EV Sales Record Set In December For US, Powered By The BMW i8 And X5 Plug-In. Wait, What?

JAN 6 2016 BY JAY COLE 54

Much Like The BMW i Vision Future Interaction Car Shown At CES This Week, BMW Blew The Doors Off i8 Sales

Much Like The BMW i Vision Future Interaction i8 Shown At CES This Week, BMW Blew The Doors Off Sales In December For the i8, X5 Plug-In And i3

The plug-in electric vehicle market took its time to shake the sales blues in 2015, but the segment followed up a strong November result by setting a new all-time record in December.

Looks Like The BMW X5 xDrive40e Will Be The "Sleeper Hit" For EVs In 2016

Looks Like The BMW X5 xDrive40e Will Be The “Sleeper Hit” For EVs In 2016 (via Michael B)

And while Tesla did most of the heavy lifting (again), it was a flock of formerly niche players that came forward during the month to push EV sales into record territory.

For December ~13,699 plug-ins were sold in the US, besting the previous high set in 2014 when ~13,038 were sold.

The real surprise breakout in December was the BMW i8 and X5 xDrive40e (which we will now just call the X5 PHV, because well…name)

Despite a previous best monthly showing of selling 217 i8s in July, BMW managed to move 656 i8s in December, which is a 300%+ jump…and unlike some random spikes we occasionally see in some of the more ‘pedestrian’ EVs in the segment, we are pretty sure there was no single fleet order of 500 units responsible for BMW’s surge here – just lots of Christmas presents.

For The Ford Family EV Sales Were: Fusion (Great), C-Max (Meh), Focus (Bleh)

For The Ford Family EV Sales In DecemberWere: Fusion (Great), C-Max (Meh), Focus (Bleh) (Image: Warren M)

Even more impressive was that the BMW X5 PHV moved 607 copies in just its second full month on the market, having sold 167 in November – good for a tidy 363% increase on its own.

Several other brands hits year highs in 2015, including the Fusion Energi breaking into 4 digits for the first time.  

(Check out our list of new highs/top manufacturers below for more details)

However, it wasn’t rosy for all models, the Nissan LEAF managed only 1,400 odd copies despite some regional depth of new 2016 inventory (full story).

GM also managed to saddle the 2016 Chevy Volt with inventory issue while waiting on the 2017 model to arrive in ~April, so it stayed right around 2,000 units for the 3rd month in a row (full story);when the new Volt likely could have sold closer to 4,000.

2015 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers - *Estimated Tesla NA Sales Numbers – Reconciled on Quarterly Totals, ** Fiat/Hyundai Does Not Report Sales Directly, Estimate Based on State/Rebate Data

2015 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers – *Estimated Tesla NA Sales Numbers – Reconciled on Quarterly Totals, ** Fiat/Hyundai Does Not Report Sales Directly, Estimate Based on State/Rebate Data

Some other Points of Interest from December

Tesla Sold 199 Model X SUVs In December

Tesla Sold 199 Model X SUVs In December

Top Manufacturers Of Plug-In Vehicles:

  1. Tesla Motors* – 3,799
  2. BMW – 2,685
  3. General Motors – 2,401
  4. Ford – 1,733
  5. Nissan – 1,347
  6. VW Group – 811

Pure Electric Car Market Share vs PHEV In December*

  1. BEV7,119 52%
  2. PHEV6,590  48%

New 2015 Highs Set In December By Model (previous 2015 high in brackets)

  • Tesla Model S* – 3,600 (3,200)
  • Chevrolet Volt – 2,114 (2,035)
  • Ford Fusion Energi – 1,058 (986)
  • BMW i8 – 656 (217)
  • BMW X5 xDrive40e – 607 (167)
  • Tesla Model X – 199 (6)
  • Smart ED – 179(178)
  • Hyundai Sonata PHV* – 145 (15)
  • Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid – 137 (125)
  • Volvo XC90 T8 PHV– 74 (7)
  • Audi A3 e-tron – 49 (debut month)

(*) estimated/Tesla North America

The full monthly recap by individual plug-in can be found on our Monthly Scorecard here

Categories: Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Sales, Smart, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo

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54 Comments on "EV Sales Record Set In December For US, Powered By The BMW i8 And X5 Plug-In. Wait, What?"

