March plug-in sales: Tesla grabs lead, Fiat surprises, Kia and Cadillac disappoint

Model S Leaf Volt

There are several interesting developments to report on the EV sales front this month – an overall increase, a lead change, and a sales surge in the most unexpected of quarters.

Total plug-in sales for the month were 10,341, a healthy recovery from February’s slump, and a 7% increase over the March 2014 numbers. Interestingly, the overall US auto market had a slow month – sales were up only 0.6% over last March, and GM and Ford saw decreases (despite huge gains for pickups and SUVs…sigh).

The Tesla Model S grabbed the lead with 2,450 estimated US sales, one of its best months ever, as 85D deliveries picked up steam. European and Chinese deliveries were also strong. The Bad Boys of Silicon Valley have never released monthly sales numbers, but they have just announced that they will now provide global sales figures at the end of each quarter, and that the company delivered 10,030 cars January through March (sales were not broken down by country).

The Nissan LEAF had a good month – sales of 1,817 were up sharply over February, though short of March 2014. This month, the Japanese EV edged out the Chevrolet Volt for the title of all-time best-selling plug-in in the US.

This month’s big upset: the Fiat 500e leapt into third place with 1,310 sales. Or at least, we think so. Fiat, which has never shown much love for its electric stepchild, has consistently refused to release any sales figures. However, InsideEVs announced this month that it has switched to a more accurate way of estimating sales based on Clean Vehicle Rebates claimed in California, so historical sales have actually been much higher than it previously reported (and nobody at Fiat ever cared enough to correct the too-low figures?). Who knows…

Falling just short of four digits, the BMW i3 had a respectable month, with 922 US sales. The automaker continues to invest in advertising for its EV, and to roll out infrastructure. The high-end i8 seems to be selling as fast as the Bavarians can build them – sales grew to 143 in March.

Back in the middle of the pack, there’s little news of note. Volt sales dropped a bit to 639, as the world waits for the next-gen model. Ford’s Fusion Energi (837) and C-Max Energi (715) saw healthy increases over last month, and are now back to levels comparable to last February. The Focus Electric remains in the mid-100s. Sales of the Prius Plug-in (473) grew, but are still a pale shadow of what they were a year ago.

We’re not sure what’s going on with the Kia Soul EV – the company says it has proven unexpectedly popular, and has announced plans to expand sales to five more states. However, it refuses to release monthly figures, which seems an odd policy for a brand looking to build momentum. According to InsideEVs’ estimate, US sales were a pathetic 63 in March.

Rumor has it that the Cadillac ELR, which sold 92 units in March, will disappear after the 2016 model year. However, a plug-in version of the Cadillac CT6 is expected to debut next month in Shanghai.

 

Source: InsideEVs, Forbes