May 2017 Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales Report Card
Stop us if you have heard this one before:
“…plug-in vehicle sales in the US were up big time last month”
It should ring a bell, as May marks 20 consecutive months of EV sales gains*. And once again it wasn’t a slight beat of last year’s numbers, but a significant improvement.
For May, an estimated 16,778 plug-ins were sold, a gain of 46.2%.
Looking at the full year after 5 months, ~72,108 electric vehicles have been sold, a gain of 44.7% over the ~49,839 sold though May of 2016.
The bulk of the results once again arrived via two automakers – Tesla and General Motors, but neither of those brands had the top seller, that was reserved (for the second time in two months) for Toyota and the Prius Prime – with 1,908 sales.
According to our estimates GM and Tesla sold a near identical amount of plug-ins (~3,400) in May, combining to sell about 6,800 vehicles during the month.
See full model-by-model breakdown for 2017 on the graphic below.
Questions for May (with answers in brackets as they come in):
- Can the Chevrolet Volt hold off the Tesla Model S from re-taking the year to date sales lead? (Indeed, the Volt holds a ~300 unit lead heading into June…although with June being the last month of a quarter, there is almost no way the Volt can hold off the Model sedan’s last-month-of-the-quarter surge)
- Who will win the battle of the “new major offerings” for May – the Chevrolet Bolt EV, or the Toyota Prius Prime? (Toyota wins 1,908 to 1,566)
- How will the Nissan LEAF do against year ago comps now that the company has announced the next generation LEAF will debut at a special event in Tokyo on September 6th? (Great, deep discounting lead to a 40% gain in May)
- The 2-state, compliance-only Fiat 500e had outsold the nationwide/unique platform BMW i3 through April…can BMW punt yet another month with the i3? (Mais oui!)
Also of interest: The fuel cell Toyota Mirai sold a sturdy 162 copies in May (up 305%), bringing its YTD total up to 579 units. Honda Clarity FCV – 119.
Last update: Monday, June 12th, 2017 – 6:02 PM
*On year of monthly sales improvements: We know someone is going to look at the chart and say, “hey, only ~11,467 sales were made in May of 2016, when 11,540 were logged in 2015! What gives InsideEVs?” What gives is – through an odd scheduling quirk, only 24 selling days were reported in May 2016 (versus 26 in 2015)
Below Chart: A individual run-down of each vehicle’s monthly result and some analysis behind the numbers. (Previous year’s monthly results can be found on our fixed Scorecard page here)
Individual Plug-In Model Sales Recap For Major Models:
(limited to vehicles with ~500 sales/or potential for 500 sales in a given month)
Earlier this year, someone forgot to tell General Motors that the first three months of a new year are awful months to try and sell electric vehicles in.
The Volt set the record for “most plug-ins sold for January” ever, moving 1,611 copies, then followed that up by selling 1,830 cars in February – a personal record, then 2,132 in March.
Interestingly, for April and May, things cooled off slightly, as the Volt failed to beat year-over-year comps for the first time in…well, ages, but only slightly.
1,807 Volts were sold in April, which was down 9% from a year ago, while in May, a near identical 1,817 were moved – off 4%.
Still April and May’s results were enough to retake the overall plug-in sales lead for the US over the Tesla Model S by a few hundred units. Overall, Chevrolet Volt sales are up 16.7% for 2017.
For 2016, 24,739 Volts were sold vs 15,393 last year, a gain of 61%, passing the Volt’s previous all-time record for most sales in a year from 2012, when 23,464 were sold.
Chevrolet Bolt EV:
GM’s first long range offering completed its first full month on the US market in January, selling an impressive 1,162 copies in California and Oregon (the two states selected for the Bolt EV’s launch before going nationwide later this year).
Unfortunately, and despite added 3 more states of availability in February (Massachusetts, Maryland and Virginia joined California and Oregon), Bolt EV sales fell to 952 moved during the month, and improved only slightly in March to 978 sales. At the time, GM noted that inventory was fairly tight on dealer lots in March, with only around 14 days worth on hand.
By Aprils’s end inventories had quadrupled, and sales rose to 1,291 units.
Thing improved moreso in May (thanks to a roll-out of the EV into the US Northeast, and deep inventories for the entire month – over 5,000 cars by month’s end), as GM noted a all-time high of 1,566 sales during the month, a gain of 21% from the month prior.
