2017 US Plug-In EV Sales Charted: Market Grows 26%, Record 1.6% Share In December

JAN 11 2018 BY MARK KANE 35

U.S. Plug-In Car Sales – December 2017


It’s once again time to take an in-depth look at the plug-in electric vehicle sales in the U.S. – both for December and the full year 2017.

In December, plug-in sales reached a new all-time record of 26,107, which was 5.3% more than a year ago (see full report here). Records are usually set in December because of the additional wave of consumers who seek to quickly gain back the federal tax credit of up to $7,500 on purchases.

Another new record in December was a plug-in market share of more than 1.6%. We are confident that the level of 1% is captured, and year 2018 will open this to way beyond 2%.

U.S. Plug-In Car Sales – December 2017

And one more look at the progress since 2010.

U.S. Plug-In Car Sales – December 2017

In 2017, total sales nearly hit 200,000. InsideEVs estimates 199,826, which translates to growth of 26%. We expect 2018 to bring between over 300,000, if not more depending on the Model 3 production ramp.

Average market share in 2017 hit a new record of 1.16%.

U.S. Plug-In Car Sales – 2017

Average monthly sales increased to around 16,652.

U.S. Plug-In Car Sales – 2017

In 2017, five models exceeded 20,000 sales. The Tesla Model S reached ≈27,060, which is slightly down compared to the previous year (≈28,896).

Chevrolet Bolt EV sales in 2017

Second best was the Chevrolet Bolt EV (23,297) thanks to a new record of 3,227 in December!

Third on the all-electric podium was the Tesla Model X (≈21,315). It’s a great success for Tesla to place two cars in the Top 3. The Model X noted small growth compared to ≈18,223 in 2016.

The Toyota Prius Prime (20,936) managed to take fourth place, just edging out the Chevrolet Volt (20,349) in the ‘best selling plug-in hybrid’ class.

The Nissan LEAF, with the discontinued and discounted old generation running out of stock, managed just 11,230, but in 2018 the next generation will be major contender for the top rank.

The “Top 10” selling models for the year:

Top 10 U.S. Plug-In Car – 2017

EV sales

2017 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers – *Estimated Tesla Sales Numbers – Reconciled on Quarterly Totals, ** Estimated (Based on State/Rebate Data and other reports), Credit to HybridCars.com for assistance on Hyundai/some BMW data.

Overall, the Chevrolet Volt remains the best selling plug-in car since 2010 – with 133,838 were delivered. Weak Nissan LEAF sales of late slowed progress, and with 114,827, the Japanese flagship is now behind the Tesla Model S118,147.

We believe that in 2018 those three models will get closer to each other in cumulative sales rank, as the leader Chevy Volt is showing weakness (down 20%+ in 2017) strictly due to market competition, while the LEAF will certainly surge in 2018, and the Model S has been America’s best seller for the past 3 years.

Other fast movers are the Toyota Prius Prime at 63,281 (together with previous generation), the Tesla Model X at 39,752 and the Chevrolet Bolt EV at 23,876.

In 2018, Tesla Model 3 shouldn’t have any problem in joining the Top 10, as less than 30,000 will be needed to enter those ranks.

TOP 10 U.S. Plug-In Cars (cumulative sales) – 2017

*Editor’s note:  all the individual sales for every plug-in model sold in December (and all-time) can be found in our Monthly Plug-In Sales Scorecard.

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35 Comments on "2017 US Plug-In EV Sales Charted: Market Grows 26%, Record 1.6% Share In December"

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“In 2017, five models exceeded 20,000 sales. The Tesla Model S reached ≈27,060, which is slightly down compared to the previous year (≈28,896).”

A lot of chatter that Bolt was eating into Volt sales but the same argument could be made that Bolt is eating into Model S sales.

Most likely is all are eating into ICE sales.

Tesla upsold Model S customers into more expensive Model X units. Upsales are a good thing in the automotive industry. It was always known that people who normally would buy an SUV were buying the Model S until the X came to market, and that those buyers would get an X instead once it came out. This is not a bad thing, and has nothing to do with the Bolt.

Meanwhile, Tesla focused on growing the Model S and Model X sales internationally, with a roughly one-third increase in total global S/X sales.

This graph clearly shows the upsales into the Model X since the release of the Model X, at the expense of the Model S. It also shows how the combined sales of both S/X is growing faster than when they had just the S:


Agree that global sales are important and that is where GM is missing the point.
Two new comers that will be in the USA Top Ten for 2018 will be the Tesla Model 3 and the Outlander PHEV.

