March 2015: Plug-in Electric vehicles sales

Interesting, Others | April 7th, 2015 by 0
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As Spring returns to America, so does the plug-in vehicle sales. For many regions in the United States this winter set some new all-time record …

As Spring returns to America, so does the plug-in vehicle sales.

For many regions in the United States this winter set some new all-time record cold temperatures, and with that same fairly tepid sales for the first two months of the year – for February just 6,951 units were sold.

However, March unexpectedly roses almost 50% compared to the moth prior, with an estimated 10,341 EV sold.

Even against some formidable numbers a year ago (9,650), March of 2015 was still 7% better – in a month that was originally expected to miss by a good margin.

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The Tesla Model S took home the best sales mark of the month (and year) with the first full month of deliveries on the 85D, while the Fiat 500e came out of virtual obscurity to sell an estimated 1,310 cars.  In California alone, 1,223 rebates were claimed, making it the best seller in the state by far.

The month’s impressive showing turned overall year-to-date sales positive by a slight margin – 3% (23,339 vs 22,671)

Of note for March: The Nissan LEAF became the best selling EV in the United States by a margin of 76,407 to 75,231 over the Chevrolet Volt, however the strong sales of the Model S in March pushed the Tesla into the top spot for the year.

Chevrolet Volt: In March, 639 Volts were sold, off some 58% from the 1,478 sold in 2014.

For the first three months of the year, a lack of inventory, dis-interest in marketing, and a whirlwind tour of the next generation 2016 Volt has kept sales at multi-year lows.

Previously in February just 693 were sold (off almost 50% from a year ago), and just 542 in January (off by just over 40%).

Likely helping sales to rebound next month (April) is the build-out of the current generation of Volt, as the car’s Hamtramck assembly ceases in about seven weeks.  As such, GM apparently has decided to build up 2015 inventory before then, and near 4,000 copies of this year’s model has hit dealerships around the country.

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: During March, Nissan came close to returning to the 2,000 unit sold mark, but fell just short with 1,817 sold – a 50%+ improvement over February however.

Overall Nissan has failed to hit year ago levels each month this year.  In total 4,085 LEAFs are have been sold in 2015, down 21% from last year when 5,184 were moved.

Nissan previously has blamed some extraordinary winter weather for the misses.

Also of note, the LEAF overtook the Chevrolet Volt for the all-time lead for plug-in sales in America.  That tally currently stands at 76,407 to 75,231, although we expect GM to have something to say about those standings when the 2016 Volt arrives this fall.

“We celebrated two major milestones in March: We reached 75,000 Nissan LEAF sales in the U.S., and now we are America’s top selling plug-in vehicle,” said 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.

Cadillac ELR: The luxury EV from GM has turned into a fairly consistent performer for the company.  In March, 92 were sold, besting last years result by about 14%

Last month (February) is still the mark to beat for 2015 however, as 127 were sold – 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.

Some very aggressive discounting has thinned a once very populous herd of inventory to just over 400 units.   No 2015 model year Cadillac ELR was produced because of the extended range luxury car’s poor selling performance last year.

And even though the next generation of ELR has had a couple high profile no-shows (LA in November and Geneva this month), the vehicles is apparently headed into back into production early this summer…but maybe only to run out the model (akin to the 2016 Spark EV on the older platform).

BMW i3: For March, BMW sold a further 922 copies of the i3 – another impressive result considering less than 2,000 units are available in the US to buy at the moment.

Previously this year, BMW sold 1,089 i3s in February.

Despite the winter blahs of late, the company has now crossed into 4-digits in 5 of the last 8 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 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, strong selling results in both February and January mean that national inventory has fallen my about 25% to the 2,000 unit mark.

Tesla Model S: Tesla does not give out exact monthly sales so we never know for sure what the monthly numbers total up to until Tesla’s quarterly updates add clarity, but we do our best to keep our finger on the pulse of what is happening.

To come to an estimated monthly, number, we don’t simply take the quarterly estimate given by Tesla and divide it by 3 and hope it all works out…it just doesn’t work like that.

We simply report from the data we accumulate ourselves, the first hand accounts available from the factory and from the community itself – and the number is what it is.  So far that has worked out pretty well, with no quarter being off by more than 300 units versus information Tesla has reported publically, and for the full year results last year we came within 100 units with our net estimate of 17,300.

That being said, we only estimate this number because Tesla does not, and to not put a number on Model S sales would be to paint an even more inaccurate overall picture of EV sales.  Despite our fairly accurate track record, we are not analysts, portfolio managers and we do not own any positions in Tesla the company.

For March, Tesla experienced the “perfect storm” of deliveries all around the globe.  In North America the 85D deliveries hit full stride, the P85D flow also continued; and remember those cars that Tesla started building for Europe just after Christmas and in January of 2015?  Well they materialized into some of the best result in Europe since…well, a long time.  Even China seemed to surge with reportedly well north of 600 units ringing the bell.