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Not a bad year overall considering the loss of the Georgia tax credit and that the Leaf and the Gen 1 Volt were really starting to show their age.

The majority of BEV buyers are waiting on the new 200 mile range cars, once we have several different models(Bolt, Leaf, Tesla3 etc.) the market will explode. PHEVs will probably sell more this year but once you have a long range BEV option PHEVs will look less attractive.

I think there is a bit of an Osborne effect going on. But I don’t think the market will ‘explode’ after we get more affordable 200+ mile range cars.

I think that most of those people would have already gone for the Chevy Volt or some other plug-in hybrid.

Of course, I hope you are right and I am wrong.

I’m certainly anxiously waiting. I want a strictly BEV.

200 mile range is the sweet spot for me, especially if it supercharges.

Currently, no automaker has agreed to work with Tesla on the superchargers. They were welcomed to join in. But, so far they refused. If you want to use a supercharger, you need a Tesla. Which the $35k before incentives, will be out in another year or so.

If you just mean faster than level 2 charging. Others have 25-50 kW charging available. But they doesn’t come close to Tesla’s 90-135 kW chargers.

It’s like you’re on a miosisn to save me time and money!

The production version of the Chevy Bolt (200+ EV miles) that was just unveiled today will have 50 kW charging.
9 hours to charge via level 2 at 7.7 kW charging
1 hour to fill 80% at 50 kW

Supercharges? If Chevy offers this at 80% full in 1-hour, that’s fine and doesn’t even need to go past 50KW. A Tesla supercharger shares the load of one SC unit with two heads so 120KW supercharger really can average 60KW per side. I don’t mind 50KW for the very occasional long drive. But some people will only buy one if their Chevy dealer offers free re-charges (a tactic tried by Nissan).

Wow, about half of these are luxury cars (and yes, I’m counting i3 as luxury, $40+k for a 4-seater still fits the bill).

I think this hasn’t been like that since the end of the Roadster days.

I hope that with GM’s new offerings, Nissan picking up its act, and VW continuing to push, EVs find their way back into the midmarket and even below that.

That’s an interesting observation.

But it is bad and good.

Bad: Depressing that mid-income people are not getting much traction in the EV market.

Good: EVs are getting a luxury status and that will help with sales. They are an aspirational vehicle that people want to get. Fast, quiet, no fill-ups, no exhaust, no oil changes, no smog checks, no vibration, no lurching transmission, low maintenance . . . who wouldn’t want all that? And as the range increases and the price comes down, more & more people will be able to afford them and will buy them.

The greatest thing that Tesla has done is make the EV an aspirational vehicle.

Round of applause for BMW, they crushed it this month.

Hopefully GM starts taking notice of these increasing plug-in SUV sales…

I agree with your suggestions in hoping for a Voltec SUV.

But 880 copies (combined with XC90 PHEV and Model X) would barely move the needle on GM’s SUV marketing department..

Yeah but selling a 35k SUV would bring perhaps an order of magnitude more sales then the XC90 or Model X… totally different price point!

Spot on. Low hanging market fruit is the family that is already sold on EVs and wants to haul kids and gear. In many cases, this would be the second or third EV per household. Our Leaf has offered a great value in the ‘dealership 1x/yr’. Most of us are done with luxury brand pain points of maintenance costs and excessive shop visits. That’s a value perk of a pure EV, but luxury brands aren’t willing to lose that maintenance annuity as it could kill dealerships. Begs the question; with Tesla being dealership-free and it’s model S being virtually maintenance free, how much will the model 3’s yearly maintenance cost?

