February 2015 Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales

News | March 4th, 2015 by 5
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Last month in January, the industry carved out the narrowest of gains finishing up just 6.7% over the year prior with an estimated 5,924 plug-in sales.

It only gets harder in February, as 7,200-odd EVs were sold a year ago.

Truth be told, with the current versions of the Chevrolet Volt and Prius PHV both being mostly abandoned (practically speaking) by their parent brands – who are looking ahead to the next generation of their plug-ins, we may not see any gains until mid-summer.

Thankfully, BMW is picking up a lot of the slack with their new i3 – which sold more than a 1,000 units in one of the toughest months of the year to move a plug-in vehicle.

While InsideEVs as a rule doesn’t make predictions on sales, we will go ahead and suspend that stance this month, as we can say with some confidence that the first half of EV sales in America will be flat to slightly higher, while the 2nd half will net huge gains.

This article first appeared on InsideEVs

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Chevrolet Volt:

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What effect does the next generation Volt with a greater range and an expected cheaper entry price point have on current gen sales?

How about adding in a whirlwind tour of the 2016 model across the United States (Detroit, Washington, Chicago, Las Vegas, etc) over the past 6 weeks?

Why not throw in some current model neglect by GM with marketing and production?

It resulted in just 693 sales, which was off 48% from 2014 when 1,210 were moved. (full article on the Volt`s February can be found here)

The silver lining was that February’s result was actually a decent improvement over an abysmal January when 542 Volts were sold. A number that was off by 41% from last year when 918 were moved, and the lowest monthly total since August of 2011 for the extended range car.

Looking at GM’s very low production level of 2015 MY Chevrolet Volts throughout 2014 and into 2015 it has become clear the company is looking ahead to the next generation launch of the car in the second half of the year. That being said, and despite the Volt’s Hamtramck, Michigan facility being closed a week this month for tooling, GM did raid 2015 MY Volt stock by about 30% before the month expired…only problem is that still equals less than 3,000 cars.

Last year (2014) 18,805 cars were been sold – which was down 18.6% from 2013 when GM moved 20,702 Volts. This means that the Volt is the first electric vehicle to post two consecutive years of falling sales in America.

Nissan LEAF:

Nissan Leaf - Shawn Molnar | BMWBLOG-2

Sales of the LEAF rebounded slightly in February with 1,198 cars sold, but this result was still off 15.9% from a year ago.

Nissan blamed the weather for the miss:

“Tough winter weather in several key markets held EV sales back in February. As we head into spring, we look forward to seeing more dealership traffic so shoppers can experience firsthand the benefits of the all-electric Nissan LEAF.” – Brendan Jones, director, Nissan Electric Vehicle Sales and Infrastructure.

Last month (January) and for the first time in almost 2 years, Nissan had a month one could consider a disappointment. The streak of 23 consecutive record monthly sales was snapped, as just 1,070 LEAFs were sold, off about 15% from January of 2014 when 1,252 were moved.

Nissan’s Brendan Jones tried to explain the January slowdown as a function of December’s impressive 3,000+ sold result.

“We saw a significant increase in demand in December from Nissan LEAF customers looking to take advantage of federal and state incentives at the end of the tax year, which pulled some sales ahead.” – Brendan Jones, director, Nissan Electric Vehicle Sales and Infrastructure

In 2014, Nissan sold 30,200 LEAFs, which is a big 34% improvement over 2013, when 22,610 were sold. For some perspective on how high that 30,200 sales number is, the previous best was by the Chevrolet in 2013 with 23,094 Volts sold.

An interesting “perk” of the January/February slowdown in plug-in sales is that Nissan has been able to expand national inventories to about 6,000 units – the highest level the company has yet to achieve in the United States.

Of random interest: Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said that “more than 400 km (249 miles)” will be coming to the LEAF in just a “few years”. Important to note that this conversation took place in Japan where range ratings are wildly optimistic, however Mr. Ghosn was asked directly if the range will double – to which he replied “yes” while declining to add any further information.

Cadillac ELR:


Ain’t no stopping the ELR sales, with another 127 being moved in February, that is up 119% from February 2014 when just 58 were moved.

The ELR was also a rare bright spot for EV sales in January too, as sales of the premium plug-in from Caddy improved 124% to 92 units during the month.

Previously, in the best selling month of the year for EVs, 118 ELRs were moved a month ago in December, which is just about bang on with the year average.

A lot of dealer-level discounting has turned the luxury Cadillac plug-in into a fairly decent seller recently, but that looks to slow now as inventory has been whittled down to a manageable 550-odd units heading into March. So when we said “ain’t no stopping the ELR sales” earlier, that was a lie…a thinning inventory will shortly affect sales of the premium plug-in Cadillac.

