January EV Sales Rise In US Despite Pressure From Next Gen Cars. Tesla, Nissan Stay Strong


FEB 5 2015 BY JAY COLE 51

The Next Generation 2016 Chevrolet Volt (show here in LTZ Siren Red Tintcoat Trim) Has Caused 2015 Model Year Sales To Plummet

The Next Generation 2016 Chevrolet Volt (show here in LTZ Siren Red Tintcoat Trim) Has Caused 2015 Model Year Sales To Plummet

Despite some significant downward pressure on two of America’s most popular plug-in models in January, EV sales still rose almost 7% thanks to some strong performances found elsewhere in the segment.

Tesla Received The Benefit Of The Brand New, Uber Fast P85D Model S In January

Tesla Received The Benefit Of The Brand New, Uber Fast P85D Model S In January

During the month, only Tesla and Nissan remained in “4 digits” for sales as the seasonal pullback (due to weather/tax implications of the $7,500 credit) and pressure from future EV offerings pushed the results lower compared to December.

Overall, an estimated 5,924 plug-ins were bought in January, as compared to the 5,550 sold a year ago.  And while this is not a significant increase (6.7%) overall, and is certainly trailing the 23% improvement in 2014, this month’s number can only be considered a success.

Both the Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Prius PHV, with new generational offerings arriving in the second half of this year, have seen their numbers plummet, as their parent companies have basically stopped producing (and marketing) the current models.

Inventories of significance for 2015 Volt and Prius have virtually dried up…guaranteeing their numbers will disappoint from here on out..

Editor’s Note: Details on the 2016 Chevrolet Volt, which debuted in Detroit in January can be found here.

The Chevrolet Volt set a new multi-year low with just 542 cars sold in January (full story here), while the Prius PHV sold just 401 – its second worst result since debuting in February of 2012.  For the Chevy, national inventories of the 2015 model have to dipped to around 2,000 units, while the Prius PHV has sunk below 1,000.  These are two cars that both sold north of 2,500 cars in a month at times in 2014.

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt is expected to launch in September of this year, while the next gen Prius PHV – of which Toyota Managing Officer Satoshi Ogiso says is being developed “in parallel” with the standard next gen Prius, has had release expectations pushed back a couple times.  Update:  late 2016 is the new ETA for the Prius PHV

"Cootie" Carrying 2015 Toyota Prius PHV

“Cootie” Carrying 2015 Toyota Prius PHV

Also of interest for the month, the BMW i3 took over as the 3rd best selling plug-in for America in January – a spot that has been exclusively held by just 4 models before today (Volt, LEAF, Model S Prius PHV).

Nissan’s result of 1,070 LEAFs sold in December was actually lower as well compared to  a year ago when 1,252 were sold (full story here).  Nissan pointed to sales being “pulled ahead” into December due to higher demand from state and federal incentives.  Nissan sold more than 3,100 LEAFs during the last month of 2014.

Heading into February, the Tesla Model S sits as the top selling car in America, as we estimated 1,100 EVs were delivered in January, just edging out the LEAF by 30 units.  This is also the second consecutive month the Model S was the best selling car in the United States.

We should note that January’s narrow “win” for Tesla was largely a by-product of the company having some trouble delivering its new P85D Model S sedans in the northern United States and into Canada over the Holiday season as they had planned.  This 1-2 week delay in shipping product meant that Tesla experienced the exact opposite of Nissan’s situation – December sales became January sales.

Graph (below): Check out the reshuffling of the plug-in sales deck for 2015!  Also, check out our full “Sales Scorecard” for a recap of each specific model sold in the US in January.

