2012 Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales: Australia and Norway

5 years ago by Jay Cole 21

Every month (or so) we take a moment to highlight electric vehicle sales in a country that is not the United States.   Not for any particular reason, or for any particular place, but just because we can…and we enjoy doing it.

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2012 was a great year for auto sales ‘down under’ (a strong AUD will do that) as total sales eclipsed 1,000,000 for only the 5th time, and also set an all-time record at 1,112,032 units.

Unfortunately, Australia is also about as inhospitable a climate for plug-in electric cars  as you can find in the developed world today.  Both in physical landscape and in government support of the segment.

(Numbers via InsideEV’s contributor Martin Tesar, who also received the first Holden Volt in Australia …probably)

First Place:  Mitsubishi i-MiEV

Obligatory Photo of Product In Native Landscape

Mitsubishi had the advantage of being the first to market in Australia, and as such took the sales crown* for 2012 at 95 units.

Even though large sedans were the country’s worst performer in 2012 (down almost 20%), Australian’s are still a long, long way away from getting into a Japanese kei car (which loosely translates to jelly bean).  Also not helping sales is a price tag of $48,800 AUD  ($51,250).

Of interest:  the Australian Government’s Green Vehicle Guide  (which is obviously a work of fiction) says the i-MiEV’s range is 155 km (96 miles).

Second Place: Nissan LEAF

Only available in the last 6 months of 2012, the all electric Nissan managed to scrap together 77 sales in Australia to take second place despite a steep pricetag of its own at $51,500 ($54,000USD).  Of note, the LEAFs inexpensive price-point actually forced Mitsubishi to lower their price from north of $60,000 AUD.

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Third Place: Holden Volt

If you want to imagine a Holden Volt, just think of a Chevrolet Volt, but with a cooler front emblem…that adds about $24,000 to the car.

Despite being at the high end of the price spectrum at $59,990 AUD ($63,000USD), the Volt is actually the ‘it’ plug-in car for Australia, as GM sold 40 copies in the 5 weeks it was available to close out the year.





NORWAY – “Those who seek the spirit of Norway face peril and adventure…”

Depiction Of Typical Day In Norway (via Disney)

Usually, we start these article subsections with a little ditty about the country and their auto sales.

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However, as of this moment, my only knowledge of Norway (other than they love their EVs) has been gleened from the Maelstrom ride at the Norway pavilion inside Disney’s Epcot theme park.

Therefore I assume everyone lives on a long, narrow fjord, works at sea, has red hair…and the country is completely over-run by trolls.

Top six plug-in sellers in Norway:

  1. Nissan LEAF – 2,298
  2. Mitsubishi i-MiEV – 665
  3. Citroen C-Zero (which is a rebadged i-MiEV) – 513
  4. Peugeot iOn (also a rebadged i-MiEV)- 407
  5. Opel Ampera – 158 (+1 Chevy Volt)
  6. Tesla Roadster – 32

Web-bonus:  For anyone not familiar with Maelstrom, we present Disney’s ‘fair and balanced’ representation of the country:


21 responses to "2012 Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales: Australia and Norway"

  1. Anton Wahlman says:

    How do the Norwegian EV numbers relate to the entire size of the Norwegian car market? I mean, with a population of 5-6 million, and cars being 2-3x more expensive than in the US, that market is quite small, so those EV numbers could still imply a decent market share.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      EVs have a HUGE market share in Norwary thanks to an accomodating government. (its kind of like the center of the plug-in universe)

      Total car sales in Norway for 2012 were reported at 137,967. Total all electric and plug-in sales in Norway was 4,114…or about 3%

      Given the US sold 14.5 million in 2012, that would equate to 430,000+ plug-ins.

    2. KenZ says:

      Yeah, that’s a lot of Leafs.

      And by the way, “Troll Hunter” is a movie worth watching.

    3. Josh says:

      He is a link that quotes the LEAF was about 2% of all auto sales (1000 sales), through the first half of the year.


      Doing some gross extrapolation using Jay’s numbers (without any of the real overall sales data) would put the total market at 4 – 5%, or about 15 times bigger relative to the US market.

  2. David Murray says:

    Wow.. Why are the prices so high in Australia?

    1. Anton Wahlman says:

      Primarily the sales tax. I forget exactly what it is there, but it could be 20% or so?

      1. Jay Cole says:

        I’m not as big an expert on the Aussie automotive import system (as say, I clearly am on Norway), but it is a very proctectionist environment. Martin (who writes for us about his Holden Volt occasionally) could probably give you a more succinct answer than myself, but until he pops into the thread, I’ll take a stab.

