Ford Plug-Ins End The Year Strong, But Can They Be The Best In 2013?

5 years ago by Jay Cole 22

Nearly 1,000 C-Max Energis Were Sold In December Despite Having Little To No Inventory Available

A year ago, Nissan had just finished off 2011 as leader of plug-in vehicle sales, having bested General Motors by selling 9,674 LEAFs compared with 7,671 Volts.  However, by the end of 2011, a lot more Chevy Volts than Nissan LEAFs were leaving dealerships lots every month, and it seemed inevitable General Motors would take the lead in 2012.

Not Expected To Be The Strong Seller The C-Max Energi Is, Ford Managed To Sell 167 Copies This Month (photo:Ford)

Sure enough, 2012 was an easy win for Chevy, as the Volt sold 23,461 copies, while Nissan surprised everyone by  free-falling into third place with only 9,819 LEAFs sold.  The plug-in Prius ended 2012 with 12,750 cars sold.

Now it seems as if Ford is threatening General Motors, as the well-received C-Max Energi, Focus Electric, and upcoming Fusion Energi are bearing down on the Volt very much like the Chevy did to the LEAF in 2012.

Almost impossibly, Ford sold almost every C-Max Energi they could build last month, as the plug-in sold 971 units in December (after selling 1,259 in November), as Ford was distracted preparing to start selling the Fusion Energi in January, and also had to deal with an assembly shutdown over the holiday break.

In fact, inventories are so tight, that the C-Max Energi started December with zero inventory on hand in the country’s largest market – California (actually they had 1 unit…but I digress), and finished out the year with less than two dozen on lots.

Nationally, C-Max Energi inventory stood a little over 150 units at the end of 2012, which (based on a 60 day moving average) translated to 7.5 days of supply.  It seems customers are more than anxious to purchase the 5 seat, 21 mile extended range plug in, which starts at $29,995* ($28,495* in California).

As for the Focus Electric, sales were still not that great, but 167 moved off dealer lots in December, a much better result than earlier in the year, when Ford was fortunate to sell 40 or 50.

We Don't Expect More Than 500 Fusion Energis Sold Per Month, But Ford's Three Plug-In Offerings May Make Them The Electric Vehicle Leader In 2013

Coming in January, the Fusion Energi, a 20 mile extended range sedan, will go on sale… but at a much less appealing price-point $39,485.

So, while the Chevrolet Volt is still the most popular choice, with GM moving well over 2,000 units four of the last six months (2,633 in December, 1,519 in November), and Ford only selling about 2,500 cars in the C-Max Energi’s limited rollout the last two months (1,1,38 and 1,431), it looks like Ford might very well be the ‘new GM’ by the time we close the book on 2013.

Another thing to consider:  In 2012, General Motors ended the year with 2,614 dealers selling Chevrolet Volts.  Just two months ago, Ford had only managed to get 200 dealers certified to sell its plug-ins, and closed out the year at about 500, with another 400 coming online over the next few weeks.

Regardless of who comes out on top, having two strong, healthy forces battling it out for market supremacy in the plug-in business is good for everyone.

(For those interested in a comparison between the two extended range plug-ins, InsideEV’s own Lyle Dennis has owned both a Chevrolet Volt and a Ford C-Max Energi, and has written up a comparison review here)

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22 responses to "Ford Plug-Ins End The Year Strong, But Can They Be The Best In 2013?"

  1. David Murray says:

    I don’t particularly like the looks of the C-Max, but I think they’ve hit a very good sweet spot with mix of range and price. Unfortunately, the EV mode is limited in speed and power, which sort of takes away from the experience of driving a more capable EV. However, for those who’d like a taste of the EV experience and superb fuel economy, the C-Max is at a good price point to deliver that.

  2. Grumpy says:

    I agree with the C-Max being, well…, kinda ugly, but Ford has really hit the price point at under 30,000$. Too bad the Fusion is another 10,000$. I can see a 3,000$ price premium for the Fusion, but 10,000$ is kinda ridiculous.

    It will be interesting to see how the Volt fairs next year. My guess is that it will be about time for an upgrade (or price reduction) if GM want to maintain it’s production volume.

