Electric Vehicle Sales In The US Hit All-Time High In May

JUN 4 2014 BY JAY COLE 44

The Introduction Of The BMW i3 Helped May Set A New Plug-In  Selling Standard (Above: First i3 REx Delivered To US shown)

The Introduction Of The BMW i3 Helped May Set A New Plug-In Selling Standard (Above: First i3 REx Delivered To US shown)

Since the start of the ‘current generation’ of plug-in vehicles in the United States, no one month has ever failed to delivered an improved result over the year prior.  Ever. Including this month, that number is at 42 and counting.

More Than 3,100 Americans Hopped In The Front Seats Of A New Nissan LEAF

More Than 3,100 Americans Hopped In The Front Seats Of A New Nissan LEAF

However May still caught anyone who follows the EV selling trends off guard, as what had been expected to be a solid month turned out to be the best selling month of all-time.  Any month.  Any country.

In total just over 12,000 plug-ins where sold, compared to the previous all-time high set in August of 2013 when and estimated 11,273 moved onto American’s driveways.  Compared to May of 2013, sales improved by a massive 62% when 7,454 plug-ins were sold.

Unlike August of 2013 when the Chevrolet Volt single-handed propelled the number higher (3,351), May’s record month was a combined effort from 3 automakers – Nissan, Toyota and Ford.

All three OEMs saw new record highs for their best selling plug-ins.

  • Nissan LEAF – 3,117 (previous best – 2,529 – Dec 2013)
  • Toyota PHV – 2,692 (previous best – 2,095 – Oct 2013)
  • Ford Fusion Energi – 1,342 (previous best – 1,087 – Oct 2013)

Also adding to the totals was the BMW i3, which sold 336 copies during the month (story on that here) – the best debut month for any plug-in to date in the US.  In total 11 of the 17 mass produced plug-ins sold in America set a new yearly high.

The top five selling plug-in  manufacturers for May were:

  1. Nissan – 3,117
  2. Toyota – 2,841
  3. Ford – 2,301
  4. General Motors – 1,918
  5. Tesla – 1,000*

Other plug-ins that set new all-time highs in May:

  • smart ED – 206 (previous – 203, Apr 2014)
  • Chevrolet Spark EV – 182 (108 – Mar 2014)
  • BMW i3 – 335 (1st month)

Below: 2014 YTD Sales Chart

2014 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers *Estimated Tesla NA Sales Numbers (Q1 Sales reported @ 6,457-3,000 Intl Delivers) *Fiat 500e data estimated for Jan/Feb

2014 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers *Estimated Tesla NA Sales Numbers (Q1 Sales reported @ 6,457-3,000 Intl Delivers) *Fiat 500e data estimated for Jan/Feb

Categories: BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Sales, Smart, Tesla, Toyota


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44 Comments on "Electric Vehicle Sales In The US Hit All-Time High In May"

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Yes, it has been surprising. Infact I thought the numbers may go down because of vanishing green stickers.

Wonder what happens next month, since the stickers have vanished.

BTW, that Smart number should be 206 (not 2016).

No, its 2016 – I never get anything wrong … smart just had a really, really, really good month. Yes, that’s it.

/thanks – fixed

Right now, green stickers are polarizing for some. Anyone can get HOV lane access with a checkbook and paying a little more for say a Plug-in Prius over a Prius or a Volt or a Ford Energi and *never plug them in*. This to me is a problem. If CA is interested in truly seeing value in such programs, they need to realize they are urging this kind of practice. Look at the sales numbers – PiP and Volt have a somewhat good month and look at the Ford numbers for three models, they are now #3 plug in company in the USA behind Nissan and Toyota, at least this month.

I don’t know any Volt owners who don’t plug them in. HOwever, I know plenty of Prius plugin owners who don’t plug it in.

Why? B/c it is pointless to buy a Volt if you don’t plug it in. It is expensive and its extended range MPG isn’t that good. For a Prius, there is very little penalty. So, in a way it is ENCOURAGING people NOT to plug it in. Plus, if you want HOV stickers, Prius Plugin is cheaper than the Volt.

Energi falls somewhere in between.

i3 REx went further to make sure that people don’t drive around in REx only…

I’m still okay with that.. One way or another it encourages more plug-ins to be built and bought. That helps lower the price for everyone and create more competition. Those vehicles will eventually wind up in the used market and somebody will be plugging them in. So it is not a total waste.

David – I get your point. But it is a weak point mainly heard from politicians and middle managers who heard that their project just went 20% over budget.

