March 2017 Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales Report Card

APR 3 2017 BY JAY COLE 79

September's Results Won't Surpass The All-Time Best Set In August - But Still Very Strong

March EV sales hit a high for 2017

March EV sales in America sang a familiar tune last month, namely an 18th consecutive month* of gains.

And with all the numbers now in, something very unique happened this month, as the US plug-in market crossed the 18,000 mark in sales for just the 2nd time.  But even more significantly, it did it during a time of the year not traditionally known as being strong for EV adoption.

The Chevy Bolt EV arrived in both New York and New Jersey in March as the GM plug-in winds its way to being a nationwide offering by September

In total, an estimated 18,107 sales were logged in March, which was a 30.7% gain over some fairly steep comps a year ago (13,857).

For the year, some 40,729 plug-ins have been sold through the first quarter, which is 46% more then Q1 of 2016, good for a 46.3% gain.

See full model-by-model breakdown for 2017 on the graphic below.

Unsurprisingly, with the end of the quarter upon us, Tesla lead the sales rush in March with its Model S and Model X…as the company once again prioritized US deliveries to the back-end of Q1, as it surpassed global sales expectations for Q1, noting more than 25,000 sales in the first three months of 2017.

However, the duo of the Chevrolet Volt and Chevy Bolt (which continued its rollout in March into New York and New Jersey) currently sit at very similar sales levels as the 2 popular Tesla models.

Also of interest, the Nissan LEAF somehow has pulled of a resurgence of sales, posting its 6th consecutive monthly gain by selling near 1,500 copies in March…and this despite the announcement of a new model to debut in September.

But the real “dark horse” standout was the Ford Focus, which after selling within ~100 copies of the 150 units mark for 56 of the past 57 months, sold a very uncharacteristic 407 copies!

Questions for March (with answers in brackets as they come in):

  • Can the Chevrolet Volt hang on to the top sales spot for 2017 to date?  (no, strong Model S sales see the Tesla in the lead by about ~500 units)
  • Who will win the battle of the “new major offerings” in February – the Chevrolet Bolt EV, or the Toyota Prius Prime?  (the Prime running away)
  • Can BMW finally fix (or at least standardize) the 19-month string of bipolar i3 sales? i3

Also of note:  the fuel cell Toyota Mirai sold 118 copies in March, bringing the 2017 YTD total up to 311

Last update: Thursday, April 13th, 2017 7:42 AM

*On year of monthly sales improvements: We know someone is going to look at the chart and say, “hey, only ~11,467 sales were made in May of 2016, when 11,540 were logged in 2015!  What gives InsideEVs?”  What gives is – through an odd scheduling quirk, only 24 selling days were reported in May 2016 (versus 26 in 2015)

Below Chart: A individual run-down of each vehicle’s monthly result and some analysis behind the numbers.  (Previous year’s monthly results can be found on our fixed Scorecard page here)

2017 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers – *Estimated Tesla Sales Numbers – Reconciled on Quarterly Totals, ** Fiat/Hyundai-Kia Do Not Report Sales Directly, Estimate Based on State/Rebate Data

Individual Plug-In Model Sales Recap For Major Models:

(limited to vehicles with ~500 sales/or potential for 500 sales in a given month)

Nest Generation, 2016 Chevrolet Volt

Next Generation, 2017 Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt:  

Someone forgot to tell General Motors that the first three months of a new year are awful months to try and sell electric vehicles in.

As for the Volt, it set the record for “most plug-ins sold for January” ever, moving 1,611 copies, then followed that up by selling 1,830 cars in February – a personal record, then 2,132 in March.

Those sales have allowed the Volt to stay in the #2 spot for plug-in sales in the US, and represents a 39.5% gain over a year ago.

Despite the strong sales, GM has been waging a war against inventory levels – a situation that caused GM to shutter its Hamtramck, Michigan facility for three weeks earlier this year.

Fortunately, things have begun to normalize on the inventory front; after hitting a near-record ~6,000 copies held in average in December by our reckoning, that number fell in both January and February, and averaged about 4,500 cars in March – which is right about the “sweet spot” for heading into Spring, and traditional/higher sales levels.

For 2016, 24,739 Volts were sold vs 15,393 last year, a gain of 61%, passing the Volt’s previous all-time record for most sales in a year from 2012, when 23,464 were sold.




