Ford Plug-Ins End The Year Strong, But Can They Be The Best In 2013?

JAN 6 2013 BY JAY COLE 22

Nearly 1,000 C-Max Energis Were Sold In December Despite Having Little To No Inventory Available

A year ago, Nissan had just finished off 2011 as leader of plug-in vehicle sales, having bested General Motors by selling 9,674 LEAFs compared with 7,671 Volts.  However, by the end of 2011, a lot more Chevy Volts than Nissan LEAFs were leaving dealerships lots every month, and it seemed inevitable General Motors would take the lead in 2012.

Not Expected To Be The Strong Seller The C-Max Energi Is, Ford Managed To Sell 167 Copies This Month (photo:Ford)

Sure enough, 2012 was an easy win for Chevy, as the Volt sold 23,461 copies, while Nissan surprised everyone by  free-falling into third place with only 9,819 LEAFs sold.  The plug-in Prius ended 2012 with 12,750 cars sold.

Now it seems as if Ford is threatening General Motors, as the well-received C-Max Energi, Focus Electric, and upcoming Fusion Energi are bearing down on the Volt very much like the Chevy did to the LEAF in 2012.

Almost impossibly, Ford sold almost every C-Max Energi they could build last month, as the plug-in sold 971 units in December (after selling 1,259 in November), as Ford was distracted preparing to start selling the Fusion Energi in January, and also had to deal with an assembly shutdown over the holiday break.

In fact, inventories are so tight, that the C-Max Energi started December with zero inventory on hand in the country’s largest market – California (actually they had 1 unit…but I digress), and finished out the year with less than two dozen on lots.

Nationally, C-Max Energi inventory stood a little over 150 units at the end of 2012, which (based on a 60 day moving average) translated to 7.5 days of supply.  It seems customers are more than anxious to purchase the 5 seat, 21 mile extended range plug in, which starts at $29,995* ($28,495* in California).

As for the Focus Electric, sales were still not that great, but 167 moved off dealer lots in December, a much better result than earlier in the year, when Ford was fortunate to sell 40 or 50.

We Don't Expect More Than 500 Fusion Energis Sold Per Month, But Ford's Three Plug-In Offerings May Make Them The Electric Vehicle Leader In 2013

Coming in January, the Fusion Energi, a 20 mile extended range sedan, will go on sale… but at a much less appealing price-point $39,485.

So, while the Chevrolet Volt is still the most popular choice, with GM moving well over 2,000 units four of the last six months (2,633 in December, 1,519 in November), and Ford only selling about 2,500 cars in the C-Max Energi’s limited rollout the last two months (1,1,38 and 1,431), it looks like Ford might very well be the ‘new GM’ by the time we close the book on 2013.

Another thing to consider:  In 2012, General Motors ended the year with 2,614 dealers selling Chevrolet Volts.  Just two months ago, Ford had only managed to get 200 dealers certified to sell its plug-ins, and closed out the year at about 500, with another 400 coming online over the next few weeks.

Regardless of who comes out on top, having two strong, healthy forces battling it out for market supremacy in the plug-in business is good for everyone.

(For those interested in a comparison between the two extended range plug-ins, InsideEV’s own Lyle Dennis has owned both a Chevrolet Volt and a Ford C-Max Energi, and has written up a comparison review here)

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22 Comments on "Ford Plug-Ins End The Year Strong, But Can They Be The Best In 2013?"

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I don’t particularly like the looks of the C-Max, but I think they’ve hit a very good sweet spot with mix of range and price. Unfortunately, the EV mode is limited in speed and power, which sort of takes away from the experience of driving a more capable EV. However, for those who’d like a taste of the EV experience and superb fuel economy, the C-Max is at a good price point to deliver that.

I agree with the C-Max being, well…, kinda ugly, but Ford has really hit the price point at under 30,000$. Too bad the Fusion is another 10,000$. I can see a 3,000$ price premium for the Fusion, but 10,000$ is kinda ridiculous.

It will be interesting to see how the Volt fairs next year. My guess is that it will be about time for an upgrade (or price reduction) if GM want to maintain it’s production volume.