Come on now – we need people to plug these cars in. Offering the Prius plug in with the HOV access sticker and slight premium price – sure. Now, how well is the Plug in Prius battery system maintained when not plugged in? The Chevy Volt system only does cell balancing when it is charging. Not during regen braking. By not plugging in the PiP there is a chance that battery failures will occur due to lack of maintenance of the cells – which we all know Li-Ion needs. Similarly, GE Fleet drivers have Volts and many do not plug them in too. I would not like to buy one of those.

Let’s strive to do better and these government agencies should know that they are encouraging such “gaming the system”.

What I would love to see – is that the Fed Tax Credit could be pulled back from those who apply for it unless the EREV is plugged in at least 20 times per year and is driven at least 20% of its miles electrically.

Since most EVs are sold in Portland, Seattle, and Atlanta, where there are no “green stickers”, I’m not surprised at all that it’s having little impact on sales.

Congratulations! And thanks insideevs.com for being the go-to source for these news!

Looking at the overall May auto sales (e.g. on WSJ website), it seems the US plug-in market share is now ~3/4 of 1%. We might beat 1% on a monthly basis by sometime in August-December time frame (we intend to be part of that with a 2nd Leaf lease), and possibly on an annual basis in 2015.

The lowlight is of course GM. Their only success this year is the one EV they are *not* trying to sell (Spark). Over the ELR in particular with its ugly ‘poolside’ ad, I feel multiple reasons for schadenfreude.

But for entire the plug-in segment’s sake, I am starting an open call to CEO Barra, to transfer the entire marketing leadership for anything plug-in at GM to some other job – and bring in some people who know what they’re doing. Please.

Seriously, I wonder whether insideevs.com can get some senior GM marketers for some serious questioning, e.g. how do they feel about the job they are doing so far, and what they intend to change if anything.

People seem to want plug-in vehicles. They just don’t want them from GM. Or perhaps GM doesn’t want to sell them?

We need to light some fire under them. They are throwing a lot of pretty-darn-good engineering and production work down the drain, month after month.

Why should GM reveal their intentions to the competition, anymore than the allied forces should reveal their D-Day plans (Operation Overlord) planned for early June 1944?

I mean, Apple doesn’t call Google and say “Here are our marketing plans for the iPhone 6, a year in advance, just so you know.”


Overdosed on WWII movies or something?

They are doing a worse-than-piss-poor job on EV marketing right now, 5 years into the game including all the Volt run-up. Ford is half-assing its way to outselling them without breaking a sweat. Not to mention Toyota.

There are no magic bunnies up that GM sleeve. Unless you believe in magic, that is.

The GM marketing honcho interviewed by this site after the disastrous “poolside” ads, was crystal clear about being totally clueless, and also totally indifferent to his own cluelessness.

They need a change of culture, and fast, starting from the top of the EV marketing chain.

A whole lot of the original Volt folks are now gone.

They are still squarely in 3rd place and you treat them like dirt. It may be poor m

Assaf – you need to realize the huge anti-GM mindshare out there among those who got the shaft with the GM bankruptcy. Millions of Americans (usually older ones) “will never buy a GM product again”. Add in the “Volt bashing” of Fox News for years along with other mind-share issues like people only trusting foreign car companies, for some reason, and you have the Volt selling like a dog when it should be to a point at least 1/5 to 1/4 the level of the Chevy Cruze in unit-volume.

GM is preparing for a new family of 2.0 plug-in vehicles to be introduced in 2015 and 2016. They won’t be marketing their current products too much until then. You have to be a little patient. In the meantime, you’re able to buy a Volt below GM’s cost, so that’s a gift if you take it.

According to independent reviews and driver feedback, 2 of the 3 GM EV products (Volt and Spark) are top-notch.

There is no problem with the products, only with the marketing. So “we’re waiting for the next line of products” is not a good excuse.

As to whether they are “losing money” on the Volt, that’s just an anti-EV canard confusing R&D investment with profit and loss.

OTOH, the ELR is a lost cause, so I’ll give you that.

Volt is not a “top notch” product in that it excludes a sizeable portion of the population that wants 5 seats and a different form factor.

It is a badly targeted product – thanks to Lutz who thought they were creating a “sports car”. What is the total addressable market of a 4 seater compact car ?

The volt is a top notch product. It seats 4. Saying its not top notch because it doesn’t seat 5 is like saying a corolla is no good because it doesn’t seat 6. I’ve had my volt for 6 months now getting 95 mpg and when I needed to haul more than 4 people it was 6 or 7 so I needed my van.

Why is the 5th seat so important?

How often do people carry 5 people? You can’t fit 3 large child seats in the second row of any midsize sedans anyway, what is the point? so they can squeeze 3 teenagers into them?

Having a barrier between the 2 rear seats is a big bonus if you have two kids…. Helps prevent them from fighting on long trips!

