There are plenty of legitimate excuses: winter is always the slow season for auto sales; a couple of key vehicles are in rundown mode as buyers wait for a new and improved model; and, although logic tells us they shouldn’t, ultralow gas prices may be taking a bite out of demand for plug-ins. Be all that as it may, February plug-in sales were slow – the total figure of 6,788 units sold failed to best last February’s 7,190.
The Nissan LEAF remains the world’s best-selling plug-in vehicle, although the spectacular sales growth of the last few months seems to have petered out. With US February sales of 1,198, it regained first place, but fell a little short of last February’s 1,425. Nissan’s EV chief Brendan Jones blamed snow for the slowdown: “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.”
The Tesla Model S slipped into second place with 1,150 estimated sales, also a little short of 2014’s figure (1,400). According to Tesla’s 4th quarter earnings report, deliveries are still constrained by supply, as the company slowly but steadily ramps up production. At the beginning of 2015, it had 10,000 orders for Model S and 20,000 reservations for Model X.
The big bright spot this month was the BMW i3, which saw sales surge to 1,089, its second-best monthly figure ever. As the company makes some substantial investments in infrastructure and mass-market advertising, it’s becoming clear that the boys from Bavaria aren’t fooling around.
Moving farther back in the pack, there’s little news of note. Volt sales increased a little over January, to 693, but are still far short of what they were in 2014, and the next-gen Volt is still several months away.
The story’s the same for Ford’s Fusion Energi (603) and C-Max Energi (498): better than January, but nowhere near the heights they were hitting last summer. The Focus Electric made it back into three digits, as a wave of speculation swept through the media that Ford will be the next automaker to announce a next-generation 200-mile EV.
We’ll have to wait a while longer to find out if the new kids on the block are here to play or not. The Mercedes B-Class ED and VW e-Golf each saw sales shrink in February. To be fair, monthly sales figures may not mean much for these new entrants to the market (or perhaps, for any other models either), as fluctuations from month to month probably have more to do with supply and inventory issues than with demand. Another promising new model, the Kia Soul EV, has proven unexpectedly popular, but ramping up production doesn’t happen overnight.