This is just the opening months of availability. Total 2016 sales will be a better measure of market size.

Outlander PHEV sales would also be a more direct comparison to a Voltec SUV from price point (not specs/range).

Mitsubishi has been selling more than 10,000 Outlander PHEVs per year . . . and it is not even available in the USA yet.

World wide sales of the Outlander PHEV are more like 50,000 per year

I’m honestly surprised it sold that many with a 13 mile range. Just imagine how well an SUV with 30 or 40 miles of range would sell?

The X5 PHV sales should probably be looked at in comparison to regular X5 sales, like looking at the Energi products. It is the gateway drug, so it is great to see so many taking their first dose.

The Voltec SUV (assume 35 mile AER, 5 seat with ample cargo) priced starting just below $40k would sell 100k per year. I think GM just can’t figure out how to match the margins on their current SUVs, so no point in building it (until someone else forces them to).

“The Voltec SUV (assume 35 mile AER, 5 seat with ample cargo) priced starting just below $40k would sell 100k per year. I think GM just can’t figure out how to match the margins on their current SUVs, so no point in building it (until someone else forces them to).”

EXACTLY. And the launch of the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV and BMW X5 PHEV will force GM to start making Voltec SUVs.

I drove behind a Chevy Captiva SUV today . . . there is no good reason why GM hasn’t put the Voltec drivetrain into that thing yet. (Well, other than the profit reason mentioned above.)

Yup, got my $51K BEV (i3) on Xmas Eve, put over 700 miles on it the first week I had it. Approaching 1000 miles now. Many people still don’t take BMW seriously, but they have the technology and know how to do some impressive things. Gesture controls at the CES by other manufacturers? BMW already has it. BMW had ellipsoid headlights back in 1988. ABS back in 1986, etc. Most international engine of the year awards. They have the reverse flow twin turbo V8s that Audi and Mercedes now have, etc. They have been experimenting with electric cars many years ago.

They invented the ‘check engine light’, right? The i3s (REX) certainly use it a lot.

Can you make a list of all the new models that will arrive in 2016? Also where do you get your worldwide ev numbers from? And what about BMW as a top manufacturer

Never mind about BMW I see it now

Tesla did most of the heavy lifting. The other way to look at it is that Tesla contributed 28% to the total, and the rest of the industry the other 72%.

all kinds of ways to slice and dice data. Not just on unit sales. How about kWh sold, Revenue, Net Profit. Or if we had the data, come back next year and see how many total annual EV miles driven per Mfr.
In the end it’s all good though. We’re getting close to that tipping point for EVs.

There are a lot of ways. I don’t like using kWh, because that just rewards using batteries however inefficiently. A Model S 90 has a battery 3 times the size of a Leaf’s battery, but that doesn’t result in 3 times the passenger miles driven.

Most implies >50%. Tesla is still only a fraction of the market – although a greater fraction than last year.

Best Way to look at this is – $ in Retail Sales, and what were the numbers then? If 3 x BMW i3 = 1 X Tesla Model S 90 DL, and 2X Cadillac ELR = 1 X Tesla Model S 90 DL, and 4X Nissan LEAF = 1 X Tesla Model S 90 DL, etc! Then it seems that Tesla Sales have moved more money into the world of Electric Vehicles, maybe than just 28% of the Total $$ Moved from ICE to EV! Second – What is the Number of $$ Invested in Infrastructure for Long Distance Travel by all EV (BEV) Auto Makers? And – What % of Infrastructure Spending to Sales Revenue Rations are each Spending? So – looking at not just units sold and delivered, I would still say – ‘Tesla HAS (in Fact) Done Most of the Heavy Lifting!’ When you consider – What do People Buy that want a Model S, or a Model X, but think they can’t (Or honestly can’t) afford them? The Point Being – is that Tesla Lifted Them from thinking of EV’s as Golf Carts, and made them realize they can be fun, fast, quick, and even practical… Read more »

“New 2015 Highs Set In December By Model (previous 2015 high in brackets)”

Why is the Volt not listed here? its best month in 2015 was December.