For the month, production seemed almost flawless as one Model S P85D owner reported to us getting a car delivered just 18 days after placing an order in March.

For North America, we estimate Tesla delivered about 2,450 Model S sedans – mostly 85Ds.  In Europe, we would be shocked to not see Norway alone easily eclipse 1,000 units sold (there is a mad rush to get as many EVs as possible delivered before the possible curtailing of tax incentives past the cumulative 50,000 EVs sold mark).

Cumulatively, Tesla looks to have easily delivered more than 5,000 cars worldwide in March – which would be one of their best (if not the best) result to date.

The only disappointment we could suggest for the month is that it seems Tesla in a rush to hit Q1 numbers (what new?), and after a slow first two months (what new?), delayed much of the Euro production of the 85D that was looking iffy for the Q1 delivery deadline into Q2, and managed delivery expectations of customers to June.

Ford Fusion Energi: The plug-in Ford had its best month since last summer in March, selling 837 copies.

For the first two months of the year, 426 (Jan), and 603 (Feb)copies were sold – so the trend is certainly going in the right direction.

Thankfully, the main issue that had been holding back Fusion Energi sales (no not demand) – national inventories has improved considerably.

Heading into April about 3,000 are not in stock – we look for the Fusion Energi to have a significance resurgence in sales this Spring.

The Fusion Energi basically offers the same package as the C-Max Energi, but in a larger sedan package. The third plug-in to be offered from Ford has been rated by the EPA at a combined 88 MPGe and has an electric range of 19 miles.

Toyota Prius Plug-In: For March, 473 Prius PHVs were sold, off 66% – not surprising considering the company has not really stocked the popular plug-in for months now while waiting on the next generation car.

Unfortunately, the 2nd generation of plug-in Prius is not expected to arrive until year’s end at the earliest, so this story of low sales is going to continue for awhile.

Previously in February, sales continued to circle the drain in with 397 sold, off some 62% from a year ago.

Again, we do have to note – that recent results was/is not a reflection on the demand for the car as…well, there isn’t that many to be had. National inventories have held steady at an unacceptably low level for anyone honestly trying to sell this car – heading into April, less than 1,000 are available.

Ford C-Max Energi: Like its sister car in the Fusion Energi, the plug-in C-Mas also had a strong month selling 715 units – the best result since August of 2013.

Still, it is no secret that the C-Max Energi (and the ‘regular’ C-Max) are struggling to find a spot inside Ford’s automotive lineup. We think the potential sales ceiling for the C-Max Energi is probably right around 1,000 units.

Previously in February sales rebounded slightly (relatively speaking) as 498 plug-in C-Max Energis were sold.

For 2014 overall, 8,433 plug-in C-Maxs were sold, good for being the 6th best selling plug-in for America.

In 2013, the high water mark for the C-Max Energi was set in October as 1,092 plug-ins sold. It would not surprise us to see the C-Max Energi live only as long as it takes to introduce a Focus Energi.

Mercedes-Benz B-Class ED: Sales rebounded slightly in March despite little cars to be had at dealerships – 145 were sold.

The year high was previously set in January at 240 EVs moved.

Can the electric B-Class compete with natural rival BMW (with the i3)? It still seems highly unlikely, at least for now…but a lot more probable than just a couple months ago.  At some point we hope for Mercedes to ship some more inventory depth into America to see how many B-Class EDs could really be moved.

Introduced in the second half of 2014, 774 B-Class EDs were been sold. It is hard to rate and/or gauge the demand of the car because that is pretty much all the cars Daimler has shipped out to the US so far.

For the US, the B-Class will be available only in limited states for 2014 and the first few of months of 2015 (CA, CT, MD, OR, NJ, NY, RI and VT). Later, it will head out nationwide to the unwashed masses.

BMW i8: Apparently winter has no effect on i8 sales in America, as 143 more plug-in supercars were sold in March.

In the first two months of the year BMW sold 85 (Jan) and 113 (Feb) copies.

All great results…as so far in 2015, it only takes about 20 days for a car landed in the US to find a home.

The high mark for the i8 was set at 204 plug-in sports cars sold in October of 2014.

555 i8s were sold in total in 2014…out of the approximate 555 that were shipped from BMW’s Leipzig assembly plant.

Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid: The on dealer battle between the plug-in Panamera and Cayenne continued in March, with the Panamera ending up on the short end of the stick – just 44 were sold.

Previously for February, 40  Panamera S E-Hybrids were sold, which comes after a rebound month of sorts in January when 61 were sold.

The high mark for sales on the Panamera was set in the first month of the year, with an amazing 141 sold. The advent of the Cayenne plug-in means that this level will never be seen again.