The mostly CARB-tastic, state-by-state roll-out continued in May with Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Colorado welcoming the Bolt EV to local Chevy dealerships. As for a nationwide roll-out, that will happen with the introduction of the 2018 MY Bolt EV – which arrives in September.
It is no secret that the Nissan LEAF is aging, and that the US consumer is anticipating a new, 2nd generation model arrival this Fall, with the prototype spotted out testing this month in the UK.
More specific to the next generation LEAF, InsideEVs learned this month that LEAF 2.0 will debut at a special event in Tokyo on September 9th!
Yet despite that, the LEAF has now seen gains in the past 9 consecutive months in a row (more on that below).
For April sales notched 4-digits again, with some 1,063 sales – good for a 35% increase from the year before. The last month (in May), things got even better, with sales up 40% and 1,392 sold! The results from the last two months have put the LEAF in a near tie with the new Chevy Bolt EV (5,742 LEAF sales vs 5,950 Bolt EV sales)
How rare have sales improvements been before this current run? September 2016 through April 2017’s gains were the first for the EV in America in 20 months (you’d have to go back to December of 2014 to other year-over-year increases).
During 2016, 14,006 LEAFs were sold, off 19% from the 17,269 moved in 2015.
We should note that the entry level price to the 30 kWh/107 mile edition of the LEAF was lowered with the 24 kWh trim level’s removal – the 30 kWh LEAF now has a starting MSRP of $30,680 + DST.
Toyota Prius Prime:
After setting a new high of 1,619 sales in March, Prius Prime sales continued to defy the almost non-existent inventory at the dealership level so far – selling 1,819 copies in April, and now 1,908 in May!
If you are just quiet enough and listen, you can almost hear Toyota’s dealers screaming for more inventory of the plug-in Prius. And why is that?
After 6 months of technical availability, the popular Toyota finally averaged 4 digits worth of inventory in May, but just barely (at about ~1,200 units in stock on average according to our data). This means of course that we have not yet seen the true potential sales volume of the plug-in.
Yes, the Prius Prime is here, and it might just be your 2017 plug-in sales champion for the US. The Toyota not only features its own unique look, but 25 miles of all-electric range.
But most importantly, the plug-in Toyota is priced right – from $27,950, which after the $4,500 federal credit is applied gives the Prime an effective price of $23,450, a price-point that is actually more than $1,000 cheaper than the base hybrid version…which should eventually translate into very strong sales once the EV is well stocked, as the standard version of the car can sell upwards of 10,000 units in a month.
Once upon a time, the blame for the low and bipolar nature of the BMW i3’s sales, was because of the introduction of a new, longer range (94 Ah/33 kWh) version.
For the first ~9 months of 2016, low sales was due to the older generation not selling well in advance of the 2017 model year’s arrival in September.
Then it was reported “limited initial supply” of the i3 in the Fall to blame for the lower-than-previous results…but that was 10 months ago now, making a clean 18 months of fairly unsatisfying results.
For 2017, things started rough, with just 182 sales logged in January, and 318 in February. Fortunately, the tune changed drastically in March (which given the i3’s track record is not all that surprising), with 703 sales made, a 118% gain over March of 2016. Then in April and May, any momentum has been lost – back down to 516 deliveries in April, and just 503 in May (off 37%).
Quite frankly, the i3 as it stands today is likely too expensive for plug-in vehicle buyers, so if BMW wants to sell the EV in volumes like it did in the past, it is going to have to sharpen its pencil…and by a lot.
For 2016 overall, BMW sold 7,625 i3s in 2016, compared to 11,024 a year ago – off 31%
Tesla Model S: Tesla does not give out exact monthly sales (apparently because the public can’t handle the concept of regional allocations and delivery lead times)… so we never know for sure what the monthly numbers total up to until Tesla’s quarterly (or annual) updates add more clarity, but we do our best to keep our finger on the pulse of what is happening.