The Honda Clarity PHEV has been getting rave reviews by several on the InsideEVs Forum site. Of course that could be just anecdotal evidence, but I think Honda has a real contender there. The real question is just how many they will produce for U.S. sales.

As many as they need for compliance…

2018 is the year that the CARB rules really step up. So I expect all the compliance offerings get more aggressive in inventory and pricing.

Especially for automakers that have been slacking off in credit collecting (like Honda).

I don’t remember all the rules right now, but I think more automakers will be required to comply starting now. And compliance credit levels are higher on top of it.

Tesla will be swimming in credits by year end, so its not like any companies will have to shell out fine money any time soon though. I am pretty sure Honda has been the #1 customer for Tesla credit sales to this point. So that dynamic could change.

I am curious how much the model 3 will eat into other EV sales. I think that most of the current reservation holders who are hoping for a base-level model 3 have held off buying a Bolt or Volt or more entry level EV. If Tesla clears the backlog, I am not sure that there is a market for 400K EVs in 2019 . . . .

I think the 2018 headlines of Model 3 will help all EV sales. There is still 98.8% of the market not purchasing EVs. None of the other models get the coverage Tesla does. Maybe Model 3 selling big numbers will shake off the stigma that the technology isn’t there yet.

So somebody hearing about Model 3, might start looking for the first time, then decide to test drive another brand. Cautious buyers may just go for the gateway drug (PHEV) first.

Butts in seats sells EVs.



Tesla model 3 production is moving up nicely. They will dominate 2018 and beyond.
Next is their model Y that could be as big as the 3 in sales.
TRANSPARENCY-I’m long on Tesla TSLA and NVDA

I would instead say “gateway plug” LOL

LOL, I love that.

Permission or not, I am going to use that saying now!

I see what you mean, but I think it will have the opposite effect. Lots of people who never experienced an EV will do so in 2018 if Tesla clears the backlog, but not all of them will prefer Model 3. The 2019 LEAF, for example, will be available in 60 kWh maxed-out trim for about the same as a bare-bones Model 3. And many other cars will offer better value for those who find the Tesla still a bit of a stretch financially. I’m among those who will have to think hard about whether I should get more performance and a premium badge or instead choose merely very good performance and much more equipment for the same or less money. LEAF e-Plus, of the rumours prove accurate, is less sporty with FWD, but it does sixty in 6.5s and travels as far and has ProPilot – perhaps better still in 2019 – all for a sticker of $35k. Unless the exchange rate improves a lot (from my perspective; I’m in Norway) getting the hifi and tech and autopilot on the Model 3 will cost more than I’m prepared to spend, quite simply. A new Ioniq, maybe VW I.D., Hyundai… Read more »

“I am curious how much the model 3 will eat into other EV sales.”

Surveys indicate that the Model 3 will eat into Prius sales more than any other EV. And since most Prii are non-plug-in HEVs, that represents conquest sales for the PEV (Plug-in EV) segment.

But I hope and believe that by far the majority of Model 3 sales will come from current gasmobile owners, not owners of competing PEVs.

Prius starts at $23K while Model 3 starts at $35K and by the time the RWD version starts, the 200,000 mark will be hit and the Fed credits for Model 3 will be over.

So Prius & Model 3 are in a totally different league.

Model 3 is now RWD long range version. No AWD until later and no base model until later (after full tax credit is done?).

Probably not too much due to the price differential of Bolts, Ioniqs, Prius, Leaf and the Tesla Model 3.

I’ve got a reservation in the 200,000 block but I’m looking at an AWD 300M version so $60K range.

If Buick offers its version of the Bolt with power seat and dynamic cruise (missing from Bolt) and AWD for $50K, I’d likely go for it.

So I could see competition in the EV camp Buick could be stealing customers from Tesla, Tesla from the Leaf, Bolt from Tesla (Steve Wosniak).

Manufacturing is just another hurdle for Tesla to leap. Despite being the mountain they can’t climb, as legacy companies would have you believe, they are just pressing on in stages.

They will figure out mass manufacturing, as they did in producing the best cars ever made, and people will reward them by buying their vehicles.

Their battery architecture is superior to anything on the market, and will continue to be for many years, as they constantly innovate. The pent-up demand for their wonderful evs will climb, as demand for legacy vehicles falls concurrently.

GM and Ford can still make and sell trucks for a few more years, but with gas prices rising many will certainly rue the day they purchased a Triceratops, new name for a old truck.

I think January 2018 is likely to set a record, not just because plug-in vehicle sales have been growing year over year, but specifically as a result of the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model 3, both of which seem to be ramping up nicely. I wouldn’t be surprised to see over 3000 of each (possibly even 4000 of each) sold in January.