  3. MrEnergyCzar says:

    If they had one Energi, they would have the best shot at the 2013 plug-in sales crown. The Leaf could surge if they drop the price enough and gas surges again…

    MrEnergyCzar

    1. Brian says:

      Depends on how you look at it. If you consider only a single model, I agree. However, having multiple models gives Ford a solid edge against GM as a manufacturer…

  4. Delta says:

    Exponential EV sales growth is guaranteed to continue now that Ford is all in. GM Spark will up the anti. 2013 is the turning point. Any pop in oil prices would really get things going but I think the oil barons realize that they better keep prices flat or else.

    1. evnow says:

      Spark will sell in the 2 digits every month, being a compliance car. So, not sure how it will “up the ante”.

      1. Brian says:

        It will “up the anti” by showing the world that GM truly is against selling pure BEVs…

      2. taser54 says:

        First, it is NOT a compliance car. GM clearly stated that

        Second, it is an electric vehicle with good performance; reportedly class-leading EV range; and has quick-charge capability.

        In sum, it is a small, fun-to-drive car available for less than $25k.

  5. shawn marshall says:

    I hope 2013 brings some battery improvements – there doesn’t seem to be any talk of anything new coming to market.
    The silly folks who quote Moore’s Law for battery capacity/price improvement might be seeing that a ‘law’ which isn’t a law doesn’t necessarily transfer to a completely different technology.
    It’s a fool’s errand to hope for high gas prices – hope instead for dramatic battery improvements. Better batteries make possible all sorts of technological leverage for the solar, wind and conventional energy generators. And it offers homeowners the possibility of getting off the grid or only selling into it to supply commercial accounts. Hope for the best.

    1. Chris says:

      Do you have any data that there is no improvement in the last years?

      As I see the panasonic 18650 cells, they were at 2100mah in 2008, now at 3100mah and the 4200mah is in testing nearing production – that’s a 50% improvement in 5 years and a 100% in I guess 6-7years.
      That’s for energy density … and of course costs.

      1. Chris says:

        btw: this equals exactly what elon musk always says – 10-12% per year without any breakthrough or new material/chemistry …. I believe elon is right on this

    2. Mark H says:

      Agreed Shawn. The battery is the game changer and in more than this. I am not expecting great movement in 2013, but I do believe the next 5-10 years will change EVs and the grid. I am no insider but I do think 2013 will show slow steady growth similar to the last six months of 2012. Still it was pretty exciting seeing Q1 6,600+, Q2 10,000+, Q3 13,000+ Q4 19,000+ EVs in 2012.

    3. evnow says:

      Forget Moore’s “law”. Batteries follow EVNow’s Law.

      Energy Density of batteries double every 5 years.

      Corollary is, price/kWh halve every 5 years.

      This equates to about 15% per year increase. Historically, the increase is about 7% or so. But, the order of magnitude higher investment in technology should increase the rate of change.

      BTW, Musk says the battery cost halved between Roadster and Model S. That is roughly 4 1/2 years (Feb-2008 to Jul-2012).

      http://www.teslamotorsclub.com/showthread.php/7199-Musk-Model-S-battery-cost-less-than-half-the-cost-per-kilowatt-hour-of-Roadster

  6. jason says:

    I drove the C max and Fusion hybrids yesterday. They performed better than I had expected. Unfortunately the Fusion has a small back seat which I (at 6′-5″) can’t even begin to get into. The C max is marginal.
    The dealer inidcated they have been selling the energi as they arrive. I was given a quote of a base Fusion energi of $31,900.

    1. Bonaire says:

      Over on gm-volt.com I made a prediction that Ford will be top plug-in sales unit-leader in 2013 (worldwide). Given that they have three models to everyone else’s “fewer” models and the now feverish pitch of sales of Energi models, things can get interesting in the horse race. GM has one year to produce another EREV or EV model with some success or the Volt will start to have diminishing sales versus the others.

      Big question will be “who will make the EREV SUV or Minivan first”? There’s a big market for that.

  7. James says:

    It’s puzzling how GM hasn’t recognized it’s lead with Voltec
    over it’s rivals. If it did, it would’ve been hot on schedule
    with an “affordable” version with smaller pack and three-
    across seating selling for approx. $25,000 after tax break.

