April 2017 Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales Report Card
Heading into this month, and for a year and a half, we have reported monthly sales gains for the US plug-in vehicle market.
And indeed, April 2017’s result makes it 19 consecutive months* of sales improvements.
With that said, there was some mild headwinds during the month, and while April didn’t show any new all-time record results, the improvement was still significant.
During April, an estimated 13,151 plugin sales where made – good for a solid 25% gain over the same month from 2016.
After the first 4 months of the year ~54,693 plug-ins have been sold in America, which is 43% improvement from the ~38,372 sold in a year ago.
See full model-by-model breakdown for 2017 on the graphic below.
One of the most notable sales events for April came from the Chevrolet Bolt EV…but notable in the fact that sales were mostly unchanged.
After posting a couple disappointing months of Bolt sales in both February and March (952, 978 respectively), GM came out and specifically said that issue was related to the amount of available inventory (averaging less than 14 days worth of stock in Q1).
For April, those inventories quadrupled, by mid-month, but unfortunately sales only moved up by a few hundred units, to 1,292 deliveries in the month.
Separately, the Toyota Prius Prime, still under the thumb of limited supply (less than 1,000 units on hand during April on average), set a new all-time high of 1,819 sales. How high is the ceiling for the plug-in Prius in the US? It is still impossible to tell, but it appears that it could easily be at least 3,000-4,000+.
Besides the Prius Prime, the BMW 740e broke out of its early sales range of 20-40 units, and crossed the 100 sold mark (123) for the first time, as some deeper inventory popped up in April. In the “battle of the newcomers”, the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (with an estimated 205 sales), easily took down the Hyundai Ioniq Electric which just slipped on to dealers lots at the very end of the month.
Questions for March (with answers in brackets as they come in):
- Can the Chevrolet Volt retake the overall sales lead from Tesla and the Model S? (Yes, by about 150 units)
- Who will win the battle of the “new major offerings” for April – the Chevrolet Bolt EV, or the Toyota Prius Prime? (The Prime going away)
- Just how many BMW i3s will be sold – 300? 700? 1,000?, as the “bipolar sales king” continues to look for its equilibrium…despite April being the car’s 3rd anniversary (Nope on all our guesses…of course: ~500)
Also: the hydrogen fuel cell Toyota Mirai sold 106 copies in April, and 417 YTD
Last update: Monday, May 8th, 2017 – 10:14 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)
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.
For April, 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, and although that was down 9% from a year ago, it was enough to retake the overall plug-in sales lead for the US over the Tesla Model S. Overall, Chevrolet Volt sales are up 23.5% 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.
GM noted that inventory was fairly tight on dealer lots in March, with only around 14 days worth on hand.
With that in mid, we did note last month that with the Bolt EV’s “production having started last October and only ~3,600 sales since then, there was an issue someplace” – and that materialized in April. Despite inventories quadrupling, sales increased…but to just 1,292 units.
Still, the ~1,300 deliveries does represent a new all-time for the 238 mile EV, besting January’s result (1,162) slightly.
The CARB-tastic, state-by-state roll-out continued in April with Washington 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.
Yet despite that, the LEAF has now seen gains in the past 8 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 April of 2016, and inexplicably in a virtual tie with the Chevrolet Bolt EV for 2017 (4,350 vs 4,384)
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.
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?
For the 5th consecutive months since its introduction, The popular Toyota has yet to hit 4 figures worth of average national inventory in stock for any month yet….for April around ~900 copies were normally on hand, about 100 units higher than the month prior.
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.
When it comes to plug-in vehicle sales in the US, no model was more disappointing, or more unpredictable than the BMW i3 in 2016.
As an example, the BMW i3 sold 629 copies in November, 442 copies in October, 391 copies in September, 1,479 in July, 608 in June, 814 in April and 182 in January. Totally bipolar.
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. Now for April, any momentum has been lost – back down to 516 deliveries (off 37% from a year ago).
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%
Disappointing for future numbers, BMW continues to seem to have issues stocking the i3 (and we aren’t sure if it is intentional or not), entering May about ~900 copies were available on dealer lots to be purchased.
Truthfully, BMW’s inventory managing of its electrified fleet over the past year (now 7 strong worldwide) as been about abysmal as possible, as the company has potentially left 10s of thousands of sales behind globally thanks to an unpreparedness to produce plug-ins to demand levels. The only question that remains is whether or not it was/is intentional.
Earlier in September we got all the US EPA specs on the new 33 kWh i3 REx (details), namely 97 miles of all electric range, backed up by 83 miles of petrol abilities – for a total of 180 miles of driving range; numbers that most US customers didn’t seem all to please with (considering the 22 kWh 2016 version had a cumulative 150 mile rating).