        To sell a foreign made EV, you are looking at import costs, ADR regs, duty, GST (which I believe is still at 10%)…and in some cases you get nicked by the LCT (which dings you for a tidy 33% on luxury cars starting well north into the 50s, higher on plug-ins), and a couple of other, smaller, persnickety things.

        1. Malcolm Scott says:

          In Australia it is a legal requirement to quote pricing as the full drive away cost (or words to that affect)(inclusive of all charges, taxes, etc). Therefore it is not an apples for apples comparison with the headline pricing people often quote in the US. Holden marketing quoting $60k were a bit thin with the truth prior to launch on this bit.

          Real asking price (only 35 available on this market dominant web site!!):


          Moreover, the Holden Volt is sold in one variant only without options. It is a fully configured version, with some notable omissions (to represent a premium brand image for Holden’s marketing objective). US MSRP for equivalent looks like about $43k.

          Not sales tax, but instead 10% GST. For comparison, rarely does a US reader include the US state and other taxes in their discussions about their purchase costs, although it is a real cost.

          No duty as there is a free trade agreement between US/Australia (and for Thailand as the only other car manufacturing nation with such an agreement with Australia.

          I would not characterise the Australian market as particularly protectionist. It once was. Apart from imports from free trade nations, customs duty is now only 5% (not 10% as it was until recently). I have been at presentations by Ford and Holden managing directors where they have commented that the Australian market is one of the most competitive in the world, having the most models available of almost any country (including the US). There is substantial automotive industry manufacturing subsidies, but EVERY country does this.

          No luxury tax is applicable for the Volt as it’s a fuel efficient vehicle below $75,375 threshold after which a 33% tax applies. Threshold for other cars is $59,133 (note, this is a calculated value and not drive away price). Hence, there is a agnostic tax incentive that reduces the price for fuel efficient vehicles, but it does not help the common person looking to buy an affordable car.

          ADR (Australian Design Rules) compliance would have added some program costs. The result is that we don’t have mountain mode (stationary vehicle noise in all modes of operation is the rumour).

          Logistics, dealership training (2 sales persons and 2 technical per dealership I think), emergency first responder training, sparing inventory, and amortising costs for low volume sales all add to make the Volt have a higher purchase price. The Volt also had a much longer, more intensive, and broader in scope marketing campaign than any other Holden model of late.

          I think we are very lucky to have the Volt at all. The business case would have been more than challenging. Apart from home solar market penetration, Australians are extremely conservative/traditional when it comes to energy policy and transportation choices. Holden was very brave to announce and commit early that the Volt would be sold in Australia. But that was in the heady days of a new Australian government with many transformational policies and great expectations from the Doha round of post Kyoto negotiations for “the greatest moral challenge for mankind” (to quote the Australian Prime Minister of the day).

          1. Jay Cole says:

            What Malcolm said a lot more clearly than myself, (=

            I knew there would be some big local brains check in at some point, thanks!

            1. Martin T says:

              Thanks, Malcolm I might just add the true drive away price is ~$65,000AUD registered on the road, plus in my case add ~$760.00 for comprehensive insurance, lowest I could find being a rating 1 driver before you drive out the dealers door.

              How does that compare for a fully optioned US Volt ignoring the OnStar and only painted wheels, paying all taxes, registrations and insurance?

              My bet is will be at least 20-30% cheaper compared to our local distributor (Holden Australia) who is taking their slice of the pie to make this happen at the usual Australian way – related to our tiny market volume way like all the other manufactures – what the market will bare.
              Australian are buying Chines Great Wall’s – they should be half price before you touch one (no resale value) and yet they have increased in sales by 27%. Which means many people shop on price and leave their long term intelligence buried in their children’s sand pit.

              Even though cars are at their at there cheapest / most affordable point in decades Australians are still paying more for them – then the US or some European countries (But then again we are much cheaper than some local Asian countries).
              Australians this year held purchases back in other areas and have been buying cars which are either attractive to them / or they have let their old ride run down to the point its a more sensible option to throw money into a new car that keeping their old badly maintained car going.
              I believe the younger generation has much less interest in understanding cars or maintaining them they appear as a necessary money pit while greater interest are in their IPOD’s Phones etc.

              So summing up Australia, small market, inefficient distribution, high prices.


    2. Rob Farago says:

      Australians seem to pay a lot more for all cars 🙁 There is a VAT called GST of 10%. We are a RHD market but so is the UK and Japan which are large markets so that can’t explain the whole premium.

