When Will a Plug-In Make the US’ Top 10 List of Best Selling Vehicles in a Single Year?

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 12

Top 10 List for 2012

Top 10 List for 2012 via Kicking Tires

Seen above is the list of the Top Ten best-selling automobile in the US in 2012.

The lowest vehicle on that list, the Ford Escape, sold 261,008.  Meanwhile, the best-selling plug-in vehicle in 2012, the Chevy Volt, sold 23,641 units.

Eventually, there will come a time when a plug-in makes the US’ Top Ten chart, but when will that be?

There’s no shot at a plug-in making the Top Ten chart for 2013, as the Chevrolet Volt is the current YTD sales leader at 14,994 through August.  However, GM did sell 3,351 last month (an overall/all-time plug-in record) which if repeated over the course of a year would net 40,212 sold – still not that close, but better,

Predicting the future is not easy, but we think it’ll be at least 2018 before a plug-in land a Top Ten spot and by that time it’s likely that some of today’s plug-ins won’t still be on the market.

It seem entirely possible that Tesla Gen III electric could be the first to grab a Top Ten, but only if Tesla hits all of its targets (200+ mile range and sub $35,000 price tag).

But what say you?  In what year will a plug-in break into the Top Ten and which plug-in will it be?  Answers such as “the first plug-in to cost less than $20,000 with a range of XXX miles are acceptable” as are answers that only say which automaker will make the as-of-now unknown plug-in that’ll climb its way onto the chart.

Let’s see what we can come up with.  Here is a look at what the plug-ins did in 2012:

2012 Plug In Sales Scorecard

2012 Plug In Sales Scorecard

Lead graphic via Kicking Tires

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12 responses to "When Will a Plug-In Make the US’ Top 10 List of Best Selling Vehicles in a Single Year?"

  1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

    Don’t think top 10.

    Pay attention to sales compared to hybrids, but with a dose of reality (remember the tax credit). The number 2 hybrid sells under 5,000 per month. Get to #2 and it’ll really get noticed.

    1. Josh says:

      I agree with you on the first major milestone. When will a plug-in outsell the Prius?

      Right now it looks like it would be the Volt. My guess on time is year 2 of the next gen Volt sales (assuming 50+ miles AER and a sticker under $30k), so 2016/2017.

  2. Josh says:

    Glancing at this list, I would say a Tesla truck (200+ mile range w/ sticker under $40k) would be the first to crack the top 10. Timeframe, 5 “Tesla years”, so 2020? Gen III would have a shot too, but Tesla might still be fighting a largely uninformed market at its launch.

  3. Daniel Cardenas says:

    After tesla bluestar is fully ramped. Probably 2018.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_BlueStar

  4. David Murray says:

    Honestly, I’m not convinced we have a shot at the top 10 cars until at least 2020, maybe longer. Face it, there aren’t even any hybrids on the top 10 list right now. 3 of the top 10 are full sized trucks and 2 are mid-sized SUV. The truck and SUV market will be the hardest to crack for a couple of reasons. First reason is it costs more money to build a plug-in truck or SUV due to the larger battery needed. Second thing is that people who buy those types of vehicles don’t care much about fuel economy, environmental issues, or being geek, otherwise they wouldn’t have bought that kind of vehicle to begin with.

    I think we’ll be on either the 2nd or 3rd generation of plug-in vehicles before we have a shot at the top 10. Seriously, I doubt even Tesla will sell more than 100,000 per year of their bluestar.

    1. Daniel Cardenas says:

      Tesla is planning on selling more than 500K cars per year. Their NUMMI plant is capable of producing that and they are looking at acquiring two more factories.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NUMMI

      1. David Murray says:

        Just because they can make 500K per year and because they plan on selling that many, doesn’t mean it will happen. I’m still betting 100K per year for bluestar. Now, once they get a few more models out and have an affordable truck and SUV, then I could see them selling 500K per year total.

    2. Josh says:

      I actually think a truck or SUV would be the one to crack the top 10. The savings on fuel is much more dramatic in these segments, a key factor in converting those buyers. In the truck market, I think the low end torque will also strike a cord with the buyers.

      If you look at the market the Tesla Gen III will compete in, it is generally boring looking cars that have very low TCO. I doubt the Tesla will be boring looking and cracking the TCO will be difficult even at a $35k sticker. Tesla’s current service and warranty costs are more in line with luxury vehicles and far exceed the cost of the electricity to run the Model S.

    3. David Stone says:

      ” 3 of the top 10 are full sized trucks and 2 are mid-sized SUV.”

      That’s what you get when with a history of subsidied fuel.
      We are not better in Europe – just a lot fewer selfish and stupid people can afford to be that way.

  5. Brian says:

    First, it’s worth noting that no hybrid has ever made the top ten. It will take a while for a plug-in. Although it’s possible (likely even) for a plug-in to leap frog hybrids and get there first.

    Second, I will point out that the current list has 5 sedans (compact to midsized), 3 trucks and 2 SUVs. I think the first plug-in to make the list is likely to be a sedan. The Volt in its current form doesn’t really have a shot at the list – it is simply too small. So it will either be a larger Voltec sedan/crossover or Tesla GenIII.

    My money is on Tesla, but it will be a few years after the GenIII is introduced. I’ll play conservatively and put the bogey on 2020. That’s not what I want to see, just what I think is realistic.

  6. Ocean Railroader says:

    This could change if their is a crippling gas price spike but I think the Prius will move into this chart first before any plug in moves up here first.

  7. Rick says:

    My guess is it will be one of those that are already in the top 10, just electrified. To be in the top 10, you have to be mainstream. No, it’s not going to be a Tesla.