January EV Sales In US Hit Record High, No Thanks To You BMW

FEB 3 2016 BY JAY COLE 65

The New Chevrolet Volt Catches Lightning In A Bottle In January, And Leads EV Sales Higher

The New Chevrolet Volt Catches Lightning In A Bottle In January, And Leads EV Sales Higher

The Hyundai Sonata PHV Enjoyed Some Success In The Car's First Full Month On The Market (...even InsideEVs bought one)

The Hyundai Sonata PHV Enjoyed Some Success In The Car’s First Full Month On The Market (…even InsideEVs bought one)

What originally was going to be an “easy win” for plug-in vehicles in the United States to set a new record month in January, turned into hard fought battle – as BMW basically folded up its sales tent for the i3 and i8 during the month, after leading the charge higher in December. The company inexplicably sold only ~10% of the volume moved in December.

Thankfully, several new models (and strong showings from other nameplates) picked up the slack.

Overall in January, an estimated 6,291 plug-ins were sold, which bested the previous best mark set last year at ~6,057.

Notable efforts in January included:

*- the new 2016 Chevrolet Volt took home the top sales spot for the month, only the second time it has done so over the past 29 months

*- the A3 e-tron marked its first full month on the market in January, notching an impressive 327 sales, and in so doing cracking the “top 10 ” sellers for 2016 so far.  The extended range Audi may prove to be the dark horse new comer for 2016

*- the Hyundai Sonata PHV also completed its first month on the US market, selling a decent 175 cars – a number we feel should vastly improve over time – provided the company doesn’t “Kia Soul EV” the car and not ship enough inventory to the US to fill demand

*- somewhat related, the Toyota Mirai (not appearing on our EV scorecard) sold 26 copies

BMW i8 And i3 Set All The Wrong Records In January...Thankfully Other Plug-Ins Picked Up The Slack In January For The US

BMW i8 And i3 Set All The Wrong Records In January…Thankfully Other Plug-Ins Picked Up The Slack In January For The US

Back to the train wreck that was BMW in January:

BMW i3 sales in January 2016: 182
BMW i3 sales in December 2015: 1,422

BMW i8 sales in January 2016: 32
BMW i8 sales in December 2016: 670

BMW CEO for North America chalked up the overall sales drop at the company to weather, saying “as expected, January suffered a bit from the strong storms that froze large parts of the country.

But the precipitous drop in the company’ first twos plug-ins from one month to the next has never been seen in the first 5 years of the EV industry in the US to date.  Hopefully, the issue rectifies itself next month.

The 2016 and 2015 Plug-In Sales Scorecards (below) show a lot of reshuffling of the deck for EV models in the US.   To find individual write-ups on each vehicles’ monthly performance check out overall (and extremely wordy) January sales recap here.

(More statistics and notes on individual models and OEMs below sales charts)

2016 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers - *Estimated Tesla NA Sales Numbers – Reconciled on Quarterly Totals, ** Fiat Does Not Report Sales Directly, Estimate Based on State/Rebate Data

2016 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers – *Estimated Tesla NA Sales Numbers – Reconciled on Quarterly Totals, ** Fiat Does Not Report Sales Directly, Estimate Based on State/Rebate Data

2015 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers - *Tesla Full Year Totals On Model S/X Verified Q4 2015, ** Fiat/Hyundai Does Not Report Sales Directly, Estimate Based on State/Rebate Data

2015 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers – *Tesla Full Year Totals On Model S/X Verified Q4 2015, ** Fiat/Hyundai Does Not Report Sales Directly, Estimate Based on State/Rebate Data

Some other Points of Interest from January

The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron From Arrived From Europe, Bringing With It New Sales

The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron From Arrived From Europe, Bringing With It New Sales

Top Manufacturers Of Plug-In Vehicles:

  1. Tesla Motors* – 1,220
  2. General Motors – 1,202
  3. Ford – 997
  4. VW Group – 828
  5. Nissan – 755

Pure Electric Car Market Share vs PHEV In January*

  1. PHEV – 3,256 – 52%
  2. BEV – 3,035  48%

New 12 Month Highs Set In January By Model (previous 12 month high in brackets)

  • Tesla Model X* – 370 (199)
  • Audi A3 e-tron – 327 (49)
  • Volvo XC90 T8 PHV – 226 (74)
  • Hyundai Sonata PHV – 175 (145*)
  • Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid – 146 (137)

(*) 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, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Sales, Smart, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen, Volvo

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65 Comments on "January EV Sales In US Hit Record High, No Thanks To You BMW"

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Look at that Volt profile. That is a pretty damn good looking car, IMHO.