    As it is, Ford has gained the perceived advantage in the
    marketplace with lower tech at a pricepoint more
    palatable and achievable to many more buyers.
    Perception is 90% of reality. This is the theory GM’s
    competitors will use to appear green and high tech
    while producting existing models with a large box
    of batteries in the trunk. When they tout longer
    “total range” ( gas + electric ), cheaper price and
    14-21 miles of EV range, the public bites. Add the
    inflated EPA MPGe ratings we’ve seen from Ford
    ( ala Hyundai ) and the recipe for Volt-bashing, and
    capturing the plug-in market has been set.

    Sadly, GM hasn’t really pushed ahead when it
    had a decided lead. Seriously, a decontented Volt
    with a dent in the T-shaped LG pack where a
    rear seat could be located, with a reduced AER to
    say, 25 ( actual ) miles would’ve worked well.

    There was talk of an all electric Volt, or even a
    Buick version, but the next move GM actually
    chose was a way-too-expensive, two door
    halo vehicle, the Caddilac ELR. It’s building up
    to be an “epic fail” for GM unless they pull up
    their collective bootstraps and get moving.

    GM’s largest selling vehicle by far is their
    fullsized pickup truck. GM could jump far
    ahead by building a VIATRUX en-masse
    and making versions for the all-new Colorado
    midsize truck as well. GM seems to not
    realize just what they had.

    Truck frames do not need a completely new
    platform to produce an EREV. The space
    between the frame rails is plentiful and a great
    home for lithium battery packs. LG’s Detroit
    battery plant sits idle while all this potential
    exists and GM already owns the patents.

    Once again, I must point out that two of
    GM’s board members have heavy ties
    to oil companies and companies that
    invest heavily in oil-related industry.

    GM just needs to poop or get off the
    pot.

    60-70 mile subcompact EVs sold at
    1,000 per month seems much more
    like “compliance” than not.

    1. evnow says:

      A smaller pack ? That would mean lower power, so the car can’t go in pure EV mode 99% of the time (like it does now) … we are back to Energi.

      A huge truck PHEV ? Either that will cost as much as a Model X or will have the EV range of PIP.

      1. James says:

        And yes, we are back to Energi. This is today’s marketplace. Until
        a PHEV or EREV with 40-60 mile range can be sold at the sweet
        spot where most will consider one ( $25-35,000 ) we are basically stuck
        with existing platforms having batteries stuffed in the trunk! Even
        our friend and EV champion, Dr. Lyle Dennis has opted for a C-Max
        Energi over his Volt because of packaging issues – namely that
        small amount of sq. footage between the rear seats. Ford’s efforts
        with the Energis will cut into Volt’s sales which, by 2014 may be
        bleak at best. Question is, will new buyers now take a look at cars
        with plugs because they can afford one, or will more affluent folks
        switch to an Energi or AccordPHEV due to seating and advertising
        savvy? Those in the know, realize the genius of Volt and will pay
        a bit more if it fits their needs. My guess is that AccordPHEV
        and Fusion will steal Volt sales while C-Max Energi, and to a lessor
        extent, the PIPrius will begin to lure new buyers slowly into
        the plug-in world.

        VIA can build an EREV fullsize truck with a V-6 ICE range-extender and
        sell a few to fleets for $80-$100,000. VIA claims 40 miles AER.
        Magic happens when GM or Ford decide to commit to the technology
        and build tens of thousands. It’s surprising how many folks dish out
        $50,000 for a luxe ICE pickup truck with all the goodies! I believe many
        would pay this much for a truck that uses half the gas!

        Bob Lutz sits there on VIA’s board and watches GM do nothing. A smaller,
        lighter Colorado, now being prepared for U.S. production, is on sale
        in other parts of the world as we speak. This vehicle would need less
        battery to achieve 40 miles, and a 20 mile AER would still be
        REVOLUTIONARY for a truck! Think about it.

        Economies of scale can make a 10; 20; or 50 mile AER truck
        affordable – but one of the major manufacturers must decide to take
        the chance. I believe that’ll never happen if gas prices stay as they
        have, and those manufacturers continue to cash in making huge
        behemoth gas pigs. Ford, GM, Chrysler and Toyota sold over a
        million fullsized trucks in the USA in 2012. That’s ridiculous! GM’s
        latest truck – just out, is even larger, squarer and dumber than
        ever. They’re resorting to cylinder deactivation and smaller
        displacement 6 cylinder engines with turbos and di, but the mileage
        numbers still highly disappoint.