2015 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers *Estimated Tesla NA Sales Numbers – Reconciled on Quarterly Totals

2015 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers *Estimated Tesla NA Sales Numbers – Reconciled on Quarterly Totals

Some Other Points Of Interest For January 2015:

BMW i3 At CCS Fast Charger Sucking Down Some Electrons In January  (Image Credit Michael Beinenson/InsideEVs)

BMW i3 At CCS Fast Charger Sucking Down Some Electrons In January (Image Credit Michael Beinenson/InsideEVs)

Top Manufacturers Of Plug-In Vehicles:

  1. Tesla Motors – 1,100*
  2. Nissan – 1,070
  3. Ford – 906
  4. BMW – 755
  5. General Motors – 720

Pure Electric Car Market Share vs PHEV In January*

  1. BEV – 3,375 – 57%
  2. PHEV – 2,549– 43%

New 12 Month Highs Set In January (previous high in brackets):

  • Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid – 83 (55) – all time high

Looking ahead:  February will definitely be a comparatively poor month for EV sales, as the 7,190 sold in 2014 is unlikely to be matched…with the opposite being true in March.

Categories: BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Kia, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Sales, Smart, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen


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51 Comments on "January EV Sales Rise In US Despite Pressure From Next Gen Cars. Tesla, Nissan Stay Strong"

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Big Solar

I wonder what falls in the “other” category?

Jay Cole

Currently (for January) just the Porsche 918, RAV4EV, Fit EV and McLaren P1.


When looking at that list it makes you wonder why the compliance car brands don’t make compliance super cars and just leave the lower end of the market to GM, Nissan, Ford and….. BMW?


Because auto makers lose money on every “compliance car” model, as the few they sell can’t come close to recouping the cost of developing a new automobile that’s legal to drive on American highways. Making it a much more expensive “supercar” would just mean the auto maker would lose even more money.


Just_Chris’ point is valid. The incremental cost of a battery and hybrid drivetrain is a far smaller portion of a high end car’s sticker price. And it gives the car some much desired features: better performance, lower noise, vibration and harshness. Better fuel economy.

Personally, I think it’s lack of vision, and a bias toward conservative decision making.

What else could explain the stunning loss of market share at the high end to Tesla?

That’s usually an automaker’s gravy.


What you’re describing isn’t a “Compliance car”. What you’re describing is the Tesla Roadster.

What you say may well be true, but the goal of making a “compliance car” is very different than making a car to compete with the likes of Ferrari and Maserati.


And thank you for tracking Woofy (the iMiev), though I own one and appreciate the information, at this point, seems like it should go into that “Other” category too.

Jay Cole

Since we introduced the “other” category we get asked quite frequently why the i-MiEV lives on in the listings chart.

And while it might seem just like a sentimental favorite as it is 1 of 3 cars still on the market from 2011, the reason is its production status/sales viability mix.

As in…it is in production, and they do still sell 300+ of them a month around the world.

The fact is, that Mitsu is battery supply constrained to some extentwith the Outlander PHEV and don’t seem to really want to bring inventory depth to the United States as the margins importing out of Japan stink relative to other cars – which is why sales are none existent.

That being said, with the price of the i-MiEV ($22,995) along with deal-incentives, the car is net free (or close to it) on a lease in some states (Georgia, California, Colorado, etc)

In other words if Mitsu decided they wanted to sell 2,000 of these next month, they could. It is that ‘decision cloud’ that keeps them alive. Our expectation however is that the model will be discontinued in the US this summer.

Brian Henderson

Thanks. Because of “*” had assumed Other* was regarding Tesla* estimates.

Jay Cole

First month with the new chart…the asterisk really shouldn’t be there, (=


Asterisk confusion. 🙂

But seriously, glad you noticed the problem.


When the new Volt comes out in the Fall, will they be lumping all Volt sales into one category or breaking them out by generation? I say to put it in one category….

Jay Cole

They will all be lumped into one category. The only way you would see separation is if they added ‘family’/generation model designations to discern between the them…but that is highly unlikely in this case I think.


Also of note:

1. The BEV segment continues to be strong: in Jan. 2014 it produced ~2600 sales, so this month signals a ~30% increase, despite the flagship Leaf dropping ~15%!

2. In the same vein, for the 1st time Leaf sales were exceeded by the combined trio of German competitors (i3/B-class/eGolf). This happens less than a year after the earliest of them (i3) has entered the market. In December, these 3 barely combined for half of Leaf sales.

Nissan had better give us some good range news this calendar year, rather than wait for the 2017 model. Otherwise, I fear the Leaf might lose both its dominant position in the US BEV segment, and its momentum expanding into broader audiences.

