US Electric Car Sales: No Surprises. Tesla Model S, Nissan LEAF, & BMW i3 On Top Again

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Originally published on EV Obsession.

I was just thinking about writing yet another article about compliance cars — basically, I was going to pose a question about when we can expect to see most car manufacturers actually aim to sell the electric cars they produce. While many manufacturers now produce electric cars and pretend to support them, they aren’t actually interested in producing enough to meet demand, they aren’t trying hard to stimulate demand or break down EV myths, and they don’t do much to get their dealers to stop trash talking them, let alone try selling them! I think I’m just going to pass on that story, but sales speak for themselves.

Month after month, the top three electric cars in terms of sales are the Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S, and BMW i3. Adding up the sales of 8 compliance cars (the VW e-Golf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Mercedes B-Class Electric, Kia Soul EV, Honda Fit EV, Chevy Spark EV, Ford Focus Electric, and Smart Electric Drive), you don’t even get as many sales as one of those top 3 models.

Looking at the sales process of the BMW i3 and Nissan LEAF, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but their dealers are leagues ahead of the others from what I’ve seen. Some dealers, putting it bluntly, suck — they steer people away from the electric models and repeat EV myths that should have died a few years ago. Nonetheless, there’s much more in place from the top down at BMW & Nissan in order to support their electric vehicles. Of course, Tesla is all about EVs. It is supply limited, but is doing everything it can to scale up production and advance the EV revolution.

Speaking of Tesla, as you well know, it doesn’t report monthly sales (read: delivery) figures, and it doesn’t break out sales by country. Nonetheless, based on quarterly figures and statements from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, we can make some decent estimates regarding how many Tesla vehicles go to the US, and then just break out the pie cutter to segment that into monthly figures. The latter part is the most sketchy, btw — I break it out more or less evenly to better tell the story (realistically, Tesla makes the large majority of a quarter’s shipments to the US in a single month, for logistical reasons). The quarterly estimates are also a bit of a challenge, due to production scaling up throughout the year, but in spurts. So, I’m happy to see that my assumption for Q1 was essentially spot on… for global deliveries. How many of those were to the US is a remaining question mark, but I think ~55% is a good guess.


Back to the bigger sales picture, Ford held on strong with its Energi model sales. If you combine Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi sales, Ford would actually take 18% of the March pie. That would, by my estimate, only trail the Tesla Model S and Nissan LEAF. I’ve tried to communicate this in the past, but think I’ve come up with the best way to do so just now: Ford’s Energi sales are high not because Ford is trying hard to sell them (it’s not, from what I’ve seen). They’re relatively high because Ford isn’t trying hard to steer people away from them, and it isn’t keeping production artificially low or limiting availability to a few city/regional markets. I’m not sure if that deserves a kudos or not, but it does shame the other automakers who aren’t even doing this much, imho.

Overall, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are down quite a bit, however. I’m guessing this is because people are waiting for the new Chevy Volt. I imagine people are also waiting for the next-generation Nissan LEAF and that is driving down LEAF sales, but that is less certain since nothing has been announced. The BMW i3, while priced quite a bit higher, could certainly be bringing down LEAF sales as well. Overall, the pure-electric car market is slightly up.

Those are my main thoughts. Check out the tables below and let us know if you have some more!

US EV Sales 2015 - March

US EV Sales 2015 - March percent

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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