Fortunately, we have been able to have the opportunity to have a long term/first hand review on both trim levels.
- BMW i3 (33 kWh) BEV – read InsideEVs’ own Michael Beinenson’s 1,000 mile report here
- BMW i3 (33 kWH) REx – read InsideEVs’ own Tom Moloughney’s first drive comparison here
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.
The focus for Tesla deliveries, at least when it came to the US, was definitely on the Model S in April.
And not just any trim level of the Model S, but the 60 kWh edition (the 60 Teslas are really 75 kWh battery-powered cars, but software retarded to 60 kWh), which was officially discontinued on April 17th.
For the month we noticed, perhaps not surprisingly a huge weighting to the former base offering of the car – taking priority from not only other Model S offerings, but Model X production in the first half of April.
For the month we estimate 1,125 Model S sedans were delivered, which is about 40% more than a year ago (as the first month of a new quarter is generally always the lightest for US deliveries).
But as noted, the mix was very 60 kWh trim level heavy, of the confirmed data we were able to run down on Tesla’s deliveries in the US, about 60% of the deliveries were the outgoing model.
Also, no sooner had the 60 kwh car been discontinued, that Tesla offered existing 60 owners (on the same day – April 17th) the ability to upgrade to 75 kWh for just $2,000 dollars, while at the same time slashing the price of the 75 kWh offering by $5,000; one assumes the price reduction was to keep the price point under 70k ($69,500), and enable the delivery volume of the Model S 75 to stay on par with that of the former 60.
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.
The result of that, and possibly other happenings at Tesla’s Fremont factory getting ready for the Model 3, was that Model X production at the end of March/beginning of April seem to have some hiccups and delays, with many would-be Model X owners lamenting the news their future all-electric SUVs might be arriving a few weeks later than normal.
By the third week of April, and with the Model S 60 kWh rush over, production of the Model X seemed to back in full swing…but that doesn’t help out this month’s delivery results.
For April, we estimate Tesla delivered 715 Model Xs in the US – the lowest result for 2017. With that said, look for May to be much improved.
Separately, Tesla reduced the cost of upgrading the Model X 60 kWh (software limited) utility vehicles to 75 kWh. The bump now costs owners $4,500; which interestingly is still $2,500 more than for the Model S 60-to-75 improvement.
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: Some 700 odd customers who already ordered their plug-in Pacificas had to wait a bit longer than expected for Chrysler 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 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, and will tighten up as more reporting data comes online.
For April, we estimate 205 Pacifica Hybrids found over the last week of the month it was available. Look for the number to be much improved next month, as many customer orders (and dealer stock) arrived right at month’s end.
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, which followed a big jump in March (365), which was an all-time high for the model (previous best was 240 copies sold in December).
As noted, during March, actual depth of the 330e arrived (just a scant ~12 months after the car’s debut), and now about ~700 330es are available on dealer lots heading in May! Perhaps now we will finally start to see the true sales volume potential of the plug-in BMW 3 series, which we have always felt was north of 500 units per month.
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:
Audi had defined the word “consistent” when it comes to plug-in vehicle sales in 2016, dutifully selling the low 300s each month.
That is at least until December when it broke out of its normal pattern and a very impressive 589 copies.
Now the Audi e-tron looks to not only repeat that consistency in 2017, but improve.
After selling between about ~400 copies a month in Q1 (387, 400 and 414), Audi slipped a bit in April, moving 301 copies. Still, some 1,502 A3 e-trons have been sold over the first 4 months of the year, good for a 22% gain.
In 2016, 4,280 copies were sold…also 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 76 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.
For April, things moderated to some degree, as Ford sold 905 Fusion Energis.
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, but seems to now be catching its wind, as national inventories touched ~2,500 units during April.
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, almost identical to the 346 moved in March, and previous results (332-January, 293-February)
As noted, some additional sales help is on the way, as Volkswagen is now offering an upgraded range on the original e-Golf platform.
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….about now.
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, and now a year high in April with 749 sales.
Thanks to December’s surge, and the BMW i3’s sales malaise over the past four months, the C-Max Energi has moved past the BMW and settles in at the 6th best selling plug-in for the US in 2016.
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).
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 month of the year things really ratcheted up – thanks to deals such as this one on Black Friday ($49/month with nothing down*), and the 500e remains the most popular compliance EV that many can buy.
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.
Things have normalized somewhat for the months since January, but no one sells a compliance BEV like FCA, and we reckon another 441 500es found homes in April.
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 close to 800 units in April. And with SUVs to be purchased, sales started to return to the model, with 397 copies moved in March, but fell back down to 291 units in April. Why the pull back? We honestly aren’t quite sure.
Check out our first drive review of the 13 mile AER BMW x5 xDrive40e here.