They need to make it a foot longer though . . . that would greatly increase space in the back seat and trunk without making the drag any worse.

What you describe would basically be a Voltec Malibu. Yes, GM needs to start selling a Voltec Malibu, and also a Voltec Equinox. Chevy Crossover deliveries were up 20 percent year-over-year in 2015, so they need a Voltec in their Crossover category. But they also need to keep Voltec car in their small car category, like the current Volt. Just the size it is. Because GM’s small size cars are also skyrocketing, with the Sonic up 34 percent in total and Cruze up 20 percent for a December retail sales. There are definitely folks who want/need a larger car, but no one size car will make everybody happy. The fix isn’t to try and magically make the Volt one size that will somehow make everybody happy. No such magical size exists for ICE cars, and having an electric drivetrain isn’t going to fix that. Stretching the Volt and trying to satisfy everybody with one car isn’t the answer. Spreading the Voltec technology into more cars is the answer. I’m not a huge fan of VW/Audi, but they at least understand the need to spread electrification throughout there lineup (even if they a big on concept vehicles, and short on actual… Read more »

Nix, I would LOVE to buy a Voltec Malibu! The Volt is just too small for me since I frequently have 2 or 3 passengers in my car.
If they could make a Gen II Voltec Malibu with even 45 miles of range it would be phenomenal. It is amazing how much more comfortable/roomy the back seats of a Malibu are compared to a Volt. 4″ more legroom and almost 2 more inches of headroom makes a huge difference.

A bit wider with a some more shoulder/elbow room would be nice too. The bigger body could fit a larger battery too. It would definitely be a good seller.

With the extra room they could add the stuff that made me go for the Fusion Energi: adaptive cruise control, sunroof, more room for people (they already have the vastly superior storage room), better stereo, and more comfortable heated and cooled seats.

People have to realize for the last couple of months, BMW offered no $7500 incentive on the 2016 i3. Only closeout 2015 models. Plus a $2000 holiday cash incentive on 2015s. So someone buying a 2016 i3 last month would have spent $9500 more than a 2015. Now that most of the 2015 MY inventory has dried up, BMW just announced the $7500 incentive is available for 2016MY i3s now, which will help sales.

Very interesting.

When you say they weren’t offering the $7500, that was for leasing through BMW Financial, right? That they weren’t passing on the federal incentive?

I’ve heard that Nissan might be doing that with the Leaf now too. That is not a good trend.

Yeah, it is really disappointing that they did not make a plug-in version of the new Malibu. That probably would have done pretty well. (And the Equinox . . and a minivan.)

I saw a parked 2016 Volt on my run today and took a close look. I think it looks nice. But I like small cars and would rarely use the back seat. However, I’m gonna stick to 100% battery so I’m gonna wait for a Model 3.

It is pretty funny that the Fiat 500e seems to be the most successful ‘compliance car’ considering that their CEO Sergio told people not to buy it.

But except for the fact that it lacks a DC fast charge port, it is just a really nice little commuter EV.

Makes me want to buy one just to stick it to Sergio…

His reverse psychology works 🙂

IMHO you would be helping Sergio, b/c he makes money off of the 500e’s by gaining compliance credits for Chrysler, while still slandering EVs overall.

There you go again, inserting reality into my petty revenge fantasies…


US January sales, despite the worst possible sales climate for EVs.

2016 6291
2015 6057
2014 5680
2013 4577
2012 1317
2011 408
2010 345

Volt is sales the leader!! Because…value proposition.