Brian Henderson

The i3 is really two EVs, the ~160 mile REx and ~80 mile BEv. Double competition.

I think your point is i3 & B-Class (also e-Golf, Soul EV) are taking some of what would have been LEAF sales in prior months. This was likely the cause of the LEAF’s 23 month sales record running streak coming to an end. Missed this months YOY record by ~200 LEAFs. On positive note, the months with 1000+ LEAFs per month is the longest of any EV, and still going strong!


The only thing to fear – is fear itself.

OK – I didn’t make that up….. 🙂

Fear not – Nissan’s lead in the affordable city EV segment isn’t in danger any time soon.

Model 3 seems further out in the distance than ever, especially with Model X dragging it’s heals and no real serious PHEV threats other than Volt that will sell in any serious numbers. 2018-2019 things will gradually be heating up. Seems LEAF has it’s niche pretty much up until then.


In 2010 I thought that by 2012 or 2013 the Chevy would be selling 45,000 electric cars a year. Now it looks like Tesla and Nissan may get there before Chevy, but it probably won’t be until 2016.
It is kind of disappointing that you either have to pay a large amount for a long distance BEV, or $34 less $7.5k (net $26.5k) for a nice but compact EREV, or pay $28k less $7.5k (net $20.5k) for a short range compact BEV.
I had hoped for more options by now. I really need a larger car than the Volt but I can’t see paying that much for a Tesla.


I am always disappointed by January sales but nearly 6k is pretty good all things considered, especially since GM and Toyota have given up for the time being. I’d love to see Nissan do something crazy in March, like knock $5k off the price or for the fed government to increase the rebate to $10k.

I really think that there is a perfect storm brewing in the US and some parts of the EU with infrastructure looking pretty good, prices coming down and peoples awareness of the technology going up. It would be great to see a step change this year, but I say that every year. Lets hope this year is the year EV’s go solar.


I say …. The Volt costs $80,000 in Japan…and not because GM charges that much! Level the ‘global’ playing field then you will see real EV sales! Right now all you are seeing is the results of totally rigged sales against GM and Ford!

Malcolm Scott

I continue to weep at GM’s lack of commitment to EVs. The Spark EV with the new battery in 2015 form still hides. Small it might be, but there is a market (see Smart). It doesn’t have to have the same price in every state. Surely it could be priced accordingly at profitable levels, especially in those states with generous incentives. Can you imagine what you would be feeling at the moment if you were dedicated to and your income depended on selling Chev Volts, or even Chev EVs?


Looks like Volt maintains its “top-selling EV in America” title for another month, 73,573 to 73,373.

Leaf should grab the belt in February for sure.


Unfortunately, market share for Jan 2015 was down compared to market share of Jan 2014.

0.51% vs 0.54%

George Bower

That’s the pathetic part despite all the positive spin the staff puts on the numbers (thx IEV’s).

I guess the question is what to do about it.

I’m starting to think the Chinese are the only ones that understand how to fix the problem.

It’s simple you just limit the total number of registrations allowed for gas vehicles.

Don’t like it. Tough sh*t buy an EV dweebo.


Yes, George, authoritarian states do have that going for them. I think I will stay here in Topeka, though.


Josh Bryant

I was thinking it might be nice to add the market % as a new row below the U.S. total ev sales.

What do you think Jay? You might even be able to convince kdawg to crunch he numbers monthly for you.

George Bower

I agree Josh.

It’s an important number….depressing as it is or not.

Mark Hovis

What happened to the Kia Soul?

Brian Henderson

Dropping oil prices has lead to climb in US dollar vs. other currancies. Wonder how this will effect imported* EV prices later ths year? (US LEAF exported to Canada could see a potential price change)

*Not neccessary related to Soul EV numbers, just thinking in comments. Added cost may cause OEMs to limit sales numbers, or adjust pricing.


no it helps imports and will hurt Tesla on exports

Mr. M

Kia Soul is likely still production constrained. They estimated sales of 5000 cars globally for the first year (2015). If US is half of that sales, the average monthly number should be around 210 cars. So 70 for low EV sales month January seems about right.


btw, unmentioned in the post is the elephant in the EV room: low gas prices.

