The US auto industry had a good month, as automakers reported their strongest October sales in a decade. Most of the action was in gas-guzzling pickups and SUVs – alas, plug-in sales were down compared to last October, for the first time in 46 months of EV sales. Annual sales are still on track to handily beat 2013.
As usual, the Nissan LEAF leads the pack. Sales shrank slightly to 2,589 in October, but that represents a decent increase over the 2,002 sold in October 2013 – the 21st consecutive monthly record. Toby Perry, Nissan’s EV Marketing Director, announced a new ad campaign. “Halloween may be over, but we still have a few tricks up our sleeves. For starters, we have a new TV commercial that encourages consumers to kick gas by going electric with the Nissan LEAF. The ad airs in major markets starting today and features real consumers finding out how much they could save on fuel costs each year.”
Chevy Volt sales picked up a tiny bit in October, but the 1,439 units sold are still far short of the 2,022 that rolled in October 2013. GM has released more details of the next-generation 2016 Volt, which will debut at the Detroit auto show in January, and it sounds very cool indeed. That’s wonderful news, but it may bode ill for sales of the current Volt, although the new one won’t be on dealer’s lots for almost a year. Discounts, anyone?
Tesla doesn’t report monthly sales, which leaves media pundits free to come up with whatever “estimates” fit their desired storylines. This month, the Wall Street Journal, citing WardsAuto, said that year-to-date US Model S sales are down 26% from 2013. This drew an indignant rebuttal from Elon Musk, who pointed out that September sales actually set a new record. Whatever’s going on here, the latest news from China points to surging sales there in the near future. Tesla releases earnings and sales figures today (November 5) after the bell.
The BMW i3 remains in fourth position, selling 1,159 in its sixth month of US sales, an impressive beginning indeed. The real eye-opener was the i8 super-duper sports coupe, which surged to 204 units in its third month on the market. BMW may be in the process of rewriting the rules, as it increases its bets on the miracle material carbon fiber, and researchers announce that they are well on the way to reducing production costs by 90 percent.
What happened to Ford’s two PHEVs? Sales of the Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi were growing steadily for months, but cratered in September. This month saw no improvement, as they moved 686 and 644 respectively, far short of October 2013’s tale. The Focus Electric, which has settled into a consistent spot a lap or two behind the leaders, held its own with sales of 186, an increase from last October.
One may well ask the same question about the Toyota Prius Plug-In. After setting an all-time monthly record in May, its sales have steadily declined since, to a pathetic 479 units this month, less than a fourth of October 2013’s figure.
Down in the low-volume league, the Smart ED and Cadillac ELR each sold about 150 units, and the Mercedes B-Class ED sold 98, its fourth monthly increase since hitting the market in July. Check out our cover story on the electric Benz in the last issue of Charged.