The Panamera S E-Hybrid has a combined 416 hp output (333 hp electric) and can get north of 60 mph in about 5 seconds, with a top speed of 167 mph. Pricing starts at $99,000. Also of interest, the S E-Hybrid is currently available at all Porsche dealers nationwide – a rare thing these days.

Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid: Despite some still thin inventories, the plug-in Cayenne sold 72 copies in March.

As more inventory of the Cayenne plug-in arrives, we expect more sales to be realized by Porsche.

Previously in February, 71 were sold.

While the Cayenne S e-Hybrid and cousin Panamera S e-Hybrid are still selling relatively close to the same level, don’t be fooled, the Cayenne plug-in’s demand is much, much higher.

How high? We can’t say. But what we can tell you is that since its arrival, rarely has national inventory gone over 50 units – about a third of Panamera S E-Hybrid stock.

Chevrolet SPARK EV: A surge of new inventory that arrived earlier this year translated into the little electric Chevy’s 2nd best result to day.

In March 151 were sold.

Previously in February, the Spark EV continued to be strong with 119 moved; 67% more than a year ago.

As a sidenote to sales: A virtual ton of Spark EVs hit the port in January, as the electric Chevy’s inventory exploded in January to north of 800 vehicles – level which touched more than a 1,000 in February until it settled back down to around 800 again in March.

GM sold 1,144 in total for the 2014 against 539 in 2013.

Volkswagen e-Golf: The e-Golf turned in its best performance of the year to date, selling 195 copies in March, despite some pretty steep inventory problems as most production so far has stayed at home in Europe.

Previously in February, just 130 electrified Golfs were sold.

Looking at Europe, and the amount of EVs VW sells from such a limited inventory, the company has served notice that they won’t be relegated to the small volume compliance category of EV sales.

How high could sales go? Still fairly hard to say, but as inventories spread out and VW eventually sends it across the country, the 500 per month level ‘in season’ doesn’t seem hard to fathom today – at least when (and if) inventory levels get high enough to support that many sales.

Heading into April, about 600 copies were available to be purchased in America (about double that of last month) – so we will still have to wait a bit longer to see the natural demand for the plug-in VW.

Originally for the US, the Volkswagen e-Golf only came in the premium SEL trim, which brings with it a price point of $35,445, but now the ironically named “limited” edition is also available for $33,450.

The e-Golf has been rated at 83 miles by the EPA and carries a 24.2 kWh LEAF-like battery.

Mitsubishi i-MiEV: 2016s are here! 2016s are here!

Unfortunately not that many.  A quick check around the US by ourselves at month’s end only returned about 2 dozen copies.

This of course was 2 dozen more i-MiEV than had been available over the past year and a half, which resulted in sales soaring to…10 units sold.

For the year, Mitsubishi has now sold 15 of the small 4 seat EV.

Long story short, sales are terribl, as Mitsu continues to learn the lesson of “If you don’t ship any inventory, its hard to sell cars.”

Despite no 2015 model year cars ever being shipped to the US, Mitsubishi has decided to restock 2016 models of the car starting this month (March 2015) – yes, you heard that right – 2016s…in March of 2015. We should note that after talking to Mitsu directly about the 2016 i-MiEV (which gets some option package tweeks), the company says they don’t plan on marketing the car any differently than the outgoing 2014 edition. So look for some continued low volume numbers.

SMART ForTwo Electric Drive: A respectable 103 copies of the 2 seat EV from smart sold in March.

Previously in February, Smart hit its first speed bump in sales in what seems like forever, as just 76 were sold in February. the worst result since July of 2013. Conversely, In the first month of 2014 smart impressed with 147 units sold.

The all-time record was set this past December, the all-electric smart came out of nowhere to destroy expectations as 351 were sold!

The smart EV is now technically available nationally, although there isn’t inventory yet spread out across the country to make physical sales everywhere.

The smart ED is the first plug-in for America to be offered with a “battery rental” option, which brings the cost of the Smart ED down to $19,990, but adds a $80 month battery rental payment, as well as includes a wider (and longer) battery warranty.

The 2-seat Smart electric car gets 68 miles of range from a 17.6 kWh battery.

Ford Focus Electric:  After selling less than 100 Focus EVs for two months in a row, Ford returned to the norm – and the “100 and something land” it is known for.

In March 140 Focus Electrics were moved, the only Ford plug-in to stagnate during the month.

Previously, in  February 145 were sold…which followed a disastrous January and December, when  just 85 and 53 (ouch) were sold (respectively), despite a $6,000 MSRP price cut (down to $29,995) just 4 months ago, and big discounts at the dealer level. We hate to say it, but the current generation of the plug-in Focus EV as it stands, is pretty much dead when it comes to consumer acceptance.


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