Amazingly, the Volt’s only real competition in the next year or so will be the Bolt.

Considering there has been a roughly 50% increase in the number of models available, each year, chasing roughly the same customers, until now, it is surprising there was any growth this January. With the collapse of gas prices, only true EV lovers are in the market.

The charts on this website don’t show a 50% increase in the number of models available each year, but a linear 6 new model increase in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. While vehicle range is still the biggest factor limiting demand, the BEV is a solid competitor as a commuter car or 2nd vehicle. As range of BEVs increase, so will the market grow.
So far as cost, gas would need to drop further still, to a $1.16/gallon national average, to be competitive with electricity. The current price shouldn’t kill the electric car.

An interesting fact is that this is the highest January yet but no vehicle was able to reach 1000 sales. That hasn’t happened since 2012!

Yup. More models chasing fewer buyers.

The only reason Volt beat Model S numbers is because 370 production slots on Tesla’s single line were used to build Model X. Counting all Tesla sales (1220) vs all GM sales (1202), Tesla wins January (barely).

Yes but Tesla increased their lines so they can make more S and X. Last month they have over 3K model S, why the big drop in Jan? I feel they will continue to climb next month and beyond in 2016.

i3 lagging isn’t surprising due to anticipation for Bolt. But i8?

I feel bad for BMW. They did (and doing) a great job with EV, only to suffer now. While GM alluded to competing against Tesla, I think (anticipation for) Bolt will affect BMW i3 more than any other.

“i3 lagging isn’t surprising due to anticipation for Bolt.”

Not just that. It is now widely known that BMW will update the i3 range by mid-2016. Or at least there are very credible rumors:

“The 2017 BMW i3: 94 Ah Cells and a 125 Mile EPA Range Rating?”


I think any i3 buyer not in a hurry will await mid-2016 before making a decision.

Yes, the added range should also help to un-neuter the REX too.

Right now the REX is artificially limited by regulation in the amount of gas it can use out of the tank, which limits the gas range. Increasing the electric range will allow them to use more of the existing gas tank, and automatically give more gas range along with more electric range.

The other problem that the i3 suffers from is that the REX doesn’t come on until the battery is down to 6.5%. But 6.5% of a larger battery will leave more reserve to work with before it goes into reduced power mode.

I would have a hard time justifying buying a brand new i3 REX in the US right now. I don’t like the idea of having to hack my brand new car, just to make it safe to drive in the mountains. Not when the improved i3 may very well fix the biggest problems.

I should have read your link first… I basically just covered what the link already said. My bad.

If potential i3 buyers can wait 6 months for 125 miles range, they can easily wait 1 year for 200 miles range, and Bolt will be (slightly) cheaper.

As for Rex, I’m not a fan of hybrids. I’m a (rare) heretic who’d take gas car over hybrid. If BMW comes with different Rex (propane?) and longer non-electric range, that might be something, though it’s still a hybrid. But still there’s the 3580 lb gorilla named Bolt as well as Volt.

The last I heard, the REX version of the i3 was out-selling the BEV-only version by around a 3:2 ratio. It seems to be the preferred version.

The Bolt won’t offer a REX alternative. So a new and improved REX with a combined gas/electric range of 250 miles might be exactly what BMW needs to improve their already REX-heavy i3 sales.

Hard to know until it actually happens. PHEV’s have the potential to draw in more buyers from the mass market who have BEV phobias. While longer range BEV’s have the advantage of appealing to more purists who just need more range for a pure BEV to fit their individual driving pattens. It will be interesting to see where the market shifts happen.

These are the patterns I tend to see people talk about:

1) 1st gen PHEV owners –> longer range PHEV’s
2) 1st gen BEV owners –> longer range BEV’s
3) Mass market buyers –> PHEV’s
4) Longer range PHEV owners realizing they never use their ICE –> longer range BEV’s

“If potential i3 buyers can wait 6 months for 125 miles range, they can easily wait 1 year for 200 miles range, and Bolt will be (slightly) cheaper.”

Many BMW car buyers want that BMW badge.

