August 2017 Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales Report Card
Thanks to a record setting August for plug-in sales, the US finds itself just a month away from marking a full two years worth* of monthly year-over-year gains.
August was again led by the three offerings one might have expected heading into the month: the Chevrolet Bolt EV, Tesla Model S and Toyota Prius Prime. GM and Tesla also offered bonus assistance from the Chevrolet Volt and Model X.
For the month, an estimated 16,623 plug-ins were delivered, up 14% from a year ago when just over 14,500 were sold.
Previously for July, there was an estimated 15,620 sales in the US (full details here), also good for almost a 20% gain.
With August’s expected total added into the year, 120,500 plug-in electric vehicles have been sold so far in 2017, which is up 31% from 2016, when ~92,211 were delivered.
Moving forward, the US sales list is expect to see a new dominant player at the top in the near future (~October) – the Tesla Model 3.
For September, Tesla has estimated it will produce more than 1,500 Model 3s, but we should note that these will still be “internal” sales to employees and insiders, and that “produced” is far from “delivered”. However, we do expect a decent tally in September, and then taking off from there as true retail deliveries to the public get underway in October – with production said to hit ~20,000 in December.
The new 2018 Nissan LEAF will also be added some sales by the end of the year (December), while we’d also like to welcome the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid back from the
dead recall hiatus this month.
Questions for August (with answers in brackets as they come in):
- The Chevy Volt hand Tesla Model S have been having a back-and-forth battle for best selling plug-in this year. After coming up just short in July, can the Volt take back the title in August? (Nope, the Volt has seemingly found itself in am internal battle with the Bolt EV for Chevy customers)
- Will this be the month that the Toyota Prius Prime shakes its inventory woes in the US and shows the doubters it can be the top dog for 2017? (Sales gained, and inventory rose at month’s end, but we have yet to see the follow-through required to be America’s best selling plug-in…maybe next month)
- The next generation Nissan LEAF will debut at a special event in Tokyo (September 6th locally/5th to the rest of the world, US debuts on the 6th), but can the ‘old & busted’ inexplicably crack the 4 digit level for the 7th month in a row in August? (You betcha!)
- Will the new 2017 MY smart ED arrive in August, and how will sales be in the future with 2/3rds less of a dealership footprint in the US? (It did, and as that remaining 1/3 sold ~90% of smart EV sales in the past, we expect minimal fallout from dealers ending sales due to the lack of petrol 2017s)
- In the continuing battle of “new 2018 offerings that aren’t stocked so well”, who will manage to sell more – the Hyundai Ioniq Electric, Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Hybrid, Honda Clarity Electric or the new Mini Countryman Plug-In? (The Mini going away for the second time with 86 sales)
Also of interest: The fuel cell Toyota Mirai sold 70 copies, bring the YTD total to 860 deliveries vs 641 a year ago, while 56 copies of the Honda Clarity was sold.
Last update: Tuesday, September 5th, 2017 – 12:03 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)
When the Chevrolet Bolt EV first arrived on the scene, many wondered if its electrified cousin, the original GM plug-in Chevy Volt would be affected adversely.
The early returns were in the negative, as the Volt continued to sell decently enough, perhaps the two would augment each other.
However, as the Summer as arrived, and the Bolt inventory deepened and stretched out over the country, it appears that assumption may have been incorrect.
For the third consecutive month, Volt year-over-year sales have fallen, as 1,445 cars were sold in August, off 30% from the 2,081 sold a year ago.
Which trend will ultimately prove correct? Only time will tell.
Thankfully, the inventory situation seems to have moderated, and thanks to the Summer shutdown of the Volt’s production facility in Michigan, a more manageable ~4,800 units are now in stock (down from a peak over 6,000). But with that said, the number has been rising steadily over the month, as new 2018 have begun arriving on dealer lots.
The 2018 MY Volt is mostly unchanged from the 2017 edition (details).
Chevrolet Bolt EV:
The Chevrolet Bolt EV was finally available nationwide in August (well, technically anyway – many states still have little-to-no inventory).
And after selling 1,971 copies in July, the all-electric Chevy set the bar even higher in August, moving 2,107 copies, only a whisker off the Tesla Model S for the sales lead during the month.
Also to note, the 238 mile EV has seen increasing sales month-over-month for the past 6 months.
Thanks to stronger sales, and an extended shutdown this Summer of the Bolt EV’s production facility in Orion, Michigan (mostly due to plummeting Sonic sales), inventory of the Bolt has leveled off at around 5,000 units, a more manageable number for GM.
With the national inventory filling in more over the next few months, we expect to ultimately see the Bolt EV hit the ~3,000 level before the year’s end.
