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While Norway is setting new EV sales, the Chevy Bolt was down more than 40% last month. Could the Tesla Model 3 have anything to do with that drop?


Norway Sets EV Sales Record While Chevy Bolt Sales Tumble In US

While Norway is setting new EV sales, the Chevy Bolt was down more than 40% last month. Could the Tesla Model 3 have anything to do with that drop?

It’s a crazy time for EV sales. In Norway, sales of electric cars and hybrids set a new record in September. Where once the diesel engine once was king, now cars with electric motors are the new normal. Tesla is astonishing the world with the overwhelming success of its Model 3 electric sedan, which was the fourth (or fifth) best selling car in the US last month. Meanwhile, Chevrolet saw sales of its all electric Bolt plunge more than 40% last month. Something’s going on here and it deserves a closer look.

EV sales in Norway

Credit: Side3

EV Sales In Norway

Norwegian news outlet Side3 is reporting that sales of electric cars in Norway were responsible for nearly half of new vehicle sales — 45.3% to be precise. Norway has a curious and unique system that encourages the importation of nearly new electric cars from other countries. Adding those sales in, the total climbs to 47.7%.

Øyvind Solberg Thorsen, director of Norway’s Road Traffic Advisory Board, says “The car market in September was particularly special. New Norway records and new world records were introduced in the sale of electric cars. Such a large number of electric car sales caused a record low CO2 emissions of 55 grams per kilometer. Although we in Norway are accustomed to average CO2 emissions falling from month to month, this is the lowest level we have ever measured.”

In fact it’s a whopping 16 grams per kilometer lower than the average in September of last year. Thorsen explains the WLTP measurement method for measuring average fuel economy makes cars with internal combustion engines more expensive, which provides a powerful economic incentive for people to consider the purchase of an electric car. The WLTP standard became the legal reference point throughout Europe at the beginning of last month.

Compared to other countries, the total number of new cars sold in Norway is small at around 10,000 per month. Of that number, 4,810 were electrics. Tesla topped the sales charts with the Model X leading the way at 1,234 cars registered and the Model S close behind at 782 sold. The Nissan LEAF also finished the month well with 1,071 sold. 458 BMW i3 sedans found new homes, as did 292 Hyundai Ioniqs and 123 Renault Zoes.

Model X is the most popular of Tesla’s electric cars, and accounted for 1,234 filings in September 2018. Tesla Model S accounted for 782 registrations. Also this year’s most sold electric car, Nissan Leaf, did well with 1,071 registrations, while the otherwise so very popular e-Golf and the BMW i3 were further down on the list.

Chevy Bolt Sales Plummet 41%

On the other side of the Atlantic, where Tesla sales are roaring, things have to be a bit glum in the General Motors boardroom these days. CNBC is reporting sales of the Chevy Bolt — the company’s only all electric offering — slid 41% last month. For the year, Bolt sales are down 17% compared to last year. Do you think the Tesla Model 3 might have anything to do with the drop-off?

The Big 2.5 in Detroit are always telling people, “Nobody wants to buy electric cars. It’s only because of government overreach that we are forced to build them at all, taking money out of our pockets that could be better spent designing bigger, heavier, thirstier light trucks and SUVs!” Wrong, octane breath. No one wants to buy your crappy products that are light years behind what Tesla is offering. Stop crying in your beer and get busy building cars people actually want.

GM spokesman Jim Cain tried to put a happy face on things by telling the news media, “The decline is more a function of us diverting production to Canada and South Korea, coupled with low stocks in the U.S. We’re still proceeding with the Q4 production increase we announced in the last sales release.” He added that GM expects lower total sales in the US this year, but higher total sales overall, thanks to success in global markets.

All Eyes On China

What he means to say is that GM is doing well in China. GM sales in the US were off 11% in the third quarter and are off 1.2% for 2018 so far. The only bright spot in the picture is that sales of the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid, are up 23% for the year so far.

The Volt has been with us for about 5 years now and it’s a pretty good car. But for some reason, General Motors has elected not to leverage all the money and effort that went into developing its hybrid electric powertrain by installing it in other products.

Chrysler has the Pacific Hybrid — the first and so far only plug-in hybrid minivan available in the US. Surely GM could slip the Volt platform into a similar vehicle without breaking a sweat, couldn’t it? Instead, it has rebadged the Volt and is selling it as a Buick in the Chinese market. It seems pretty clear GM has decided Americans only want trucks and mammoth SUVs and has begun to change its long term focus from North America to Asia.

The absurdity of American policy (or lack of policy one could say) toward automotive emissions is amply demonstrated by Norway’s current experience. The average carbon emissions for all cars sold in Norway last month was 55 grams per kilometer. What do you think that number would be for all cars sold in America last month? If you guess more — way more, in fact — you would probably be correct. America could be a world leader when it comes to reducing emissions from transportation and that would actually help make America great again. As it is, America is in danger of simply becoming irrelevant.

The trade war with China initiated by America’s putative president may gladden the hearts of some, but in the final analysis, the population of the US is 327 million. The population of China is 1.37 billion. If you are in business, which market would you focus on for your long term success? Exactly.

Hat tip — Leif Hansen

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we listened?


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