Chevrolet Bolt EV - looking to make its mark in 2017

Chevrolet Bolt EV – looking to make its mark in 2017

Chevrolet Bolt EV:  

GM’s first long range offering completed its first full month on the US market in January, selling an impressive 1,162 copies in California and Oregon (the two states selected for the Bolt EV’s launch before going nationwide later this year).

Unfortunately, and despite added 3 more states of availability in February (Massachusetts, Maryland and Virginia joined California and Oregon), Bolt EV sales fell to 952 moved during the month, and improved only slightly in March to 978 sales.

GM noted that inventory was fairly tight on dealer lots in March, with only around 14 days worth on hand.  Still, with Bolt EV production having started last October and only ~3,600 sales since then, there was an issue someplace – either at the plant, or with GM management’s production allocation (perhaps production heading to Europe under the Opel Ampera-E badge).

For March, inventories did significant gain right at the month’s end, up to close to 2,000 copies.  Better still, a week and a half in April and that number was close to 4,000….what does it mean?  It means the Bolt EV is quite likely going to put up a very big number in April.

In March, the Bolt EV made its way in to both New York and New Jersey during the month.

Now, the CARB-tastic, state-by-state roll-out continues in April with Washington welcoming the Bolt EV to local Chevy dealerships.   As for a nationwide roll-out, that will happen with the introduction of the 2018 MY Bolt EV – which arrives in September.



Nissan LEAF

Nissan LEAF:  

It is no secret that the Nissan LEAF is again, and the the US consumer is anticipating a new, 2nd generation model arrival this Fall, with the prototype spotted out testing this month in the UK.

Yet despite that, the LEAF has now seen gains in the past 7 consecutive months in a row (more on that below).

For February sales were up 11% at 1,037 copies, and higher still in March at 1,478 copies, which incredibly put it ahead of the brand new Chevy Bolt in the sales race for both months.

Previously in January 772 were sold, after moving 1,899 in December…which was actually the high water mark for 2016, after selling 1,457 copies in November.

How rare have sales improvements been before this current run?  September 2016 through March 2017’ss gains were the first for the EV in America in 20 months (you’d have to go back to December of 2014 to other year-over-year increases).

During 2016, 14,006 LEAFs were sold, off 19% from the 17,269 moved in 2015.

As mentioned earlier, we should note that the entry level price to the 30 kWh/107 mile edition of the LEAF was lowered with the 24 kWh trim level’s removal – the 30 kWh LEAF now has a starting MSRP of $30,680 + DST.

During December, average stocked inventory of the LEAF crept a little higher, averaging around ~2,000 copies – which is where it stayed during January, but still not far off historic lows.   Basically, until the inventory improves with the upgraded  and future edition, it is impossible for Nissan to perform much better than it has of late.



2017 Toyota Prius Prime

2017 Toyota Prius Prime

Toyota Prius Prime: 

Finally, after 18 months of waiting the first generation Prius plug-in has been replaced.  Enter the all new, much improved Toyota Prius Prime (details) which arrived on US dealers lots on November 8th.

Since its arrival the Prime has exceeded sales expectations, especially so in January as 1,366 were moved during the month – making the 2nd generation Prius PHV the second best selling plug-in for America during the month.

For February, the Prime continued to set a high bar, moving 1,362 copies, then another 1,618 in March…and believe or not, that was supply-constrained in a big way

If you are just quiet enough and listen, you can almost hear Toyota’s dealers screaming for more inventory of the plug-in Prius.  Why is that?  The popular Toyota has yet to hit 4 figures worth of average national inventory in stock for any month yet….for March around ~800 copies were normally on hand.

Yes, the Prius Prime is here, and it might just be your 2017 plug-in sales champion for the US.  The Toyota not only features its own unique look, but 25 miles of all-electric range.

But most importantly, the plug-in Toyota is priced right – from $27,950, which after the $4,500 federal credit is applied gives the Prime an effective price of $23,450, a price-point that is actually more than $1,000 cheaper than the base hybrid version…which should eventually translate into very strong sales once the EV is well stocked, as the standard version of the car can sell upwards of 10,000 units in a month.





2015 BMW i3

BMW i3

BMW i3: 

When it comes to plug-in vehicle sales in the US, no model was more disappointing, or more unpredictable than the BMW i3 in 2016.

As an example, the BMW i3 sold 629 copies in November, 442 copies in October, 391 copies in September, 1,479 in July, 608 in June, 814 in April and 182 in January.  Totally bipolar.