News flash: The Nissan LEAF is old. There is no EV on sale in the US today as old as the LEAF.
In August, the LEAF turns 81…as in 81 months old, and despite that it continues to sell in respectable numbers – albeit with some heft discounts put on the hood (sometimes up to $10,000 off).
For August , Nissan LEAF sales actually improved … for the 8th consecutive month (a full 2017 sweep so far)! A total of 1,154 copies were moved, up 8% from a year ago.
Yet, in just a few days , the 2nd generation LEAF will finally be revealed in full at a special event in Tokyo on September 5th (whcxh is the 6th locally in Japan)!
As for the 2017 MY LEAF, that rolls on…and on…and on – but the ‘herd’ is now thinning. Nissan had about 2,000 in stock heading into August and they exit the month with just under 1,300, which in our opinion is just about “right-sized”, as the company moves to an orderly wind-down of the grandfather of the modern day all-electric vehicle.
For the year (through August), 9,685 LEAFs have been sold, a gain of 22% over 2016 when 7,922 were moved over the same time in 2016.
Production of the new LEAF kicks off ~now-ish, with the first copies of the 2018 LEAF reported to arrive in the US regionally in late December (think early 2018 for anywhere not America,).
Toyota Prius Prime:
After setting a new high of 1,618 sales in March, Prius Prime sales continued to defy the almost non-existent inventory at the dealership level so far – selling a peak 1,908 in May!
But that ended in June and July as the inventory got insufferably low (well uner 1,000 units on averag) – pulling sales back to 1,645 copies in July.
However, August sales rose to 1,820 as inventories started to climb during August, and ended the month with almost 2,000 in stock – twice the level of any month previously. Based on deeper inventory, we look for September to show big gains for the Prius Prime.
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.
How high could sales go? It really is hard to say, we speculated before the model’s arrive last year we felt it could touch 4,000 or 5,000 units…and given that estimate was just eclipsed in May (5,369 sales) in the Toyota’s home market in Japan, (and followed by more than 4,000 in Jun)e it seems like a realistic number, now more than ever.
When will enough inventory arrive to fill the demand void? It’s still hard to say – for sure ~2,000 units is not near enough, but perhaps by year’s end – after the 2018 model year production is well underway in Japan this Fall.
Why the high acceptance? 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.
The BMW i3 entered the US market with a bang in 2014, but it is too bad that the initial fireworks display of sales back then was the peak – we just didn’t know it at the time.
For 2017, things started rough, with just 182 sales logged in January, and 318 in February. 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 201 – but that the lone bright spot. Since then sales have languished in the ~500 range.
For August specifically, sales continued to be depressed, with 504 deliveries during the month – half of the amount moved a year ago (1,013).
For the year, 4,097 i3s have been sold, off 23% from last year when 5,377 had been sold through the first 8 months.
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.
In late August, BMW underlined they still really didn’t understand the issue behind lackluster sales or the i3 itself, byreleasing a new, slightly sportier trim level – the i3s (full details here). The car gets some new styling details, some wider tires and some extra performance (+10 kW), but what the public really wants is a price cut (the new i3s is ~10% more in most markets), and a longer range option.
For 2016 overall, BMW sold 7,625 i3s in 2016, compared to 11,024 a year ago – also off 31% from 2015.
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.
“Hey buddy, you wanna buy an inventory Model S? Cause I have a deal for you!”
Did you pick up a new Tesla Model S over the last two months in the US? If you did, you probably picked it out of Tesla’s inventory, as it has been a really long time since we have seen Tesla less focused on delivering US customer orders over a two month period.
With that said, there is a huge pile (technical term) of US customer orders heading into production, or just being completed right now, with those customers having been promised those vehicles for a September delivery. This is the “classic” last month of the quarter rush for Tesla, but in hyper-drive…or Ludicrous mode if you will. Something Tesla had done less of the past couple quarters.
What has caused the return to panic delivery mode in the US late in this quarter? Is it just confidence in production abilities to leave it so late? A distraction with the ramp on the Model 3? A component/battery supply issue earlier in the quarter? Who knows, maybe all of those things.
We noticed that the US custom delivery pace started to quicken in the second half of this month, and stock/inventory sales were again looking strong as Tesla discounted and sold down discontinued trim levels, but the ‘success of the quarter’ will ultimately still be decided in September, in the US.
We estimate that 2,150 Model S sedans were sold during the month.
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.
As with the Tesla Model S, we noted very little customer orders for the Model X were actually delivered during August.
What we did see was a fair shake of inventory and demo SUVs finding new homes in the US.