Seems like apart despite the Leaf’s setback, the pattern continues to be BEVs going strong, cheap gas be damned, while PHEVs feeling quite a bit of cheap-gas pain (see those Ford Energi numbers).

Thoughts anyone?


I agree on the BEV/PHEV split. Saving money on gas is a bigger concern for PHEV buyers. BEV buyers just want to avoid gas altogether be it for environmental reasons, driving the future, driving experience, or saving money on gas.

Josh Bryant

+1! Your analysis still holds!

Assaf said: “…the pattern continues to be BEVs going strong, cheap gas be damned, while PHEVs feeling quite a bit of cheap-gas pain (see those Ford Energi numbers).” Well, it looks like the InsidEVs staff agrees with you, so your opinion certainly is shared by those knowledgeable about EVs. But I confess I don’t find the argument persuasive. I don’t think there are enough models of either PHEVs or BEVs that actually sell in signficant numbers to justify generatlities. Seems to me that it’s more useful to look at what’s going on with the individual models. PHEVs: The #1 seller is the Volt. But it’s been widely reported and is now well known that the Volt 2.0 is coming later this year. So why would anyone buy a Volt now: BEVs: 1. Tesla Model S: Tesla Motors continues to go great guns in increasing domestic sales. That has nothing to do with the price of gas; it’s due to increased production coupled with greater than anticipated difficulty in expanding sales in China. 2. Leaf: Altho Nissan has talked about a next-generation Leaf with double the range, they haven’t said when it’s coming. So nobody expects that to come later this… Read more »

The “spin” does get a bit heavy here on InsideEVs sometimes. I mean c’mon. The only reason sales are up overall is because 6 of the cars on the list this year had, basically, not yet been introduced as of January of last year. This includes the i3, i8, B-class, Kia Soul EV, E-golf and Cayenne. 2015 sales were “up” by a paltry 374 cars. However, those 6 “new cars” added 1328 to the total sales which really means EV sales were down considerably for most manufacturers. Heck, if just the i3 (with 670 sales) were dropped from the list we go negative overall relative to last year. It is OK to admit sales are falling…likely due to plummeting gas prices and not just “new models coming”.


Err, total sales… Are you assuming that if these new cars were not on the market the people who bought them would have not bought existing models?


Yes, I realize it is total sales, but my point is that those “sales” are not up year-over-year like-for-like. In comparing like models from one year to the next, sales are down. Sure the new i3 and others helped to “make up for it” in the broad picture, but Leaf sales are down, Volt and Spark sales are down, sales are down for all three Ford products, etc. Focusing on just the “total” here which was almost entirely crutched by new models is disingenuous and paints the wrong picture.

Jay Cole
Well by this metric you could almost argue that point from every year as we have gone from 2 EVs (in 2010) to 3 (in 2011) to 9 to 16 to 22. The industry sold 17,425 EVs in 2011 on 3 models, so you are saying that because we didn’t sell 127,783 in 2014 on 22 models (a proportional share) that 2011 is greater than 2014? That we have regressed, and sales that are “falling”? I understand your point, but the Volt and Prius have lost 800 sales on their own, and the RAV4 EV and Fit EV are essentially gone/out of stock…so those 4 have lost 900 against the 1,328 you say have been “added” with new entries – almost entirely due to management decisions happening behind the scenes on making those offerings available. I don’t think it is unreasonable to suggest that at least 54 (428 of the “new car” shortfall – the 374 gain in 2015) of those 1,328 “new sales” are conquest sales from another EV that would have been realized anyway had those models not been available…and therefore showing a sales increase for January 2015. — How ever you want to look at it, the… Read more »

Before the mythical PHEV SUV from Volvo, Mitsu, VW or somebody else arrives ( Tooth Fairy? ) – the 3 fairly well defined segment leaders will be comfy in their respective segments. I feel the i3 as novelty will wear off pretty quickly, especially as insurers wise up to how costly it is to repair.

That leaves Volt leading the PHEV train – surely an uptick in sales, perhaps even a significant one when gas prices again rise.
LEAF will remain the affordable commuter/city EV, challenged by – nobody. And Tesla will remain strong in the $100,000 world with 2 models by mid summer.

