Chevy Bolt = #2 Subcompact Car in California, BMW i3 = #3 Entry Luxury Car (& Tesla Model 3 = #1 or #4 Car Overall)

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As I wrote last weekend, the Tesla Model 3 was the #1 best selling car in California in the second half of 2018, and the 4th best selling car for the whole year despite the slow start to the year. If you somehow missed that long article and all the related charts and stats, I highly recommend checking it out, and below are two of the charts.

I noticed something else interesting while scanning the California New Car Dealers Association data, though. As the title indicates, the Chevy Bolt EV ended up in the #2 spot among subcompact cars, only trailing the Nissan Versa — and by only a few hundred registrations. (Side note: I somehow didn’t remember the Bolt EV is considered a subcompact car. I thought it was a compact car.)

Subcompact Car 2018 Sales
Nissan Versa 10,037
Chevy Bolt 9,745
Kia Soul 9,478
Honda Fit 6,849
Toyota Yaris 5,752

Another fairly positive result for an electric car was the BMW i3 landing in 3rd place in the “entry luxury” class. Did I know there was an “entry luxury” class? I don’t think so. As an i3 driver, does it seem that the i3 fits into this category? Yes, it does. The cars above the i3 in that class are the Mercedes CLA-Class and Audi A3.

The i3 has actually been in quite limited supply stateside in the past year or so. I do wonder if it wouldn’t have taken the top spot in that category if BMW had its production capacity up to snuff and was really trying to sell the car.

Entry Luxury 2018 Sales
Mercedes CLA-Class 6,310
Audi A3 5,803
BMW i3 3,988
Acura ILX 2,195
BMW 2-Series 2,135

In any case, I’d say these two pieces of news are positive signs. As Maarten superbly points out, these are not exactly the easiest segments for electric cars to compete in.

Oh, yes, and the Tesla Model S landed in the 3rd spot in the “luxury and high-end sports car” class, according to the California New Car Dealers Association. It was approximately 1,000 sales (or 2% of segment share) behind the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series. I’m personally okay with that classification, but the Model S is more typically put up against the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7 Series. These days, with the Model S and the Model 3 on the market, there’s a bit of a question mark about which Tesla is competing with which Mercedes and BMW models. I sometimes think the most useful thing is to simply combine those automakers’ car sales and then pit them against each other. Doing so across the US, Tesla only lost to BMW in 2018 and absolutely demolished the competition in the second half of 2018. It performed even better in California.

Luxury & High-End Sports Cars 2018 Sales
Mercedes E-Class 11,356
BMW 5 Series 11,289
Tesla Model S 10,120
Mercedes S-Class 4,106
Porsche 911 2,360

The take-home point is that electric cars — but only through Tesla so far — have proven they are as competitive as anything in the core luxury car segments.

Similarly, the Model X ranks #2 in the luxury midsize SUV category. The Lexus RX, admittedly, had more than twice as many sales in California in 2018, but it’s also important to note that the base price of the Model X is more than twice that of the Lexus RX. In other words, if you consider price to be the most important factor in differentiating vehicles by class, the Model X should be in the large luxury SUV class, where it would be #1 and had more than twice as many sales as what would have been the #2 Land Rover Range Rover. Of course, deciding how to categorize the Model X is always going to leave a large portion of the readership upset — solid arguments can be made on both sides.

Luxury Mid Size SUV 2018 Sales
Lexus RX 21,516
Tesla Model X 8,925
Mercedes GLE-Class 8,830
BMW X5 8,584
Acura MDX 7,289

Luxury Large SUV 2018 Sales
Tesla Model X 8,925
Land Rover Range Rover 4,097
Cadillac Escalade 3,916
Mercedes GLS-Class 3,225
Lincoln Navigator 1,619
Mercedes G-Class 1,098

Thinking about other highly competitive electric models, my mind next moves to the brand new Hyundai Kona EV and Kia Niro EV (as well as the upgraded Kia Soul EV). Unfortunately, I don’t think Hyundai and Kia have nearly the production capacity needed to meet demand for these vehicles in 2019, but if they do, I presume these vehicles could top the charts in the subcompact crossover/SUV category in California. The top vehicles in that category in 2018 were as follows:

Subcompact SUV 2018 Sales
Toyota C-HR 11,786
Honda HR-V 10,659
Kia Niro 7,104
Jeep Renegade 5,995
Buick Encore 4,393

As you can see, the Niro (gasoline version) was already #3 in 2018. Given the benefits of electric vehicles and the tax credits or rebates (up to $10,000 for California EV buyers), demand for the Kona EV and Niro EV should be well beyond 10,000 units a year. The unfortunate thing is that we simply aren’t going to find out what organic demand is. The waiting list for these vehicles is reportedly already months long (or even more than a year long), and due to low supply and high demand, dealers are massively jacking up the prices from what we’ve heard. Further, there’s no chance of seeing a long row of these on dealer lots across the state, which is how many vehicles are sold to buyers.

Beyond the models, the big problem is that there simply aren’t electric vehicles in other popular classes. There are several SUV categories, pickup truck categories, and car categories where these isn’t a single electric model on the market, and none are coming in the next year. You can’t rank in the top 3 if you don’t exist.

Looking at everything together, we are basically seeing the same thing — in another way — that Maarten explained wonderfully last weekend. That is:

Electric vehicles have already become more competitive than gasmobiles in certain segments.

They will soon be more competitive than gasmobiles in more mainstream segments.

Nonetheless, automakers are selling very few competitive electric vehicle models and are not prepared to service the already large and quickly growing demand.

That combination is likely to result in a large drop in overall automobile sales in coming years, which could lead to another global recession.

Related Stories: 

Tesla Model 3 Was #1 Top Selling Car In California In 2nd Half Of 2018 — #CleanTechnica Report

Electric Cars Are About To Absolutely Demolish Gasmobiles

China Electric Vehicle Sales Jump 175%, Up To 4.8% Of Auto Market In January!

Boom! Fossil Vehicle Sales Are Officially Now Decreasing In China, Europe, & USA — #CleanTechnica Report

The Osborne Effect On The Auto Industry

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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.

Zachary Shahan has 7341 posts and counting. See all posts by Zachary Shahan