        Once again, a disruptor such as Tesla may be the hero – and
        perhaps they’ll survive and thrive long enough to build an all EV
        pickup truck – AND THEN perhaps the big boys will take notice
        and be forced to change.

        VIA shows all who care to notice that a fullsize or midsize truck
        with a 20-40 mile range is highly doable today. Since Tesla
        is into EVs and nothing else, I’d venture to say the truck
        they’ve spoken about will be very expensive with a much
        larger battery.

        Our environment and our economy needs trucks with plugs.
        Seeing them into fruition? …It may never happen in our
        lifetime unless there is war over oil or a 1970’s – like embargo.

  8. James says:

    What fries my brain is that GM could afford to take
    losses for a couple years while they introduce the
    wisdom of a $40-50,000 large pickup truck that
    seldom uses gasoline to the public. Yes, they’ll
    take losses from the costly lithium packs, but
    they’ll keep the battery factories humming and
    gradually decrease the price of batteries for
    ALL platforms.

    Instead, they DO decide to take losses selling a
    highly impractical Volt-derived halo coupe named ELR.
    It’s taken years to develop and will sell in the low
    thousands to the few who can afford it and opted
    out of a 45kwh Model S.

    To any practical-minded soul, it nearly appears that
    GM is engineering Voltec to fail. As Toyota
    expands it’s Hybrid Synergy Drive technology all
    over the planet, GM fiddles and farts with Voltec
    in vehicles that don’t matter.

    High volume autos matter. They’re the ones
    causing the most pollution and using the
    greatest share of fossil fuels. Diddling around
    with lithium batteries hoping that tech
    breakthroughs will someday make them viable
    is …… well……… a joke.

    Someone had to say it.

    1. Stuart22 says:

      James, your passion is admirable, but you are taking a point of view that misses the big picture. GM took a giant leap over Toyota’s Prius with the Volt and landed in a place that is far beyond their power to easily manipulate selling prices in a way that will cause big shifts in demand towards their Volts and Volt-like offspring while at the same time bringing acceptable levels of profit back to the company.

      Whether Ford takes the sales lead next year is not as important as what happens five years from now. It is still early in this new frontier in electrification which GM opened up with the Volt. The Volt proved EVs with range extension capability will sell. Hence, we are seeing other manufacturers jumping in with their own versions, mostly with the EV portion watered down to varying degrees from the standard set by the Volt. Where things shake out is still too early to tell. But one thing we can say with relief is, EV’s are finally here to stay – we just are going to be having to pass through several years of development and breakthroughs before price and EV range settle out into what I imagine will be several product levels.

      The ELR is an important piece of the puzzle, especially at this point in time when there is a sizeable difference between EV MSRP levels and consumer opinions regarding value and worth. GM needs a high level EREV in order to set the bar at a high level of value and expectation. Now is the time to do it; in five years I would expect a trickle down effect to be well in progress with sophisticated electrification found in a broader range of their products, including trucks and utility models.

      The bottom line in all this is, companies have a bottom line to attend to. As long as GM stays close to technology and is in a position to quickly respond with breakthroughs, they will be fine over the long haul. So just sit back and enjoy the next five years for it’s going to be an unbelievably fantastic time in automobile history.

      1. James says:

        Stuart, you’d be correct in what you said if we expected GM to take
        it’s sweet time like Toyota did and mirror HSD’s maturation. GM
        doesn’t have the luxury of that kind of time. By the time they
        figure out a decent hybrid and a plug-in that can compete in price
        range — Hamtramck may be in cobwebs and LG may have gone
        back to S. Korea.

    2. Mark H says:

      Lithium is our technology today. I agree that future batteries will look nothing like today’s battery. R&D is not my bag but often refining one technology produces another. Unlike most people here I will keep my first EV (Volt) for a very long time. That does not mean I am not itching for my second. I really am pretty hooked on a 40KW Tesla Model S. It is the battery technology that I am watching. With 50,000 US EVs this year and “probably” triple that world wide is a beginning. When the number reaches a 1,000,000, the money will start to be there to change the battery technology. “A Joke” is a bit strong for me. “The final technology” ? ….I am with you.