If they had one Energi, they would have the best shot at the 2013 plug-in sales crown. The Leaf could surge if they drop the price enough and gas surges again…


Depends on how you look at it. If you consider only a single model, I agree. However, having multiple models gives Ford a solid edge against GM as a manufacturer…

Exponential EV sales growth is guaranteed to continue now that Ford is all in. GM Spark will up the anti. 2013 is the turning point. Any pop in oil prices would really get things going but I think the oil barons realize that they better keep prices flat or else.

Spark will sell in the 2 digits every month, being a compliance car. So, not sure how it will “up the ante”.

It will “up the anti” by showing the world that GM truly is against selling pure BEVs…

First, it is NOT a compliance car. GM clearly stated that

Second, it is an electric vehicle with good performance; reportedly class-leading EV range; and has quick-charge capability.

In sum, it is a small, fun-to-drive car available for less than $25k.

I hope 2013 brings some battery improvements – there doesn’t seem to be any talk of anything new coming to market.
The silly folks who quote Moore’s Law for battery capacity/price improvement might be seeing that a ‘law’ which isn’t a law doesn’t necessarily transfer to a completely different technology.
It’s a fool’s errand to hope for high gas prices – hope instead for dramatic battery improvements. Better batteries make possible all sorts of technological leverage for the solar, wind and conventional energy generators. And it offers homeowners the possibility of getting off the grid or only selling into it to supply commercial accounts. Hope for the best.

Do you have any data that there is no improvement in the last years?

As I see the panasonic 18650 cells, they were at 2100mah in 2008, now at 3100mah and the 4200mah is in testing nearing production – that’s a 50% improvement in 5 years and a 100% in I guess 6-7years.
That’s for energy density … and of course costs.

btw: this equals exactly what elon musk always says – 10-12% per year without any breakthrough or new material/chemistry …. I believe elon is right on this

Agreed Shawn. The battery is the game changer and in more than this. I am not expecting great movement in 2013, but I do believe the next 5-10 years will change EVs and the grid. I am no insider but I do think 2013 will show slow steady growth similar to the last six months of 2012. Still it was pretty exciting seeing Q1 6,600+, Q2 10,000+, Q3 13,000+ Q4 19,000+ EVs in 2012.

Forget Moore’s “law”. Batteries follow EVNow’s Law.

Energy Density of batteries double every 5 years.

Corollary is, price/kWh halve every 5 years.

This equates to about 15% per year increase. Historically, the increase is about 7% or so. But, the order of magnitude higher investment in technology should increase the rate of change.

BTW, Musk says the battery cost halved between Roadster and Model S. That is roughly 4 1/2 years (Feb-2008 to Jul-2012).

I drove the C max and Fusion hybrids yesterday. They performed better than I had expected. Unfortunately the Fusion has a small back seat which I (at 6′-5″) can’t even begin to get into. The C max is marginal.
The dealer inidcated they have been selling the energi as they arrive. I was given a quote of a base Fusion energi of $31,900.

Over on I made a prediction that Ford will be top plug-in sales unit-leader in 2013 (worldwide). Given that they have three models to everyone else’s “fewer” models and the now feverish pitch of sales of Energi models, things can get interesting in the horse race. GM has one year to produce another EREV or EV model with some success or the Volt will start to have diminishing sales versus the others.

Big question will be “who will make the EREV SUV or Minivan first”? There’s a big market for that.

It’s puzzling how GM hasn’t recognized it’s lead with Voltec over it’s rivals. If it did, it would’ve been hot on schedule with an “affordable” version with smaller pack and three- across seating selling for approx. $25,000 after tax break. As it is, Ford has gained the perceived advantage in the marketplace with lower tech at a pricepoint more palatable and achievable to many more buyers. Perception is 90% of reality. This is the theory GM’s competitors will use to appear green and high tech while producting existing models with a large box of batteries in the trunk. When they tout longer “total range” ( gas + electric ), cheaper price and 14-21 miles of EV range, the public bites. Add the inflated EPA MPGe ratings we’ve seen from Ford ( ala Hyundai ) and the recipe for Volt-bashing, and capturing the plug-in market has been set. Sadly, GM hasn’t really pushed ahead when it had a decided lead. Seriously, a decontented Volt with a dent in the T-shaped LG pack where a rear seat could be located, with a reduced AER to say, 25 ( actual ) miles would’ve worked well. There was talk of an all electric Volt,… Read more »

A smaller pack ? That would mean lower power, so the car can’t go in pure EV mode 99% of the time (like it does now) … we are back to Energi.

