved another pair of Focus Electric hatchbacks.

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