If anyone is curious, Toyota sold 15 Mirai in the U.S. in December for a total of 72 Mirai for all of 2015.


That’s almost as many as the PiP

But no, we’re not curious, thanks! 🙂

Well, the Mirai did beat the Honda Accord PHV in total sales for 2015. In your face Honda! 😉

The Accord PHEV was discontinued. Those were probably the remaining units.

Thanks for the link.

Toyota sold more Sienna’s than the entire industry of plug-in cars, ugh. We have a long way to go.

Definitely not interested in Mirai sales. Hopefully Toyota realizes this is a dud and sticks a 40kwh battery pack in place of the explosive tanks…

That would be better . . . . it would still be ugly . . . but a much more useful car because there are FAR more places to charge up than fill up with H2.

Wooo-hoo! Party down! Now schedule an appointment with the dealer so you can drive over there to get half a fill-up.

Mirai New Math:
Living 75 miles from Dealer, and Buying a Mirai with expectation of 312 or so miles per Tank of Water Making Gas (H2), Finding out that Fueling Places are Shut Down, not working, slower than marketing said, or only can fill you half way – back at your dealer – only during Dealers working hours, and only if you get there before other Mirai’s users so they still have some H2 left….


*Disclaimer: Not that it was free to fuel, but that the car was half of what they said it was, due to a very real world we live in, and the car has not plug and no battery that can be charged up and used to drive your commute, even partly; and the Mirai – is the ‘Car of The Future’ Here – Today! (*Unfortunately – it’s Recharging / Refueling Infrastructure is more expensive than planned and expansion is taking longer than anticipated! You bought about 5 years too soon!)

What is the airspeed velocity of an unfueled Mirai?

What do you mean, American or Japanese Mirai?

Just yesterday, Plug in cars went over 400,000 in total U.S. sales.


Just call it the X540e, like in 328i. Thats the best name for the car. X5 for the model, 40 for the ,imaginary, cubic capacity and “e” for having something to do with electrons.

The Nissan Leaf is still the second highest EV sold in the US next to Tesla, close to 6k more than the all BEV i3. Lets give them some credit.

I literally said “Wait, What?” after reading the first part of that headline. How the heck did they pull that off?

I guess people want to be Tom Cruise.

How did they sell so many i3s? Was there a special deal? I guess that Colorado deal??!?

You can only hope, that the Spark EV sales are not the same number, Chevrolet targets for the Bolt sales.

It looks like we’ve reached the point where CCS cars are consistently outselling Chademo cars, probably by the widest margin this month thanks to strong numbers from both the i3 and the Golf, and relatively weak numbers from the Leaf. Of course, you could count the Model S on the Chademo side of that equation, but unless we see any other major new products with Chademo in the near future, it’s not hard to imagine that Tesla will make a CCS adaptor as well. Especially with Audi saying they’re going to deploy a network of 150kW stations.

So Nissan… looks like time to lower prices to the bare minimum on the bridge product and load the channel. Make the S model extremely cheap and include CHAdeMO dc quick charging to them at the base price. Eliminate the SV and have a 85 mile base S and 107 mile SL Loaded only no options to optimize the production… 2 models only. Cut the prices to the bare minimum or take a loss and do a little advertising so you don’t lose your market leading status just before you introduce the next gen LEAF and Juke in 2017. Give incentives to the dealers too so they will give the electric vehicle sales the time they should. Also… where is the eNV200 cargo and passenger model? Come on guys… don’t lose the momentum!

Anyone know why BMW made such a strong December? on all models? the behavior was the same on every model. i3 doubled, X5 and i8 went sixfold in sales, what happened? did they change prices?

Im guessing there was an a great December incentive or lease special. monthy I8 sales dropped 90% in January, February & March