For 2017, things started rough, with just 182 sales logged in January, and 318 in February.  Fortunately, the tune changed drastically in March (which given the i3’s track record is not all that surprising), with 703 sales made, a 118% gain over March of 2016.

Quite frankly, the i3 as it stands today is likely too expensive for plug-in vehicle buyers, so if BMW wants to sell the EV in volumes like it did in the past, it is going to have to sharpen its pencil…and by a lot.

For 2016 overall,  BMW sold 7,625 i3s in 2016, compared to 11,024 a year ago – off 31%

Disappointing for future numbers, BMW continues to seem to have issues stocking the i3 (and we aren’t sure if it is intentional or not), entering April, about ~800 copies were available on dealer lots to be purchased.

Truthfully, BMW’s inventory managing of its electrified fleet over the past year (now 7 strong worldwide) as been about abysmal as possible, as the company has potentially left 10s of thousands of sales behind globally thanks to an unpreparedness to produce plug-ins to demand levels.  The only question that remains is whether or not it was/is intentional.

Earlier in September we got all the US EPA specs on the new 33 kWh i3 REx (details), namely 97 miles of all electric range, backed up by 83 miles of petrol abilities – for a total of 180 miles of driving range; numbers that most US customers didn’t seem all to please with (considering the 22 kWh 2016 version had a cumulative 150 mile rating).

Fortunately, we have been able to have the opportunity to have a long term/first hand review on both trim levels.

  • BMW i3 (33 kWh) BEV – read InsideEVs’ own Michael Beinenson’s 1,000 mile report here
  • BMW i3 (33 kWH) REx – read InsideEVs’ own Tom Moloughney’s first drive comparison here





2014 Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S: Tesla does not give out exact monthly sales (apparently because the public can’t handle the concept of regional allocations and delivery lead times)… so we never know for sure what the monthly numbers total up to until Tesla’s quarterly (or annual) updates add more clarity, but we do our best to keep our finger on the pulse of what is happening.

To come to an estimated monthly, number, we don’t simply take the quarterly estimate given by Tesla and divide it by 3 and hope it all works out…it just doesn’t work like that in the real world.  We simply report from the data we accumulate ourselves, the first hand accounts available from the factory and from the community itself when available – and the number is what it is (see below)

Revisions/disclaimer to accuracy of prior estimates: The 2016 Model S chart has been adjusted (via US Q3 data leaked directly from Tesla) by 469 units in Q3, and 525 units in Q4.  The 2015 chart was adjusted (one time) by 498 units to compensate for confirmed full year numbers. The 2014 sales chart was adjusted (one time – again after the end of the full year of estimates) 611 units to compensate for full year numbers.  While past success is no guarantee of future results, InsideEVs is quite proud of its sales tracking for the Model S over  the years.

That being said, we only estimate this number because Tesla does not, and to not put a number on Model S sales would be to paint an even more inaccurate overall picture of EV sales. Despite our fairly accurate track record, we are not analysts, portfolio managers and we do not own any positions in Tesla the company.

The first quarter of Q1 was an unconventional one for Tesla, as the EV automaker was faced with not only continuing production of its existing vehicles, but also the tooling up and pre-production assembly of the much anticipated, lower cost, Model 3.

And as such, the company uncommonly focused more on US production earlier in the quarter, which lead to a lightly higher than expected result in February.

That left the debate open to whether or not Tesla was hedging against any production hiccups ahead of the (now passed) Fremont assembly shutdown in mid-February for that Model 3 R&D tooling, or if international demand was soft, or conversely US demand was simply higher.

Whatever the reason, the shutdown went “ok” (it seemed to effect the speed production somewhat past the original estimate of one week), but things definitely got back to normal by the start of March; a month that experienced a similar end-of-quarter rush to that of what we have been used to in the past, although the 3,450 Model S we estimate that were delivered during the month was a bit below expectations, and the near ~4,000 sold a year ago.

Looking ahead, Tesla pegged overall first half deliveries worldwide at some 47,000 – 50,000 units, and in actual fact reported just over 25,000, meaning the automaker only needs to deliver some 22,000+ units to hit H1 guidance (and has over 4,600 in transit today)…meaning that at some point in Q2 we should likely be ready for an extended shutdown of some magnitude.

Effecting short term demand in the future on the Model S (to the positive, as it did in March), is the discontinuation of the base, 60 kWh edition on April 17th, the net result being inventory sales on that model should pick up over the next month or so, while customer orders/US deliveries will be increased (to some degree) in June.