To come to an estimated monthly, number, we don’t simply take the quarterly estimate given by Tesla and divide it by 3 and hope it all works out…it just doesn’t work like that in the real world. We simply report from the data we accumulate ourselves, the first hand accounts available from the factory and from the community itself when available – and the number is what it is (see below)
Revisions/disclaimer to accuracy of prior estimates: The 2016 Model S chart has been adjusted (via US Q3 data leaked directly from Tesla) by 469 units in Q3, and 525 units in Q4. The 2015 chart was adjusted (one time) by 498 units to compensate for confirmed full year numbers. The 2014 sales chart was adjusted (one time – again after the end of the full year of estimates) 611 units to compensate for full year numbers. While past success is no guarantee of future results, InsideEVs is quite proud of its sales tracking for the Model S over the years.
That being said, we only estimate this number because Tesla does not, and to not put a number on Model S sales would be to paint an even more inaccurate overall picture of EV sales. Despite our fairly accurate track record, we are not analysts, portfolio managers and we do not own any positions in Tesla the company.
While April seemed to be the month of the 60 kWh Model S cars being delivered (as the base model was officially discontinued on April 17th), May had to be the 75 kWh month, as the former mid-grade trim level took over.
And while one might think, “hey, why shouldn’t the 75 kWh model be the most popular as it is now the least expensive Tesla”, that really isn’t the reason why we state that.
It was the apparent near absence of 100 kWh production early in the month (as we also saw in April…which at the time we thought was a reflection of getting 60 kWh cars out the door). This lack of production meant very little high-end deliveries in the US for the company in May.
With that said, by month’s end a disproportionally high amount of 100 kWh cars headed into production.
We aren’t sure what caused the uncommon batching – supply issues? Priority sequencing of other models? Or if this perhaps means that typical end-of-quarter domestic delivery rush will be lower that we normally see, given the higher volume/lower cost cars are not as prominently being produced as they typically are at this stage of the quarter (after some fairly strong incentives to buy in the previous two months).
For May, we estimate Tesla delivered 1,620 Model S sedans.
Tesla Model X: Like the Model S, Tesla does not itself report Model X sales, so we do our best – with all the data at our disposal to estimate monthly results for North America as best we can (For more info on that, check out our disclaimer for the Model S)
Historical accuracy/Sales Update (Oct 11th):
Tesla recently leaked US sales data for Q3 2016 put US deliveries at 5,428. Our own Q3 estimate was 5,800 for North America, which includes Canada (which ended Q3 with 389 registrations for the quarter), meaning 5,787 were actually sold – and not to brag…but that means we were only off by 13 units in Q3.
Previously in Q2 2016, Tesla reported 4,625 Model X deliveries…our estimated scorecard got within about ~55 units of the actual number (accounting for just a handful of international Model X deliveries). In Q1 we where within ~200 units.
The Tesla Model X, like many trim levels of the Model S, had to live in the shadow of the “end of production” of the popular 60 kWh version of Tesla’s sedan in April.
And things never really seemed to get going in April for the X, with many owners reported delays during the month on their all-electric SUVs.
But as we noted last month, as the end of April neared, the Model X seemed to push back to the forefront with Tesla at its Fremont facility…too late to save April’s result (estimated at ~715 units), but more than lending a hand in May.
During this month (May), Tesla had no issues producing and delivering the Model X consistently, and although June’s production schedule looks a bit murky (perhaps in relation to happenings with the Model 3?), we estimate that deliveries of the Model X more than doubled in May at 1,730 sales, which even outpaced the Model S – which is a pretty rare occurrence.
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid:
The much anticipated plug-in extended range passenger van arrived in January, albeit in stealth, stuttered… and very limited in fashion.
Due to some odd quirks with production timing and plant scheduling we have had a on/off start for the Pacifica Hybrid as it relates to deliveries.
Here is the nutshell version:
Production kicked off as expected November 28th at the company’s Windsor, Ontario plant, and it seems a truck or two of inventory/orders managed to get out before Christmas shutdown – which resulted in reports of handful of January 2016 deliveries.
Unfortunately, inventory over-stock gripped the domestic automakers in North America, and many plants where given an extended shutdown (up to 3 weeks in some cases) – this included FCA’s Windsor plant.
The result was that the re-start of limited production of the Pacifica Hybrid was pushed back several weeks, compounded by a subsequent quality control hold, and a decision by Chrysler to hold built vans until around Earth Day.
Long story short for April: Some 700 odd customers who already ordered their plug-in Pacificas had to wait a bit longer than expected for Chrysler to start to ship them out in late April…on the positive side, they did start to ship them out, and Chrysler also gave those customers a free L2 charging station, or a $500 Visa card for their patience.