Had dual rear seat captains chairs on the old minivan – best option we ever had for 2 kids. Volt rear seat is just fine as is for plenty of people.

How confident are you about the Tesla number(s)? I mean, it seems to be the one lagging the other top 4 or so brands.

We feel pretty confident. Been estimating them since the beginning (7 quarterly reports) and the most we have been out for a 3-month period was 350 units, with the average being around 120 units.

Not sure if you checked out our full monthly report, but we try to get a little more involved in the details/estimates overall, and Tesla (barring distribution/production issues) is going to put up a much larger result in June – easily their best of the year.

Even though in the “EV pond” Tesla is a big fish, they really aren’t a major automaker in any stretch of the words. So their production and delivery to the US consumer is very much the whim of a handful of people.

Then compounding that issue is their lack of any nationwide inventory, meaning it isn’t really a true demand story on a month-to-month basis – it is an allocation story…at least as long as there is more demand/backorders to fill their 8-10 production to delivery lead time.

Anton – you know that is a US-sales number, right? Right now, they are delivering about a 1:1.3 ratio of US to non-US customers. So, maybe ~2300 delivered worldwide in May. This means the total sales in the US in 2014 will be lower than 2013 for Tesla. People just don’t want to believe that but it’s obvious from the numbers and the front-loading US sales last year.

This would explain why I saw so many new pure EV’s on the highway this month.

I hope that the car factories keep up production in that in a lot of cases they will produce cars but the cars get bought up. And they can’t keep up with demand which in turn makes the EV sales the next month fall.

Well, not sure if you guys are Douglas Adams fans since I recall no previous mention of the months of these reports (which I too, look forward to and enjoy seeing the growth). Fans or not, the advent of the EV, and in particular this months’ good news, is, in some circles at least, the meaning of life, the universe, and everything … this 42nd time around.

The thought did cross our mind after we wrote it..big Adams fan

Meanwhile the traditional Prius Liftback sold 15,944 copies in May. The plug-in group is closing in fast; watch your back Toyota! (yes, I realize they have a decent-selling plug-in themselves, but they seem more focused on the standard Prius)

Overall, 52,227 hybrids were sold. That’s a bit farther off for plug-ins, but it’s only a matter of time.

Also of interest, 13,967 diesels were sold in the US. For a “time tested” technology, people almost seem more willing to go with the newer tech.

Hmm total numbers don’t add up. I think the table is missing the Porsche Panamera numbers – Eric can you please add?

Whoops…numbers add up, but we accidentally left Porsche off the chart…working on it now. Thanks


Awesome. The clueless Cadillac ELR is now 4th and dead last in the luxury sub-segment, as it well deserves. It took BMW half a month to beat it year-to-date.

Ahh much better, thanks Eric.

I feel sorry for Toyota, they still selling a lot of EVs against their will.

Not really, they are happy playing the compliance game in CA to avoid folines, and excluding the Plug in Pious from most of the rest of the market. In fact a huge dealer in MA told me today that Toyota corporate will not send them any, not even one, for stock or test drives…only if a customer comes in ready to buy and order.

LOL. Let’s see their fuel cell car outsell that PiP.

I love the smell of inexorable progress in the morning.

Or anytime, for that matter.

12,000 plug-ins a month . . . that is a market that the automakers can’t ignore.

That is NOT just niche market propped up by CARB.

And as the market gets bigger, the costs should come down as components hit true mass market scale.

Yes, that’s happening to me too!
It’s redirecting me to a website
where you’re supposed to meet people
for sex.
This is not making me popular with
my girlfriend, who is sat next to me
on the sofa.

Is there any feel for the current inventory numbers?

Are we starting to exit the days of restricted supply or have we just wiped out 2 months sales in 1 sunny month with more then average weekends?

I feel we are definitely approaching critical mass. I think the next generation of EVs in 2016 is going to be the trigger.

Pretty good, considering we are still squarely in the middle of the “compliance car” stage of EV development.

There are still more compliance cars available at limited dealerships/limited states than real full out EV efforts on that list. It will be interesting when more companies actually put a real effort into full mass production and full 50 state sales of plug-ins.

Yeah, I’d like to see all the compliance cars called out for what they are on the sales charts.

Cars made from unobtanium don’t mean as much to the 300 million potential North American InsideEVs readers that live outside California.

Good to see Plug-in sales going up.. but bad to see that unfair trade is not being discussed. While we give these Japanese German Korean companies $7500 for each electric car… they put huge barriers on American cars… to buy the EC car of the year Chevy Volt in the EC it will cost you $80,000 after the VAT tax.. yes “Value Added Tax” the “Value” is that it keeps the Americans out of their markets. How can you talk about “sales” without talking about this?