We do have to note that when discontinuing the Model S 60 and 60D, Tesla noted that “most customers ended up buying an equivalent to the Model S 75 kWh” and Tesla was removing the option “to simply the order process for our customers”, which is a hard statement to put in context (especially with the “ended up” terminology), or to take at face value.

Interestingly, from the data we have compiled, about 30% of all Model S sales in Q1 were of the 60 kWh variety, and it outsold the 75 kWh variant by more than a 2-to-1 margin.

And from a production-standpoint, the 60 kWh cars are all 75 kWh cars (just software limited by Tesla to only provide owners access to 60 kWhs of that battery), so Tesla gains or loses no manufacturing abilities with the models retention or deletion.

So in our opinion, the 60 kWh version was removed either for; bottom line reasons, or simply to get out of the way for the expected range/performance of the Model 3 in July (recently pegged at more than the Chevy Bolt EV and its 238 miles of range), and not for customer convenience in any way.  Why it was framed as such?  We have no idea.  But we are all big boys Tesla, you can just shoot us straight.





Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X

Tesla Model X: Like the Model S, Tesla does not itself report Model X sales, so we do our best – with all the data at our disposal to estimate monthly results for North America as best we can (For more info on that, check out our disclaimer for the Model S)

Historical accuracy/Sales Update (Oct 11th):

Tesla recently leaked US sales data for Q3 2016 put US deliveries at 5,428 Our own Q3 estimate  was 5,800 for North America, which includes Canada (which ended Q3 with 389 registrations for the quarter), meaning 5,787 were actually sold – and not to brag…but that means we were only off by 13 units in Q3.

Previously in Q2 2016, Tesla reported 4,625 Model X deliveries…our estimated scorecard got within about ~55 units of the actual number (accounting for just a handful of international Model X deliveries). In Q1 we where within ~200 units.

Like its sister car, the Model S, the X had to deal with a plant shutdown for a week in the second half of the month to prepare for the upcoming Model 3.

And while the Model X did not seem to share in the increased deliveries early in the year, production of the X seemed much more aggressive once the plant got restarted (in relation to proportional norms to the Model S).

With that said, March sales of the all-electric utility vehicle were relatively strong in our estimation at 2,750 units, and bested a year ago’s result (~1,860) by almost 50%, and illustrated Tesla’s drive to deliver more Xs during the month.  Why?  Perhaps to balance out the bottom line with the high sales of the Model S 60 kWh edition that is being discontinued in April.

We should note that demographically, the Model X has been much stronger performer in North America than elsewhere in the world (ex-China), as American’s affinity for larger utility vehicles is being tested against its demand for the quickest performance (found in the Model S P100D).




Chrysler Pacific Plug-In Hybrid

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid (aka Pacifica plug-in):

The much anticipated plug-in extended range passenger van arrived in January, albeit in stealth, stuttered… and very limited in fashion.

Due to some odd quirks with production timing and plant scheduling we have had a on/off start for the Pacifica Hybrid as it relates to deliveries.

Here is the nutshell version:

Production kicked off as expected November 28th at the company’s Windsor, Ontario plant, and it seems a truck or two of inventory/orders managed to get out before Christmas shutdown – which resulted in reports of handful of January 2016 deliveries.

Unfortunately, inventory over-stock gripped the domestic automakers in North America, and many plants where given an extended shutdown (up to 3 weeks in some cases) – this included FCA’s Windsor plant.

The result was that the re-start of limited production of the Pacifica Hybrid was pushed back several weeks, compounded by a subsequent quality control hold, parts issue in late January/early February. What we can say is that a few Pacifica Hybrids were built in February, more in March, but then have sat penned up awaiting on QC since.

Various reports suggested that the plug-in van should start re-arriving in late March, but they did not…late in the month we got his word from FCA with some reliable specifics:

“As with all launches, but particularly in the case of this technically advanced vehicle, we are taking great care to ensure that the Pacifica Hybrid comes off the line with the highest quality possible. We will only introduce a vehicle when we are fully satisfied the vehicle meets or exceeds customer expectations.

We have been ramping up the build at the Windsor Assembly Plant, and full retail production will now begin on Friday, April 7. Vehicles will start shipping to dealers on Monday, April 17.”

More specific to this information, Chrysler has a launch event planned for the 19th;expect the wave sales to start on that date. So sit tight, they are coming.