As for how specifically many plug-in Pacifica Hybrids were sold in April, we got in touch with Chrysler HQ for the number, but knowing full well ahead of time what the response would be (given the stonewalling we fact over as sister-brand Fiat):
“The Pacifica Hybrid did go on sale in April, but we’re reporting only the total Pacifica/Pacifica Hybrid sales number. Same as we do for Fiat 500e.”
Anyway, even though it would have been nice to get the exact number, estimating the number (within a reaonable margin of error) is not terribly hard via the data on hand.
Heading into May, everything was looking pretty swell for the Pacifica Hybrid, new customer orders began to arrive, dealer stock started to fill out…and then it stopped, as some “on road” issues were being reported (like not being operational, warning lights, etc).
By mid-month the Pacifica Hybrid went back into the dreaded “additional quality check” hold and some of those patient customers from 2016 were forced to wait a bit longer for their 33 mile extended range van. For the most part, the issue seemed to lie with the on-board operating system/firmware on the van, although no specific reason has been given by Chrysler.
Fortunately, by the last week of May deliveries resumed regionally (beginning in Canada – where the Pacifica Hybrid is made) and then spreading wider into the US. One hopes this will be the end of the bumpy delivery start for the Chrysler van.
And while again Chrysler didn’t report the exact number, we did manage to get some comment on last month’s sales from an exec:
“The Hybrid did have a nice month-over-month increase in May, but we only report a total Pacifica number.”
Update (June 12th, 2017): Unfortunately, a US recall (details) let us narrow down the number to an exact figure, as FCA discloses 1,368 Pacifica Hybrids hybrids have been sold by mid June, putting May sales around the 700 unit mark.
BMW 330e: N
Arriving on the US market last Spring was the BMW 330e, which is the plug-in hybrid version of the company’s high selling 3 series offering.
And while the 330e (from $44,695 including DST), physically arrived in April 2016 in a token amount, and it has taken BMW 8 months to begin to stock the vehicle adequately.
But apparently, that process has begun!
In April, 260 plug-in BMW 3 series cars were sold, but the real story is May as the car’s potential is starting to be realized – for the month 475 were sold.
As noted, during March, actual depth of the 330e arrived (just a scant ~12 months after the car’s debut), and now near about ~900 330es are available on dealer lots heading in June!
As for the specs, the final EPA ‘real world’ range rating of just 14 all-electric miles (via a 7.6 Kwh battery – 5.7 usable) was a disappointment for some hoping for a number closer to 20, but with a 75 mph top speed in “Max eDrive”, it is a capable offering (featuring a 2 liter turbo inline 4) and should satisfy the traditional BMW crowd and be a strong seller.
The electric motor develops 87 hp with maximum peak torque of 184 lb-ft, when combined with the petrol engine, the total output jumps to 248 hp, with a peak torque of 310 lb-ft, allowing a sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph.
Audi A3 Sportback e-tron:
After selling between about ~400 copies a month in Q1 (387, 400 and 414), Audi slipped a bit in April, moving 301 copies.
Moving into May, Audi maintained that lower level, with 294 sales of the popular plug-in.
For the year 1,796 A3 e-trons have sold, up 13% from the 1,589 moved through the first 5 months of 2016.
In 2016, 4,280 copies were sold…a not insignificant contribution to the US plug-in vehicle sales scene. That said, Audi is still certainly not in the “big boys” category for EV sales, but also is definitely not in the “also rans” either.
Quirky fact not really related to EV sales, but certainly aided with the arrival of the A3 e-tron, the Audi brand has now set 77 consecutive months of record year-over-year sales in the US.
Part of the reason for strong sales for the A3 e-tron is also the (relatively) low price. $38,900 gets you the Audi badge, 8.8 kWh of battery – good for 17-odd miles of real world driving…and federal credit of $4,158, which is significant because this brings the e-tron package down to within $3,500 of the base MSRP of the A3.
Well that, and you can’t get the “sportback” version of the Audi in any other trim level in the US. Check out our own early/pre-delivery review on the Audi A3 e-tron here.
Ford Fusion Energi:
The refreshed 2017 Ford Fusion Energi (details) was a fairly big hit in 2016, showing marked improvements throughout the year.
