September plug-in sales showed a slight decrease compared to August, but 2014 is still on track to decisively beat 2013’s figure. Pure electricity ruled this month, as the leading EVs made strong showings, and all the major PHEV models showed steep declines.
The Nissan LEAF still leads the pack. Sales shrank slightly to 2,881 in September, but that represents a healthy increase over the 1,953 sold in September 2013 – the 19th consecutive monthly record. So far, LEAF sales are up 36% over last year. US dealerships now have plenty of 2015 LEAFs in stock. “Nissan LEAF owners have turned into some of our best marketers, and they jump at any opportunity to share their enthusiasm with friends and family,” Toby Perry, Nissan’s Director of EV Marketing told InsideEVs.
Tesla doesn’t report monthly sales, and the company shifts deliveries among different markets from month to month, so these monthly estimates (courtesy of our friends at InsideEVs) probably reveal little about the pace of sales or the level of demand. But what the heck, the boys from Silicon Valley have earned some bragging rights, so let them say that Model S moved into second position this month, with estimated sales of 2,500.
The Chevy Volt faltered a bit in September, with 1,394 units sold, compared to 1,766 in September 2013. This year’s sales will probably fall short of last year’s, but things may heat up after GM unveils the next-generation 2016 Volt at the Detroit auto show in January. The company is also revamping its marketing efforts, taking a page from Nissan’s book to enlist existing Volt owners as “evangelists.”
The BMW i3 grabbed fourth position, selling 1,022 in its fifth month of US sales, and almost equaling last month’s 1,025 units. The i8 plug-in hybrid sports coupe made a grand entrance this month, zooming onto the charts with a screech of tires and a (simulated) engine roar, and sold 58 units.
Ford’s two PHEVs, the Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi, have been steady performers, with their combined sales often surpassing that of the monthly leader. Alas, both sputtered in September, moving 640 and 677 respectively, little better than half of August’s figures. The Focus Electric, which has established a consistent spot a lap or two behind the leaders, saw a more modest decline, delivering 176, compared to 264 in August.
Sales of the Toyota Prius Plug-In have collapsed. After setting an all-time monthly record in May, its numbers have steadily declined since, to a peewee 353 units in September, little more than a quarter of 2013’s monthly figure, even as Toyota’s overall sales have been growing.
This may be premature, but could the PPI’s days be numbered? According to InsideEVs, demand is strong, but Toyota isn’t sending much inventory to dealerships. According to Consumer Reports, some of those dealers tend to steer buyers away from the plug-in option (see Are auto dealers the EV’s worst enemy? from the June/July issue of Charged). The company’s execs (and some of its ads) insist that plain hybrids and fuel cell vehicles are superior to battery EVs, at least for anything other than short-range city driving. We see this strategy at work in Europe, where Toyota is introducing two tiny city cars that would never find a market in the US. The company provided 70 units of the COMS and i-ROAD to a French car-sharing service.
The Mercedes B-Class ED sold 65 units in its third month on the market. Is this a worthy competitor for the i3, and what are Daimler’s plans for its new EV? Check out our cover story on the electric Benz in the current issue of Charged.