2017 BMW 330e - Like All Plug-Ins Sold In The US, It Wisely Is Offered In Black

2017 BMW 330e – Like All Plug-Ins Sold In The US, It Wisely Is Offered In Black

BMW 330e:    

Arriving on the US market last Spring was the BMW 330e, which is the plug-in hybrid version of the company’s high selling 3 series offering.

And while the 330e (from $44,695 including DST), physically arrived in April 2016 in a token amount, and it has taken BMW 8 months to begin to stock the vehicle adequately.

But apparently, that process has begun!

In March, 365 plug-in BMW 3 series cars were sold, a big jump over February’s 144…and an all-time high for the model (previous best was 240 copies sold in December).

As noted, during March, actual depth of the 330e arrived (just a scant ~12 months after the car’s debut), and about ~750 330es were available on dealer lots heading in April!  Perhaps now we will finally start to see the true sales volume potential of the plug-in BMW 3 series, which we have always felt was north of 500 units per month.

As for the specs, the final EPA ‘real world’ range rating of just 14 all-electric miles  (via a 7.6 Kwh battery – 5.7 usable) was a disappointment for some hoping for a number closer to 20, but with a 75 mph top speed in “Max eDrive”, it is a capable offering (featuring a 2 liter turbo inline 4) and should satisfy the traditional BMW crowd and be a strong seller.

The electric motor develops 87 hp with maximum peak torque of 184 lb-ft, when combined with the petrol engine, the total output jumps to 248 hp, with a peak torque of 310 lb-ft, allowing a sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds and  a top speed of 140 mph.




Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron

Audi A3 Sportback e-tron:  

Audi had defined the word “consistent” when it comes to plug-in vehicle sales in 2016, dutifully selling the low 300s each month.

That is at least until December when it broke out of its normal pattern and a very impressive 589 copies.

Now the Audi e-tron looks to not only repeat that consistency, but improve, as a just as an incredibly impressive (considering the time fo the year) 414 plug-in A3s were sold in March (2nd best ever), after moving 400 in February, and 387 in January.

Overall, 4,280 copies were sold in 2016…a not insignificant contribution to the US plug-in vehicle sales scene.  That said, Audi is still certainly not in the “big boys” category for EV sales, but also is definitely not in the “also rans” either.

Quirky fact not really related to EV sales, but certainly aided with the arrival of the A3 e-tron, the Audi brand has now set 75 consecutive months of record year-over-year sales in the US.

Part of the reason for strong sales for the A3 e-tron is also the (relatively) low price. $38,900 gets you the Audi badge, 8.8 kWh of battery – good for 17-odd miles of real world driving…and federal credit of $4,158, which is significant because this brings the e-tron package down to within $3,500 of the base MSRP of the A3.

Well that, and you can’t get the “sportback” version of the Audi in any other trim level in the US.  Check out our own early/pre-delivery review on the Audi A3 e-tron here.





Ford Fusion Energi

Ford Fusion Energi

Ford Fusion Energi:

The refreshed 2017 Ford Fusion Energi (details) was a fairly big hit in 2016, showing marked improvements throughout the year.

Heading into 2017, the Fusion Energi eked out a small gain in January, moving 606 copies, then got back to business in setting new personal bests.

Following February’s strong 837 sale performance, Ford crossed back into “4 digit land”, as 1,002 Energis were moved…joining a club of just 5 other at that level.

Looking at the inventory in the past, it was easy to see why (and how) so many of the new Fusion plug-ins were sold over the past few months;  the Fusion Energi has often won the crown for the “most stocked” EV in the US (before Chevy got crazy with the Volt)…but with that said, Ford has been struggling to keep production on pace with demand, and national inventories fell to around 2,000 units ending out 2016, and continuing at about that level into April.






Volkswagen e-Golf Comes To The US In November

Volkswagen e-Golf

Volkswagen e-Golf:   

It had been hard to get a read on the sales demand for VW’s all-electric Golf for the most part of 2016, as as sales fluctuated quite a bit.

After setting a year’s best in August (with 454 copies sold), Volkswagen improved on that number again in September, selling 529 copies, before setting back down to 407 sales in October and lower still with 305 sold in November.  However, things rebounded again in December with 443 sold.

For the first month of 2017 however, sales normalized somewhat, selling 332 copies, roughly equal to the 328 moved a year ago.  For February, sales were up over 40% from the year prior with 293 sold, and stayed positive in March, setting a new 2017 high at 342 sales.