PS: Not judging, just presenting a fact from many studies on the subject.

Same reason why the Malibu did not poach sales from the 3 series…

Different market segment, different buyers.

Different drivetrains, different engine performance, different cornering abilities, different interior qualities, different steering responsiveness, different set of wheels driving the car, different…

The incremental improvement in the i3 REX shouldn’t really hold anyone back.

( Except, are they going to improve the radar collision prevention, to be effect at high speed? The Volt will be getting this enhancement in 2017 model. )

Also the end of year statement alluding to a greater range i3. The EV market moves faster than most manufacturers are able to handle. Nissan, Kia and BMW need to meet the Bolts range now or at release and they don’t look to be able to do so.

I was thinking about an i3 until I heard they were planning to extend the range. Makes sense to wait. Car manufacturers will suffer through this cycle until all EV’s are long range.

Why would Bolt suddenly drop BMW sales 90%? Bolt’s official detailed specs may have been revealed 3 weeks ago but Chevy has been saying all of the important specs (range, price, release month) for the last year or so. Other EV sales didn’t plummet 90% in the same period. I’m pretty sure promises of Bolt have been dragging sales of ~$35k EVs down and down the closer we get to Bolt’s release but there’s something else going on with BMW.

My theory is that potential customers of BMW were distracted by the January auto shows and realizing there’s significant change coming in the market offerings. Yes, I’m suggesting that the average BMW buyer is more apt to delay a purchase due to the announcements coming from CES and NAIAS. I’m also suggesting that the January auto news had little or no impact on Tesla customers…. no market changes there for the foreseeable future.

nobody talks about the X…..(very lagging deliveries….) Watch the share price, tumbling(by now…and than …)

The current drop in TSLA stock price is completely unrelated to production. GM and Ford stocks are down, too, for the same reason: The entire stock market is down.

Bravo!! stock markets are quite up……TSLA 5%down ,just today……(down something like 40%,in the last few months!)Something is “cooking”……(unfortunately)

i3 & i8 lagging Sales is due to the fact that they’re both a P 0f S… Because they are P00RLY Designed & thrown together Cars!..Not to Bash BMW Because I have 0wned these, and., @ 0ne time they did have a decent desirable Product. BMW is slipping badly on all fronts & they’d Better get a Grip!

nut — If anything, their drawback is that they were OVER designed.

Meh. The i8 has sold a lot better than I thought it would. I guess people want to be Tom Cruise in the cool Mission Impossible car. Other than that, I can’t understand the appeal of an impractical 3-cylinder car.

The i3 probably suffers from its polarizing design and the fact that it has a pretty small battery while the LEAF now has a bigger battery and the Bolt touts 200 miles. And now the Osborne effect as BMW announced a bigger battery version.

So BMW had a near record month followed by a crash. I don’t think this is much of a surprise, yes the drop was bigger than expected but it is 1 months data. I am sure the i3 and i8 wil bounce back, sales might lag a bit because of the expected range bump but most likely because BMW will shrink inventory levels so as not to be left with a whole pile of i3’s with smaller packs.

This year could see some pretty good sales especially if Nissan drop the leaf price in march. I also can’t see oil prices staying where they are I just hope that it is normal market forces not a massive savage war that causes the price to rise.

December is usually good for EVs – what with year end promotions and not so long wait for tax credit. The i3 looks a little dated now, especially with the improved 100+ mile Leaf and Gen 2 Volt in the picture + the impending release of 200+ mile Bolt later this year. I wonder what plans BMW has for i3 in the next year or two because the current specs are not so impressive anymore.

Maybe they just ran out of supply.
Germany is far away.

Just_chris said:

“I also can’t see oil prices staying where they are…”

They could go even lower for the next few months, with Iran freed to ramp up production. Eventually, of course, prices will go back up, as unprofitable, higher cost drilling (like fracking) and refining (like tar sands petroleum) productions are shut down.