Overall, 1,310 plug-in Cadillacs were sold in 2014. The all-time high for ELR sales came in August when 196 were sold.

The inventory situation is fairy fixed thing, as GM decided to not build any 2015 ELRs to the numbers under control. The 2015 will be skipped in favor of the refreshed ELR.

It should be noted the debut the 2016 ELR at the LA Auto Show was scrapped at the last minute in November, and now it has been scratched at the last minute in Geneva – where it had been expected to re-debut in March.

The reason (at least for LA))? Its “autonomy” functions weren’t ready to go….which seems a little week considering no one expected the car to be driving around by itself on stage. As for its absence in Geneva next month, GM decided to just quietly remove it from all media all online media publications.

Instead of the ‘next’ ELR debut in LA, we got an interview with new Cadillac boss Johan de Nysschen, that could not have been more of a wet blanket, complete with the labeling of the brand “niche” and not a priority right now.

BMW i3:


“What the heck?” – is pretty much the only thing you can say when it comes to what BMW pulled off in February.

Low inventory? Check. One of the worst months to sell an EV? Check. Terrible weather? Check.

But none of that mattered, as BMW sold 1,089 i3s in February!

Previously in January, BMW sold 670 i3s – fairly decent showing for the German plug-in.

Despite the winter blahs, the company has now crossed into 4-digits in 5 of the last 7 months. The all-time high still stands at 1,159 from October.

In 2014, BMW sold 6,092 i3s, good for the 7th best overall spot for plug-in sales in America…not bad considering it was only available for 7 full months in the US.

Current owners got some good news in December as earlier, long standing issues surrounding the onboard chargers being muted to avoid failure incidents has now been rectified and BMW has a recall/repair bulletin out for owners to now get new units installed. 7.4 kW charges again for everyone!

Still, details on the 2015 model year BMW i3 are out (details) and include some new creature comforts (heated seats for all models), DC fast charging across the range; as well as some product fixes (ala the keyfob).

Looking at the inventory situation, national inventories grew for the second consecutive month averaging about 2,500 0 units in February…which for BMW, and its smaller dealer footprint compared to the larger OEMs, is close to the ideal amount.

Tesla Model S:


Tesla does not give out exact monthly sales (apparently because the public can’t handle the concept of regional allocations and delivery lead times)… so we never know for sure what the monthly numbers total up to until their quarterly updates, but we do our best to keep our finger on the pulse of what is happening.

Unlike other (like all) publications, we don’t simply take an expected number of sales for the Model S given by analysts for the quarter and then divide it by 3 to get a monthly number and hope it all works out…it just doesn’t work like that, even for the larger OEMs.

We actually put in a little research/tracking effort into the estimated number of deliveries in the North America (and the world) and attempt to explain what is happening behind the scenes. (and so far, that has worked out pretty well)

For February, three distinct things happened for Tesla in regards to Model S sales:

The ‘boat’ landed in Europe with late December/January production of P85Ds and deliveries of the car overseas officially got underway in mid-February. And by Europe, we really just mean Norway as the cars don’t have be dis-assembled, then re-assembled to get around pesky import duties.

If you lived elsewhere in Europe (and not in the UK), as an early reservist, you can expect your P85D beginning this month (March). So if you are looking to peg international deliveries for Tesla in February, look for big things out of Norway, and pretty much no where else. And if you were looking for a RHD version of the “D” to arrive soon (UK, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia), you probably got bad news this month as there is apparently some technical snafu that will see those cars delayed until the second half of the year.

For the US, another serious/ongoing round of P85D North American production got going in February and more ultra-high performance Tesla’s starting arriving in American hands mid-to-late in the month.

More significantly, ‘regular’ AWD 85 kWh cars (or S85D if you will) started production in early February, slightly behind original forecasts. Early deliveries of the car seemed to be a little slower than normal (waiting on some QC checks we assume), but the first cars were moved out the 3rd week of the month before a lot more drifted onto consumer’s driveways the last week of the month.

As seems to be the norm, the bulk of delivery promises made on the Model S (of all trim levels combined) this quarter from the company is for the last month of the quarter. Provided there is no plant (or software) hiccups, expect March to be a pretty decent month for Tesla Model S deliveries.

Trailing data actually leads us to believe we undershot January’s result by couple hundred units, so we will be a little more aggressive estimating February in order to balance that out.

InsideEVs estimates February deliveries in North America for Tesla at 1,150 units.