Something interesting that I only just realized a few days ago – obviously the top 3 manufacturers of EVs sold in the US are Tesla, Nissan, and GM. I don’t think anyone following EVs would be all that surprised (although they might be surprised that GM is on top.)

What’s interesting is who’s #4. Based on which EVs people talk about, you’d probably think it’s Toyota or BMW, but each of them only have ~60% of the company that’s actually #4. Upon being told that, maybe you think it’s FCA or something.

Nope. It’s Ford. Ford has over 100K EV sales so far. Their offerings rarely, if ever, have anything written about them, but they have 3 models that they’ve been selling for 5+ years and 2 of them regularly manage to land at around 10K US sales per year.

Ford’s EVs are the easiest to get in to in most of the USA. They price the tax credit into leases, unlike GM, their nationwide dealer network supports their EVs, and they’re not very expensive, especially considering the really very nice interiors they provide.

Yet, they could be doing so much better! Their EVs have stupid user experience flaws like the battery humps and quirky programming, they’ve been slow to improve range, and now they’re killing off the C-Max instead of making it better.

(I have a 2013 C-Max Energi which I bought off-lease last year.)

Unfortunately Ford has killed the C-Max PHEV as of Oct 2017, selling only what remains in inventory. This means until they bring out one of their ‘future’ vehicles, they are going to suffer.

I slightly remember that there was kinda prediction thread last year for the top5 selling models in 2017…or was it the year before? so, if it was last year who is the winner?

I remember betting prime would be prime so I’m definitely out 🙁

Hey, you were in good company. A lot of people predicted the Prius Prime would be the #1 PEV seller in the U.S. in 2017. Even some InsideEVs staff made that guess or prediction. I still find it surprising that the Prime under-performed to such a degree.

The reason that Prius PHV was priced at $28K is to sell only at a lower volume. And Hyundai has done the same with Ioniq-EV and Ioniq-PHV.

This is a tactic all automakers do to keep the sales of plugins lower.

The few real players here are Tesla, Nissan, BMW.


50,000 sales worldwide is hardly low-volume, especially for the first year.

As for pricing, that’s an indication of high-volume intent when tied to production-cost… which was designed to be profitable at that low MSRP.

Remember, the introduction of carbon-fiber and the new glass slowed production ramp-up too. First year rollout is typically hampered by dealer training and customer awareness anyway.

Underperformed? No.

Rollout to three major markets all at the same time was a huge undertaking.

Japan, Europe, and North America for the first year was a big accomplishment, especially at a volume of 50,000.

I have historically written the sales predictions pieces in the past. Last year I got swamped in January and never finished the write-up. I was also hanging on Tesla guidance about Model 3, which was never sold early 2017.

So I guess in the end, I chickened out.

I would be willing to take another shot for 2018 if everyone would want to see it. Votes?

I might have to cut the list down a little. The number of models is getting massive. Might just do the top 5 – 10 expected models. Or maybe a few top models, then group some manufacturers together (like Ford, BMW, VAG, etc.).

Here is a link to the 2016 one I did publish.



We’d love to publish another of your predictions for this year. I’ll shoot you an email. Thank you, sir!

Amazing that Fiat actually made it onto the Top 10 list! Fiat has regularly been used as a punching bag by EV advocates posting comments here. EV fans say Fiat shows no interest in making and selling PEVs, and is doomed to be among the first legacy auto makers to fail as the EV revolution progresses.

I hadn’t paid any attention to the fact that Fiat does actually have one model of PEV that’s on the InsideEVs Monthly Plug-in Sales Scorecard. Could it be that there’s more hope for Fiat than we realize?

Even better, they let dealers in non-CARB states stock used 500e cars, so they have nationwide availability even if you can only get them new in California and Oregon.

Kia, Volkswagen, and Honda refuse to do that with their used compliance cars – even though you would think that their rarity would mean they could get a relatively high price when sold “inland”.

I think the over the top anti-EV comments from the CEO (“Please don’t buy our EVs!”) are the reason for the most of the anti Fiat sentiment amongst most of us.

There was a core group in Detroit that wanted to develop EV tech (pre Fiat ownership), hopefully the Pacifica Hybrid is the start of something there.

The car is about the size of a postage stamp, but it looks ok and they sell (lease) them cheap. I looked at one but it was far too small for my purposes.

Can we expect plugins to overtake hybrids this year.

Nissan sold 2,306 Leaf’s in Japan in 2017-12 which is few 100’s more than the month prior. Probably the production stoppage because of quality issues for a month could have caused this somewhat lower sales than expected. Let’s hope 2018-01 sales are much higher.