We should note that these sales levels are relatively strong considering a recently announced range upgrade coming mid-model year for the 2017 edition (January/February) and the “January blues” effect – of which the two factors have combined to pretty much keep demand in check (and inventory’s low) until that car’s arrival.

As mentioned, some sales help is on the way, as Volkswagen will have a first mover advantage of some sort upgrading the range on today’s e-Golf.

The 2017 plug-in VW will now feature a 35.8 kWh battery, increasing range to ~124 miles and debuted at the LA Auto Show in November (details – launch gallery/video).  Production of the new e-Golf got underway in December.

Also of interest, VW outlined its plans passed the refreshed e-Golf from the Paris Motor Show in October, stating that the all-electric I.D. will enter production in about 3 years time, and will have 400-600 km (249-373 miles) of range.  (We should note that estimate was given on the optimistic Euro/NEDC scale – in term of real-world/EPA estimated miles, we would expect 180-270 miles…still a pretty big spread)




Ford C-Max Energi

Ford C-Max Energi:  

If it wasn’t for the impressive results of the Ford Fusion Energi every month, we probably would look at C-Max Energi results a lot differently.

But in December, the plug-in C-Max manged to step out of the Fusion’s shadow for the first time, and sold an all-time best 1,289 copies – 17% more than the Fusion Energi.

We wondered for a time if that could be a performance repeated by the C-Max Energi in 2017?  And while that has yet to happen, result have still be very strong for the Ford, noting 639 sales in February, and 662 in March.


Thanks to December’s surge, and the BMW i3’s sales malaise over the past four months, the C-Max Energi has moved past the BMW and settles in at the 6th best selling plug-in for the US in 2016.

Despite these results, we expect that the C-Max Energi will live only as long as it takes to introduce a Ford’s new “Model E” lineup in Spring of 2019 (offering both a compact car and crossover utility vehicle).




2014 Fiat 500e

Fiat 500e

Fiat 500e:  

When it comes to reporting plug-in sales, we have another Tesla on our hands here (as in they don’t report sales).

Chrysler/Fiat has been giving us a bit of the stonewall treatment when it comes to reporting 500e sales.

UPDATE: After initially have some issues getting data on the plug-in Fiat, more registration and rebate data is now available. That being said, the number is estimated. Historically, the average margin of error per month has been about ~40 units in those moments when some confirmed data leaks out (usually from a recall).  For 2016, the yearly estimated total was adjusted upwards (once) by approximately 500 units over the first 12 months.

For most of 2016, the Fiat 500e was a consistent performer, but over the past few month of the year things really ratcheted up – thanks to deals such as this one on Black Friday ($49/month with nothing down*), and the 500e remains the most popular compliance EV that many can buy.

Heading into 2017 sales continued to remain robust for the 500e given the limited amount of inventory (~200-300 units on average) after a strong 2nd half of 2016, we estimate ~355 copies were sold in February.

With that said, the inventory situation on the 500e has continued to tighten, so the upside potential of the EV seems to be limited at this point in time.





BMW X5 xDrive40e

x5 xDrive40e

BMW X5 xDrive40e:

The BMW X5 plug-in had an unexpectedly strong debut in the US in 2016…and only get stronger over the year.

In fact, the electrified X5 easily won the award for “best newcomer”for 2016, which was topped off by the all-time best 876 sales that were made in August!

Perhaps not unexpectedly, subsequent monthly sales drop off a touch while the company attempted to replenish new inventory on dealer lots, falling to around 400 copies in the months that followed.

However in December, sales started to rebound, with BMW selling 569 X5 plug-ins for the month. Thanks to the “January slowdown” effect on sales of the US federal credit, inventories grew decently during the month to around ~500+ units, but adversely affected sales, with 262 sold in the first month of 2017 and roughly the same in February at 275 sales.

During the second half of March, inventory of the X5 plug-in began to strengthen, averaging close to 800 units for the month, and with it, sales have starting to retun to the model, with 397 copies moved – besting last year’s result by about 20%.

Check out our first drive review of the 13 mile AER BMW x5 xDrive40e here.



Ford Focus Electric

Ford Focus Electric:

C’mon Ford, you are just messing with us right?

Heading into March, the Ford Focus Electric had sold within ~100 sales of the 150 unit mark for 60 months in a row…with only one month passing the 200 level (August of 2014-264).  And this month we had finally thrown in the towel on specifically recapping the Focus Electric because of this sales malaise – what was there really to say?