A huge truck PHEV ? Either that will cost as much as a Model X or will have the EV range of PIP.

And yes, we are back to Energi. This is today’s marketplace. Until a PHEV or EREV with 40-60 mile range can be sold at the sweet spot where most will consider one ( $25-35,000 ) we are basically stuck with existing platforms having batteries stuffed in the trunk! Even our friend and EV champion, Dr. Lyle Dennis has opted for a C-Max Energi over his Volt because of packaging issues – namely that small amount of sq. footage between the rear seats. Ford’s efforts with the Energis will cut into Volt’s sales which, by 2014 may be bleak at best. Question is, will new buyers now take a look at cars with plugs because they can afford one, or will more affluent folks switch to an Energi or AccordPHEV due to seating and advertising savvy? Those in the know, realize the genius of Volt and will pay a bit more if it fits their needs. My guess is that AccordPHEV and Fusion will steal Volt sales while C-Max Energi, and to a lessor extent, the PIPrius will begin to lure new buyers slowly into the plug-in world. VIA can build an EREV fullsize truck with a V-6 ICE range-extender and… Read more »

What fries my brain is that GM could afford to take
losses for a couple years while they introduce the
wisdom of a $40-50,000 large pickup truck that
seldom uses gasoline to the public. Yes, they’ll
take losses from the costly lithium packs, but
they’ll keep the battery factories humming and
gradually decrease the price of batteries for
ALL platforms.

Instead, they DO decide to take losses selling a
highly impractical Volt-derived halo coupe named ELR.
It’s taken years to develop and will sell in the low
thousands to the few who can afford it and opted
out of a 45kwh Model S.

To any practical-minded soul, it nearly appears that
GM is engineering Voltec to fail. As Toyota
expands it’s Hybrid Synergy Drive technology all
over the planet, GM fiddles and farts with Voltec
in vehicles that don’t matter.

High volume autos matter. They’re the ones
causing the most pollution and using the
greatest share of fossil fuels. Diddling around
with lithium batteries hoping that tech
breakthroughs will someday make them viable
is …… well……… a joke.

Someone had to say it.

James, your passion is admirable, but you are taking a point of view that misses the big picture. GM took a giant leap over Toyota’s Prius with the Volt and landed in a place that is far beyond their power to easily manipulate selling prices in a way that will cause big shifts in demand towards their Volts and Volt-like offspring while at the same time bringing acceptable levels of profit back to the company. Whether Ford takes the sales lead next year is not as important as what happens five years from now. It is still early in this new frontier in electrification which GM opened up with the Volt. The Volt proved EVs with range extension capability will sell. Hence, we are seeing other manufacturers jumping in with their own versions, mostly with the EV portion watered down to varying degrees from the standard set by the Volt. Where things shake out is still too early to tell. But one thing we can say with relief is, EV’s are finally here to stay – we just are going to be having to pass through several years of development and breakthroughs before price and EV range settle out into… Read more »

Stuart, you’d be correct in what you said if we expected GM to take
it’s sweet time like Toyota did and mirror HSD’s maturation. GM
doesn’t have the luxury of that kind of time. By the time they
figure out a decent hybrid and a plug-in that can compete in price
range — Hamtramck may be in cobwebs and LG may have gone
back to S. Korea.

Lithium is our technology today. I agree that future batteries will look nothing like today’s battery. R&D is not my bag but often refining one technology produces another. Unlike most people here I will keep my first EV (Volt) for a very long time. That does not mean I am not itching for my second. I really am pretty hooked on a 40KW Tesla Model S. It is the battery technology that I am watching. With 50,000 US EVs this year and “probably” triple that world wide is a beginning. When the number reaches a 1,000,000, the money will start to be there to change the battery technology. “A Joke” is a bit strong for me. “The final technology” ? ….I am with you.