With that said, and again – as with the Model S, Tesla has a long list of anxious customers in the US that have been patiently (kinda) waiting for their Model X. That US bound production is now well underway, but only time will tell if they can fill all those “September” promises.
For August, we estimate 1,575 Model X utility vehicles were delivered in the US.
Tesla Model 3: It has arrived!
Just ~16 months after orders opened, and ~10 years since it was first announced (then known as the “Bluestar”), the first Model 3s were delivered on July 28th, 2017! One can check out the full delivery ceremony, and all the newly released specs (220-310 miles range, 0-60 mph in 5.1-5.6 seconds) on our full recap here.
As with Model S & X sales, Tesla is not planning to release monthly Model 3 sales in the US at this point time. Until then 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).
Thankfully, in these early days we really don’t any assistance from Tesla, as the complete delivery volume for July took place live at the July 28th delivery event in Fremont, California, as the first 30 cars were delivered to Tesla employees/stakeholders in the US.
Unfortunately, these early Model 3s are a virtual captured fleet as deliveries are only going to the Musk “family of company” employees and ‘friends’ of Tesla. And as part of the deal, no external, mass-media has been granted extended access to the car as of yet.
As for deliveries and production of the Model 3, this means we have primarily this information from Musk to go by from July:
“Handover party for first 30 customer Model 3’s on the 28th! Production grows exponentially, so Aug should be 100 cars and Sept above 1500.”
Indeed, we were at the launch party and saw the first 30 go out, however we haven’t been able to get a good feel on August’s deliveries (especially given the apparent non-disclosure cloud that is hanging over these early days), noting maybe a couple dozen or so being prepped and leaving the company’s Fremont, CA facility this month (such as these ~9 spotted late in the month by the Tesla Show).
So how many did Tesla Model 3s did deliver in August? We feel like a range of somewhere between 40 and 75 sounds about right…so we will go with 75 (just to keep the emails of “hey why didn’t you guys say 100 down to a dull roar”), as we imagine Tesla stuck to the CEO’s directive of producing (key word in that quote from Musk – producing…not delivering) 100 Model 3s during August.
Looking ahead to September, and given where Tesla seems to be at today, we think we should again stress the quote from Musk, “Production grows exponentially, so Aug should be 100 cars and Sept above 1500“.
Which to us (using our Tesla decoder ring) translates to “…we will see real production of the Model 3 get going near September’s end, we are looking to build 1,500+, but most of those cars will be delivered in October”.
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/on/off/quasi-on start for the Pacifica Hybrid as it relates to deliveries. Then there was QC holds, then launch delays. Finally, the Pacifica Hybrid officially arrived on “Earth Day” April 22nd, 2017, and customers enjoyed a good 3-4 weeks of arriving inventory…until the wheels fell off (not literally).
By June 10th a nationwide recall was announced, and all 1,677 Pacificas sold in the US and Canada had to head back to Chrysler to get a faulty diode replaced that could cause lost of power when in operation. We won’t get into all the details from there (check out our June sales report for more info).
The recall note discloses this issue, and we have yet to hear differently:
“Chrysler has not yet finalized its remedy plans for this recall. The recall is expected to begin on July 24, 2017. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 1-800-853-1403. Chrysler’s number for this recall is T34.”
Long story short, Chrysler put a stop sale on the van, and the unofficial date given for the fix and re-start deliveries was ~September 25th.
And as always, nothing is easy/clear with Chrysler, but this time in a good way. While 2018 MY Pacifica Hybrid production did continue despite the recall, vans piled up at FCA waiting to be cleared for sale and first deliveries (non of which have yet to be delivered); however the already-built 2017 MY Pacifica Hybrids were made available (or re-available as the case may be) mid-month.
Long story short – anxious (and in some cases very patient) customers finally got to take delivery of their 33-mile extended range van, while dealerships in the US once again has some salable inventory to move. Not a heck of lot went out before month’s end, but we estimate a solid 425 units were delivered.
Arriving on the US market about a year ago 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 took BMW 9 months to begin to stock the vehicle even marginally. A process which has finally started to take hold in mid-2017.
By May 2017 some decent inventory arrived, and sales followed, as the 330 sold 475, then 499 in June.
Unfortunately, the 330e fell back in July and August, but not by a lot, as 387 and 409 copies respectively were sold – good enough to keep it moving up the sales charts into 12th, passing the VW e-Golf in July and the Audi A3 e-tron in August.
On the inventory side, the 330e peaked at around 750 cars in July, before falling back to almost 400 units – thankfully the 2018s have started to arrive and inventory levels have risen to just north of 600 – hopefully on their way much, much higher – because BMW could certainly show even better results with this offering.
