The US auto industry had another banner month, and plug-ins were present at the party, though perhaps not first in line at the punchbowl. PEV sales were down a tick from October, but eked out a gain compared to November 2013. Year-to-date sales have now surpassed 2013’s total, and it appears that annual sales will show a 15-20% improvement over last year.
The Nissan LEAF silently sped down the straightaway, opening up an even bigger lead on the rest of the pack. Sales grew to 2,687 in November, the 22nd consecutive monthly record, and a 34% increase over November 2013. The Renault-Nissan Alliance sold its 200,000th EV this month, as CEO Carlos Ghosn told Charlie Rose that the LEAF has become profitable, motivating the company to sell even more. In another interview, a single word from Ghosn sparked a rumor that the company will introduce a game-changing 150-mile EV within a few years.
Volt sales remain in a slump – the 1,336 units that sold in November are far short of the 1,920 that shifted a year ago. This month, GM released more details of the next-generation 2016 Volt, which will debut at the Detroit auto show in January, describing several improvements to the charging features.
Tesla held onto a comfortable fourth place, as InsideEVs estimated that 1,200 Model S found new homes in November. The company’s third-quarter shareholder letter was a mixed bag: the Model X will be delayed once again, but production of Model S is rapidly ramping up. The first of the new P85D are on their way to buyers as we speak, and Tesla expects to deliver 33,000 cars worldwide in 2014.
The BMW i3 held onto fourth position, though sales declined to 816 in its seventh month of US sales. According to InsideEVs, this looks like a temporary setback, due to a typhoon in Asia that interrupted the company’s supply of raw materials for carbon fiber. However, while the i3’s early showing in the US has been impressive, things are less rosy at home in Germany, where sales are falling short of projections.
There was not much joy for Ford’s two PHEVs in November. Sales of the Fusion Energi grew slightly to 752, and the C-Max Energi held steady at 644, but both fell short of November 2013’s numbers, to say nothing of the four-digit figures they were hitting in the summer. Ironically, Ford’s pure electric stepchild, the Focus Electric, has settled into a respectable if unspectacular couple-hundred-a-month groove, and sold 191 in November.
As Toyota sabotages its own sales, bad-mouthing batteries to anyone who will listen, the Prius Plug-In slowly fades from the scene. Monthly sales were 451, little more than a third of what they were a year ago.
This month’s surprise success story is the Smart ED, which doubled its sales to 313. Daimler seems to be serious about electrifying – it announced this month that it will invest 100 million euros to expand battery production capacity at its Deutsche ACCUmotive subsidiary, even as it decided that it was more economical to purchase the cells from LG Chem. The Mercedes B-Class ED also doubled monthly sales, to 193. Most of the press seems to regard this one as a compliance car, but we’ll see.
New plug-ins are hitting the market at a steady clip – with 22 models now available in the US, lack of choice is no longer a problem (at least for those with deep pockets). Kia apparently has not released official sales figures for its new Soul EV, but InsideEVs estimates that it sold 140 units in its second month on the market. VW’s e-Golf moved 119 in its full month of sales (check out our cover story in the new issue of Charged). Finally, Porsche quietly delivered the Cayenne S E-Hybrid this month, and the new SUV, which starts at $76,400, sold 45 copies.