Plug-in vehicle sales set a new record in March

Please don’t tell any of the mainstream media, but US plug-in vehicle sales reached a new all-time high in March. Interestingly, pure EV sales (4750) outnumbered PHEV sales (3080), which, if its not just a temporary market gyration, would seem to be a reversal of the current conventional wisdom.

In first place for March is the Nissan LEAF, which had its best month since launch with 2,236 sales. Nissan attributes the success to the debut of the US-produced, lower-priced 2013 model. LEAFs were in short supply earlier in the year while dealers waited for the 2013 model, but the automaker expects to have inventory optimized soon, and predicts continuing strong sales.

Go Tesla! With an estimated 2,150 sales in March, the stunning startup not only roared into second place, but surpassed its own sales projections, leading to a prediction of profit and a stock market surge. Actually Tesla doesn’t release official monthly figures, but the community of Tesla-watchers maintains what is probably a pretty accurate estimate.

The Chevrolet Volt had an off month. Only 1,478 units were sold, a decrease from February’s 1,626 and a major slip from March of 2012, when 2,289 Volts found homes. GM obviously expects this to be a temporary setback, as it has increased production at its Hamtramck plant, building some 2,700 new ones in March. The 2014 Volt is due to go on sale in late May.

Toyota’s Prius Plug-In settled into a respectable fourth place, but sales seem to be static – the PPI sold 874 in January, 693 in February, and 786 in March. InsideEVs speculated that the slow growth is due to competition from the expanding field of other plug-ins, especially the Ford C-MAX Energi, which Ford has pointedly positioned as a Prius rival.

And Ford’s electrified team is indeed coming up strong on the inside – The C-MAX Energi jumped from 334 sales in February to 494 in March, and the Fusion Energi moved 295 units in its second month on the market. Even the Focus Electric sold 180 units in March, a decent little increase that may begin to silence the taunts of “compliance car!”

Not so for the Honda Fit EV, which moved a paltry 23 units, not even enough to comply with CARB in any reasonable timeframe. The jury is still out on the Accord PHEV – it also moved barely two dozen, but some observers think inventory bottlenecks are to blame.

Sales of the Toyota RAV4 EV improved a bit, with 133 units sold.

Now, what’s up with the Mitsubishi i-MiEV? US sales have been minimal, and slowed to a trickle in March as dealers cleared out the last of the 2012s. No 2013 model is yet available in the US. Somehow this one doesn’t feel like a mere compliance car, as sales in Japan and Europe have been much more respectable, and the company seems to be pushing plug-ins models hard in those markets.

 

Sources: Nissan, Tesla, InsideEVs.com