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 in Q2, and now into Q3.
For May Audi moved 294 A3 e-trons, before increasing to 324 copies in June.
Unfortunately, that May-to-June gain was pulled back in July and August, as just 218 and 129 plug-in Audis were sold (respectively) – the worst result for the car since in was introduced in 2015.
To be fair, some of this drop (or perhaps most of it) can be attributed to some poor planning/thin end of year inventory of the Sportback; currently only about 100-odd 2017s are left in stock. Hey Audi, make with the 2018s already!
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 79 consecutive months of record year-over-year sales in the US.
The A3 e-tron has a low price inside Audi’s lineup. $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.
Also a reason for decent sales numbers on the A3 e-tron…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 crossed back into “4 digit land” in March, 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 could not maintain, as just 707 copies were sold in June, and an near equal amount in July and August at 703 and 762 deliveries respectively.
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; the Fusion Energi often won the crown for the “most stocked” EV in the US … before Chevy got crazy with the Volt and Bolt EV.
With that said, Ford had been struggling to keep production on pace with demand (or they are managing inventory lower)…after having almost 3,000 in stock in mid-June, by the start of August that number had fallen by about 800 units, as the industry-wide Summer shutdown/changeover to MY 2018 was underway.
Thankfully, the 2018s began to arrive late in the month, and inventory has started to rebound – so we hope for higher/better results in September.
Congratulations Volkswagen, you win our “jackass of the year” award…and its only August!
After a rocky start with continued dieselgate fallout, the longer range 2017 e-Golf was promised to the US after production started in Germany in late 2016.
Well, guess what? All we see is VW selling down the over-stocked, “old & busted” 2016s clogging up dealer lots; the 2017s are apparently all penned-up and ready to go once the 2016s are cleared (and despite the fact other offerings are now entering MY 2018).
Despite the lack of these 2017e -Golfs, the older model continues to sell decently enough, moving about ~300 copies a month on average this year, but with some incentives on the hood to drive sales.
In August specifically, 317 copies of the 2016 edition of the e-Golf were sold – but we wonder just who is lining up to buy a 2016 model year car…and how happy they will be to see the longer range version appear shortly.
As noted, eventually Volkswagen will be offering the upgraded range on the original e-Golf platform (see our review of the new model here). When the 2017s arrive With less than an estimated ~200 or so of the 2016s left, we imagine real soon.
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).
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. And in June AND July…we finally did.
Last year…for just one month, 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.
But in June and July, that trick was repeated back-to-back, as the C-Max Energi sold an impressive 936 copies, 33% more than the Fusion Energi (707) in June, then again 844 to 703 in July (+20%).
For August the smaller Ford plug-in couldn’t make it three in a row, but it was still close, as the C-Max plug-in moved 705 copies (just 57 behind the Fusion).
Will the C-Max Energi ever get its due as a top-selling plug-in model for the US? Probably not. Especially as we just spotted the new Ford Escape Energi plug-in out testing in the US in June…a model which, along with a Focus Energi (a trademark application for which we recently uncovered), basically signifies the end of the C-Max Energi.
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 full 12 months.
For most of 2016, the Fiat 500e was a consistent performer, but 2017 results have really seen those results ratcheted up (amazing what ~$100 lease deals can do!)
It is interesting to note that sales this year peaked in January (of all months) at an estimated ~752 sales, but the sales have stayed exceptionally high year-over-year to date.
We had expected that sales would dip dramatically in the Summer (as they have in the past) with 2017 inventory thinning out ahead of 2018, but that doesn’t seem to be the case (although it is slightly lower), a decently healthy ~400 or so copies (given the small number of Fiat dealers in California and Oregon able to sell the 500e) were on hand during the month.
For August, we estimate that 415 all-electric Fiats found a home (mostly in California) during the month. As for the 2018 model year, we have not yet heard when it will arrive, but it will be unchanged.
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 2016 (August 2016).
2017 started out a little lackluster for the X5 plug-in, as inventories stayed frustratingly low (insert this complaint for almost all BMW plug-ins found in America), but June managed a 2017-high with 488 sales, before settling again in the mid 400s in July (at 433 sales).
Throughout August, inventory of the popular plug-in BMW continued to fall, and no 2018s arrived to pick up the slack. A situation if not rectified soon means the the X5 40e will be showing some disappointing sales in September.
The result of a once-again thinning inventory caused August sales to fall to just 317 copies, a four month low.
Check out our first drive review of the 13 mile AER BMW x5 xDrive40e here.