Heading into 2017, the Fusion Energi eked out a small gain in January, moving 606 copies, then got back to business in setting new personal bests.
Following February’s strong 837 sale performance, Ford crossed back into “4 digit land”, as 1,002 Energis were moved in March…joining a club of just 5 other at that level.
A level which the company returned to in May…but just barely, with an even 1,000 sold.
Looking at the inventory in the past, it was easy to see why (and how) so many of the new Fusion plug-ins were sold over the past few months; the Fusion Energi has often won the crown for the “most stocked” EV in the US (before Chevy got crazy with the Volt).
With that said, Ford had been struggling to keep production on pace with demand earlier this year…with “had” being the key word, as inventory surged ahead in May, crossing the 3,000 mark for the first time in several months, which could indicate higher sales ahead for the popular Energi model.
It had been hard to get a read on the sales demand for VW’s all-electric Golf for the most part of 2016, as as sales fluctuated quite a bit.
After setting a year’s best in August (with 454 copies sold), Volkswagen improved on that number again in September, selling 529 copies, before setting back down to 407 sales in October and lower still with 305 sold in November. However, things rebounded again in December with 443 sold.
Heading into 2017 however, sales have normalized around the 300 level ahead of a new longer range version set to arrive imminently.
For April, 326 copies were sold, and somehow VW managed to best that in May, despite dwindling 2016 inventory, with 381 sales – a year-high.
As noted, some additional sales help is on the way, as Volkswagen is now offering an upgraded range on the original e-Golf platform (see our review of the new model here)
The 2017 plug-in VW will now feature a 35.8 kWh battery, increasing range to ~124 miles and debuted at the LA Auto Show in November (details – launch gallery/video). Production of the new e-Golf got underway earlier this year, and arrives….next month (again).
Ford C-Max Energi:
If it wasn’t for the impressive results of the Ford Fusion Energi every month, we probably would look at C-Max Energi results a lot differently.
But in December, the plug-in C-Max manged to step out of the Fusion’s shadow for the first time, and sold an all-time best 1,289 copies – 17% more than the Fusion Energi.
We wondered for a time if that could be a performance repeated by the C-Max Energi in 2017? And while that has yet to happen, result have still be very strong for the Ford, noting 639 sales in February, and 662 in March, 749 in April … and now a year-high in May with 950 sales.
Despite these results, we expect that the C-Max Energi will live only as long as it takes to introduce a Ford’s new “Model E” lineup in Spring of 2019 (offering both a compact car and crossover utility vehicle), and/or the extended range Focus Energi (of which Ford recently filed a trademark application for).
When it comes to reporting plug-in sales, we have another Tesla on our hands here (as in they don’t report sales).
Chrysler/Fiat has been giving us a bit of the stonewall treatment when it comes to reporting 500e sales.
UPDATE: After initially have some issues getting data on the plug-in Fiat, more registration and rebate data is now available. That being said, the number is estimated. Historically, the average margin of error per month has been about ~40 units in those moments when some confirmed data leaks out (usually from a recall). For 2016, the yearly estimated total was adjusted upwards (once) by approximately 500 units over the first 12 months.
For most of 2016, the Fiat 500e was a consistent performer, but over the past few months of the year things really ratcheted up.
Heading into 2017 sales continued to remain robust for the 500e given the limited amount of inventory actually on hand (~300-400 units on average), peaking in January of all months at an estimated ~752 sales.
After settling down a little in the past couple months, registrations and inventory has increased of late, and we estimate 665 500es were sold in May.
BMW X5 xDrive40e:
The BMW X5 plug-in had an unexpectedly strong debut in the US in 2016…and only get stronger over the year.
In fact the electrified BMW SUV has seen sales as high as 876 units in the past (August 2016).
For 2017, thanks to the “January slowdown” effect on EV sales due to the US federal credit, inventories grew decently during the month, but adversely affected sales, with 262 sold in the first month of 2017 and roughly the same in February at 275 sales.
During the second half of March, inventory of the X5 plug-in began to strengthen, and averaged around 700 units in April and May. And with SUVs to be purchased, sales started to return to the model, with 397 copies moved in March.
Building on past success, the X5 plug-in set a new 2017 high in May with 433 sales.
Check out our first drive review of the 13 mile AER BMW x5 xDrive40e here.
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