And then Ford goes ahead and sells…wait for it…wait…407 copies!

Now to be fair, the inflated result was because of a really, really long wait for the new 2017 edition, with a new, larger 33.5 kWh battery (up from 23 kWh) and a 115 mile range rating (up from 76), which saw customer order pile up for months…but we have to give Ford its due, and rightful place back on the recap list!

You got us Ford.  You got us.

Also new for 2017 is standard DC fast charging (CCS).  But best of all, the price actually dropped by $50 bucks too – now starting from $29,120.  Full details can be found here.

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

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79 Comments on "March 2017 Plug-In Electric Vehicle Sales Report Card"

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Looks like another record month!

George Bower


LOL. This all pales with insignificance.

In March 2017, pickup truck sales were 200,000.

You just can not change Americans behavior.


So build an electric pickup…
It seems pretty darn obvious it’s astonishing it is taking so long.

Bob Nan

Which 1 pales in insignificance. Pickup sales are growing at only 3 – 5 % while Plugin sales are growing at 30 – 40 % and that’s the highlight.

When Model-3 and Leaf Gen-2 comes, the sales will accelerate.

Ocean Railroader

It looks like Tesla is becoming the bulk of sales with their growth in electric car production.


It’s the usual month 3 of the quarter. They export earlier months so they can book them in the quarter, and then push quick US sales at the end.


They had a market share of 27.7% so far, which sounds bad, but they made up 29.7% last year, the year with the biggest Tesla market share and it seems that at least the Prime will continue to grow it’s sales.

And the whole market will have grown 40% yoy. So it isn’t just Tesla growing, but the rest of the market as well. Which is a pretty good sign!


I think you mean the Prime is supply, not demand, constrained.


You also left out the Focus electric! Reading about the Focus selling 100 units was always one of the highlights in these articles.

Jean-François Morissette

I understand that it could be painful each month to repeat info about cars selling 50 units a month. But there were now and then some interesting comments. I hope you will keep an “others” section when there are some useful info to know about one of the other models, like the upgraded Focus or inventory change that seem significant, etc.


Bolt seems to be in some kind of trouble vs. the common predictions (incl. mine) .
Many folks — and while GM didn’t issue forcasts, what they did say seemed consistent — were expecting it to sell ~30K (in the US) in 2017, possibly more.
GM & LG Capacities seemed sufficient for that, and given the entire package (which was known in detail long before sales start), performance envelope, range, pricing etc., that many sales seemed like a no-brainer.

30K/yr means 2.5/mo on average… To reach 30K, every month where GM sells 4000 . Starting to look uncertain…


The story is basically, that everyone bitched about GM being soooo supply constrained, that nobody had time to go out and buy one…

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

The story is all the stealerships are blasting commercials and having a blow out “Truck Month at [Insert stealership name here]”.

When’s the last time you saw a “Volt/Bolt Month”?

When’s the last time you saw GM advertising the Bolt front and center with the awards it won?


Last week at the nearby VA dealership, which had 8 of them, one upfront and one in the showroom. They also had an enthusiastic sales guy who did not BS us and was able to explain the car very well.


Why should a dealership have the awards the Volt won, wouldn’t they have them at the GM headquarters?

Just kidding, but please explain to me why the Prime is doing so much better, or even the Volt, which is never shown at any of those stealer-ships?

Of course the Bolt is only on sale in 50% of its potential market, but the Volt still sells more than twice, despite being just a PHEV and despite not having the hype the Bolt has.


Toyota already has thousands of people coming in interested in the Prius; the sticker price is comfortable; with the Fed credit it’s cheaper than the liftback.

It’s an easy conversion.

But liftback sales dropped from 8,103 to 5,798 so it looks like Prime sales are cannibalizing rather than conquering.


Volt has a lot more incentives, especially for leases.

Bolt also does not have adaptive cruise control available. Maybe for 2018.

Scott Franco

Agree here. Its hard to compare sales numbers for a car that is not even on sale everywhere to other cars that are.


Exactly, as soon as sales hit Wyoming and Montana, that’s when it will take off. The trend is not BOLT’s friend. In March, it was selling in more places than in Feb, yet the numbers did not improve.

Micke Larsson

30k was the total number, not the US. But they should be able to sell every vehicle they make, if the US don’t want it there is plenty of international demand.