Also-rans other than i3 will be VW, all Fords and paltry runs by Hyundai Sonata PHEV, SoulEV and all other compliancemobiles out there. Each one will have it’s fans yet none will compete with the front-runners.

I predict as i3 sales slump, BMW will add battery pack and perhaps a cheaper “entry-level” i3 to the mix. The car still only represents a small niche within a niche.

Mutwin Kraus

If i3 sales go down in US then BMW can easily shift their production focus to Europe where the wait-time is still more than 4 months and there are almost none to be found on dealers lots. Right now BMW is shipping half of their production to the US because the weak Euro makes it more profitable to sell there. They could have sold thousands more in Norway for example if they had enough production capacity or lowered the output of US-spec cars.


The eGolf (and the GTE in Europe) will really give the i3 a run for its money. The VW E cars are not perfect, but they are darn-good, extremely practical, and much easier on the eye in and out.

BMW needs to up the ante as the extra power may not be enough. They need range.

Mutwin Kraus

I test-drove the eGolf and was very disappointed by the slow acceleration. The i3 is a lot more fun to drive. Also, the interior of the i3 is one of the best available on any car.


…and yes, I think it is fair to say that a reasonable number of them would NOT have bought existing EVs. I don’t think it is a stretch to say at least 374 of them would have fallen into this category. The i3 group in particular seems to be filled with a number of first time EV buyers who did not consider another make/model.


Your point is almost entirely irrelevant. The first mass-produced EVs did not appear on the market until December 2010, so -most- people who buy plug-in EVs are first-time buyers, who previously owned only gas guzzlers. That’s almost certainly going to continue to be true for at least the next 20 years, as PEV sales eat into gas guzzler sales in greater and greater numbers.

PEV tech is rapidly improving with every new model that comes out, so it’s entirely reasonable to claim that buyers will prefer newer models of PEVs even more than they prefer newer models of gas guzzlers. But Jay has a valid point; there are no facts you can point to to support your assertion that -most- buyers of the newer PEV models wouldn’t have bought an older model if the newer model wasn’t available. At best, that’s just a guess on your part.


That Red Volt looks nice. I wish they would pack 200 miles of battery range in it and sell that. I don’t want the ICE.


Crazy thing about the Bolt, or whatever it will eventually be named – is that GM insists on building it on an ICE platform ( Sonic ). The concept had 4 seats and looked like it’s sights were set on BMW i3. How’s a T-pack going to get 200 miles of battery in it? Added pack under the bonnet?

LEAF will creep up in range. Perhaps a 125-140 mile option for LEAF2? If 200 miles mixed with practicality are your goal – you just might be forced to buy a Model 3 when Tesla finally gets around to producing it. Can you wait that long?

James said: “Crazy thing about the Bolt, or whatever it will eventually be named – is that GM insists on building it on an ICE platform ( Sonic ). The concept had 4 seats and looked like it’s sights were set on BMW i3. How’s a T-pack going to get 200 miles of battery in it?” Building the Volt using the front half (and many of the interior parts) from the Cruze, and (assuming you’re correct) building the Bolt on the Sonic platform, is to me an indication that GM wants to make EVs on the cheap. That is, it’s a half-hearted effort, rather than full commitment to developing a compelling PEV. It’s been said that one of the reasons why the Leaf sells relatively so well, as compared to other PEVs, is because it does -not- look like any gas guzzler. I think that’s likely true. The question is this: Just how many years will it be until at least one legacy auto makers makes a compelling EV and pushes to sell it in large numbers? Sadly, despite all the talk about “200 mile EVs” in 2017, I have serious doubts it will happen until at least 2020, and… Read more »

The Leaf is built off the same platform as the Versa, so I’m not sure where you’re going there.

And the Model S looks exactly like any number of ICE cars, so the canard that EVs must look like spaceships should be dead and buried.


I think you should also explore what impact the low gas prices are having on EV sales.


They should also offer rebates on and eVehicles should tract sales of eMotorcycles and eBicycles because both would get drivers out of traditional ICE vehicles especially for urban commutes!