US electric car sales continue to trend up, even despite many buyers holding out for a coming Chevy Bolt or Tesla Model 3.
Not much has changed at the top of the leaderboard, but note that I’ve updated historical Tesla sales to represent much-higher-than-anticipated US Model S sales.
Based on sales estimates for Tesla models (since Tesla doesn’t break out sales by month or by country), the Model S dropped to #2 and the Model X held onto #3 in the US market, while the Chevy Volt rose to #1. However, if you look at how close sales of these models are and take into account that Tesla delivered ~3,000 more Model S sedans in the US than I initially estimated (and I certainly wasn’t the only one), it’s hard to know how the top 3 ranking actually plays out.
After the top 3, though, there’s a significant step down to the #4 Nissan LEAF and #5 Ford Fusion Energi, before another even steeper step down to the #5 Ford C-Max Energi, #6 BMW i3, #7 Volkswagen e-Golf, #8 BMW X5 xDrive40e, #9 Audi A3 e-tron, #10 Chevy Spark EV, and approximately a dozen other compliance cars.
Overall, plug-in car sales accounted for ~0.87% of all US light duty vehicle sales in October. That’s one of the highest percentages we’ve seen, but adjustments for the high Model S sales in Q3 put August, September, and October at 0.93%, 0.91%, and 0.94%, respectively. In other words, we’re getting pretty close to that 1% milestone.
Overall, the individual model and automaker take-home points are the same as they’ve been for months:
- Tesla is performing extremely well in its market segments — dominating the large luxury sedan market and quickly taking a decent chunk of the large luxury SUV market.
- The only other automakers who seem to genuinely sell electric cars across the country are GM, Nissan, Ford, and BMW.
- Chevy Volt sales are doing quite well since the refresh. With approximately 50 miles of electric range, a gas engine for when you want to drive hundreds of miles in a day, attractive performance and features, and elegant design (well, that depends who you ask of course — beauty is in the eye of the beholder), it is a solid purchase option for people shopping in that price range.
- The Nissan LEAF is continuing to perform decently despite the pending arrival of the much more compelling Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3, as well as rumor that the LEAF itself will get a refresh that will have much more range.
- It’s hard to know what exactly drives Ford Energi sales — dealers upselling customers who come in for a conventional hybrid, educated buyers who want a plug but also want a gas backup and plenty of cargo and passenger room (for a decent price), or simply better availability than most compliance cars — but there’s no denying that Energi sales are a bright spot in plug-in car sales month after month. Actually, if you combined Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi sales, that would put a singular “Energi” model slightly above the Chevy Volt for the silver medal — only trailing the hugely popular Tesla Model S.
How will things change in the coming months as the Chevy Bolt rolls out, as people really delay EV purchases and leases in order to wait it out for the Tesla Model 3, and as more second-generation and long-range affordable electric cars are announced and come onto the market? Hard to know, but we’ll be tracking the trends eagerly.
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