  3. Rob Farago says:

    I find the 77 nissan LEAF number for Australia hard to believe. Where did it come from? Nissan or ??? The AFR newspaper (something like an australian WSJ) had an article earlier in the year saying that Nissan had sold 73 to the end of August 2012 (launched in mid June 2012). Hard to believe both numbers are correct.

    disclosure: I am an australian LEAF owner

    1. Martin T says:

      Rob to answer your questions,
      I obtained The figures below were provided today at 4/1/2013 midday (after release of embargo) from:
      Australia’s VFACTS, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries from three manufactures only who submitted information.

      Mitsubishi IMEV Dec 2012: x81 Year 2012: x95 (Linda double checked this but that’s the correct figures.)
      Nissan LEAF Dec 2012: x6 Year 2012: x77
      Holden VOLT Dec 2012: x40 Year 2012: x80*

      *x40 before public release for November or earlier were either engineering evaluation vehicles or demonstrators)

      They assured me that these are the correct figures as provided to them by the manufactures themselves – I questioned the IMEV if I heard correctly as their Dec figures ramped up dramatically.

      Lets hope more smart people buy more EV’s as my Volty needs many more EV friends to change the way we drive!



      1. Martin T says:

        Make that yesterday 4/1/13 AUSTRALIAN Melbourne time, just to confuse you around the world LOL! (We are a day ahead of the US)

      2. Rob Farago says:

        thanks. perhaps the AFR numbers to August included the 16 LEAFs sold to the Victorian government EV trials (& other specials?) in 2011?

        1. Jay Cole says:

          Sorry, I probably should have noted in the article, that my numbers were the net to consumers, not gross registrations.

          /my bad

  4. You're joking? says:

    EV prices in Australia are in-line with those offered in Norway (See below) I would suggest a comparison of fuel prices might give a better clue as to the likely buyer motivation.

    Norway has the most expensive fuel in the world @ 2.00 Euro/litre. The price in Australia is around AUD$1.30/litre (eq 1.04 Euro/litre)

    1) Holden Volt (Australia) = AUD$59,990

    2) Opel Ampera (Norway) = NOK-369,900 (eq AUD$63,012.47)

    3) Nissan Leaf (Australia) = AUD$51,500

    4) Nissan Leaf (Norway) NOK-263,900 (eq AUD$44,955)

    5) Mitsubishi iMiEV (Australia) Drive away price in “low thirties”

    6) Mitsubishi iMiEV (Norway) NOK-192.500 (eq AUD$32,792.38)

    1. Jay Cole says:

      While gas prices could be a factor to some degree, that isn’t the reason for the disparagy on consumer acceptance. It is an avoidance of the (huge) penalties that gets people to buy plug-ins in Norway. To say the atmosphere is near hostile to owning an ICE car is an understatement.

      Larger cars (size and displacement) can add well over 50% in tax to vehicle purchases…a sales tax that plug-ins are exempt from.

      You also get a lot of perks after you buy your EV in Norway, free public parking, don’t pay on toll highways, full access to areas (and HOV lanes) not available to passenger ICE vehicles, as well as an exemption on annual fees (road tax, licensing fees, etc).

      ie) while the LEAF at 263,900kr is $45,290 AUD or $47,580 US, something like a Murano in Norway that you can get here starting at around $29,000 starts at 726,900kr or $124,750AUD or $131,000 USD, even a small displacement Juke will set you back 200K there, or $36,000 US (as oppsed to $20,000)…then you still get whack with all the fees and accessibility issues

  5. evnow says:

    Norway is really different – the only net oil exporter that is hostile to ICE.

  6. TassieEV says:

    Having lived downunder now for awhile I am aghast at how much vehicles do cost. There is alot of large SUVs such as Toyota Landcruiser and have seen a fill up cost $150 at $1/litre, during a fuel war a few years ago, hate to think now at $1.50/litre.

    Many vehicles also add the required bullbar, as its called, have even seen one stuck on a wagon/estate. Not sure the reason as many of the vehicles with them never go offroad. Suggest it destroys the manufacturer fuel economy as well.

    It seems many vehicle purchases are based on price alone not on TCO. I really want to see EVs/PHEVs take hold here, but with such high sale price due to what I call a foreign made vehicle tax,never admitted to but it is, and little to no government support could see them die downunder with much celebration from the ICE community. Hopefully this doesn’t happen however.

  7. Kimmi says:

    Here’s the full sales ranking on 2012 in Norway:

    Norway Dec 2.012
    Nissan Leaf 138 2.298
    Mitsubishi I-Miev 29 665
    Citröen C-Zero 26 513
    Peugeot iOn 7 407
    Opel Ampera 35 158
    Toyota Prius Plug-In 47
    Tesla Roadster 33
    Think City 20
    Buddy EV 14
    Mia Electric 1 11
    Fisker Karma 2 6
    Chevrolet Volt 1
    TOTAL 238 4.173

    For more rankings of ev sales all over the world, go to my website,