Just_chris said:

“So BMW had a near record month followed by a crash. I don’t think this is much of a surprise…”

Yes, the only surprise about this is that anyone would be surprised. Surely the amazingly high sales in December depleted dealer stocks of the i3 and i8? Perhaps, though, the drop was even more precipitous than industry watchers expected.

i3 sales will remain low until the new battery comes in. BMW pre anounced, and I am sure they want people to wait and get the better battery. i8 sales, well the sales cycle is long, and they shipped them all. It will recover, lets not worry about single months. I would bet bmw increases production so i8 sales in the US are higher this year than last.

Still a gain over the past Jan despite the gas price and bad weather…

This speaks the fact that we need more choices if we want EVs to succeed…


People hate me for this, but I don’t want EVs to succeed. If they get widesread, the incentives are gone.


I am a firm believer that once the incentives are gone, the competition will naturally lower the price to the point that it was comparable to the before incentives price.

Cash for clunkers and Cash for mortgages are both great examples..

The incentives are what gets the ball rolling…

R3D said:

“People hate me for this, but I don’t want EVs to succeed. If they get widesread, the incentives are gone.”

That’s pretty short-term thinking, innit? Perhaps it has not occurred to you that growth of EV sales will lead to lower prices and more choices.

He did say incentives, not specifically money. So maybe he is an HOV sticker seeker.

R3D – I don’t hate you for it, but I would argue against your logic. The Federal Tax incentives (and most of the state incentives) have built in sunsets based upon very good economic calculations. EV’s will actually be able to beat gas vehicles in price in the long run. The price of ICE vehicles are going up, because they are a mature technology that have to continually spend more and more on emissions controls systems to clean them up. On the other hand, batteries are getting better and cheaper at a rate of 14% reduction of cost per kWh for the last decade and a half, with this likely continuing into the future. EV’s won’t need incentives in the long run. All they need is to make it past the gap from the lab to the street, getting them into full scale production. The incentives are designed to bridge that gap. Now if all that works out as designed, it will be cool, and you will be buying EV’s for less than an equivalent ICE. That’s a win in my opinion, and I’m hoping that popularity of EV’s will help bridge that gap. Luckily for us, we don’t actually… Read more »

I am impressed with Volt sales in Jan. With limited release of Gen 2 2016 (carb states only), impending release of MY 2017 in March, a long wait for tax credits to kick in, and low oil prices, Jan is usually not the month one would look for good sales in the price conscious Volt market segment. I hope and wish this momentum continues.

I wonder when Cars dot com will start showing 2017 Volts. If it is similar to the Gen II roll out, they will show up as soon as the VIN is assigned and I think that is done when the car is painted. Then it takes a week or so to get finished and go through quality control, then another 5 to 10 days to get delivered to the dealer.
So my guess is that we will start to see 2017’s on Cars dot com next week and we will see them on some, but not many, dealer lots the week starting February 22nd.
Interesting times.

My ’17 vin came in yesterday. I’m in nonCARB GA. That’s a promising sign for a solid rollout.


I thought 17 production was set to start in March/April.

Congrats, Philip! I hope you get your Volt soon! I see Cars dot com is down to just 1840 Volts in North American inventory, so it would be nice to see more Volts getting built.

And as of this morning there are 29 2017MY Volts on Cars dot com. They tend to report cars as soon as they are painted/have a VIN assigned, so it takes a couple weeks for the people to get them. But I would bet Philip has his Volt with 2 weeks or so.
And there 1965 Volts in inventory now so they are still releasing 2016 VIN’s.

“Pure Electric Car Market Share vs PHEV In January*

PHEV – 3,256 – 52%
BEV – 3,035 – 48%

I assume that figure is calculated by allocating 100% of i3 sales to BEV category?

Well, count me as of the 327 e-tron sales. I keep telling people that there is a group of people that are loyal enthusiast of the A3 Sportback. When Audi brought the MQB A3 platform here as a sedan, it was a disappointment. Now that it’s here, having it as an electrified version is just a bonus.


Give us a review after you have had a few weeks with it.

Will do! My only beef with Audi and with CARB is that they released this car only after they maxed out on the green HOV stickers. Now that it’s eligible, there are no more stickers to be had!

Like Josh said, would be interested in a review!