South Korea wants a few thousand and Norway alone could probably sell 20-30k.



I agree, they seem so hesitated, why is the roll-out throughout the US so slowly? Shouldn’t be thousands of preordered been waiting?

In Europe the car was launched in Geneva, but got no attention due to the new Opel Insignia. The Press just did first drives, no tests, but is very positive. Also here first deliveries start in May for Norway, followed by FR, DE, NL, CH in June – July and the rest of EU? No promo is started yet to sign up or so


I am shocked and disappointed at the lackluster sales of the Bolt. I had confidently predicted, rather often in comments posted to InsideEVs, that there would be more demand for the Bolt than GM would make, at least during the first year of production. I was hoping last month’s drop in sales was an aberration, but with this month’s sales being even lower, it certainly looks like I was deluding myself. 😥

This appears to be a very sad indication of how far the EV revolution still has to go before PEVs are seen as fully competitive with gasmobiles.

Still, I will take comfort in the overall year-on-year sales growth of 40% for all PEVs in the North American market. The overall market is growing even if the market is, apparently, giving a very loud “NO!” to the Bolt EV.


Looks like GM was right all along! No one wants an affordable and long range battery electric vehicle. At this pace they will not even sell 12K before the end of the year..


Problem with Bolt are two: price and “Chevy”.

When Leaf is leasing for 1/5th the cost of Bolt and Cruze leasing for less than 1/2 the price, and most people drive under 50 miles per day, it’s hard to justify the high cost of Bolt. This is why I wish there’s smaller battery and cheaper version of Bolt (ie, $23K post subsidy).

Second is that it’s a Chevy, not Tesla (or BMW or Mercedes). A Chevy hatchback that cost as much as low end luxury car isn’t doing well. Tesla has novelty name factor going, not so for Chevy. This is a shame, since Chevy EV is actually the best bang for buck in the world (until later this year).

A lot of people talked about Bolt in Dec/Jan, but it seems they haven’t followed through in getting it. Hopefully summer months will bring more sales.


The european Press says that after substract Subsidy the net price will be just below 40k EUR = 44k USD! Which is 10k too high or they rather spend 10k more and buy a Model 3 or 330e.


It is still early and it is a great car. Like with the Volts and the Spark EV Chevy engineers have put a lot of effort under the hood, and there is a perceptible change in how dealers are selling it (yeah, still the oddball last drop of fuel). The key is to give it exposure, folks should really give it a try.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven

I’d say a third problem with the Bolt is its styling. If the Bolt had some of the styling cues of the Chevy Cruise hatchback model, it would appeal to a greater number of car buyers.

Chevy should start offering a hatchback version of the Volt that mirror’s the styling of the Cruise hatchback, even though it might cannibalize some Bolt sales.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven

I kind of like the Cruze Hatch. It is a lot less quirky than the Bolt and that sort of look would have been a good look for the Bolt, but Chevy had to go “Full Fit” on us…


I think Cruze hatch and Bolt look very similar, though Cruze looks big “sporty”, because it looks lower. Not sure if Bolt can swing that without sacrificing head room when there’s battery underneath.

Had they put it more sleek form and called it Cadillac, it could’ve done well. Or not, since Caddy is still associated with blue-haired old ladies’ car. GM really needs youth brand for luxury, like Toyota/Nissan did with Lexus/Infiniti.


Spark, I hear you but I still think the Bolt is built just a bit too high, especially in the rear end. It has 2/1″ more headroom in the back than the Volt and I think it would have been worth it to give up half that and give the roofline a “swoopier” look, much more like the Cruze rather than the boxy Bolt.

The Bolt has 1.9″ more headroom up front, so it could have been shaved down a bit too, without becoming too tight for taller drivers. The Bolt is just a boxy, utilitarian vehicle. The Fit pulls that look off with a certain panache, GM doesn’t have the skill to make the Bolt look sporty like Honda does. And that is a bitter thing for me to say because I am not a Honda fan.


sven said:

“I’d say a third problem with the Bolt is its styling. If the Bolt had some of the styling cues of the Chevy Cruise hatchback model, it would appeal to a greater number of car buyers.”

I’m sure the Bolt EV’s style is something many would-be buyers find offputting, but the “dorkmobile” styling hasn’t stopped the Prius from becoming an international best-seller.

I was confident that even with so many criticisms of the Bolt EV’s body style, it would still be able to generate more demand than the number of cars GM was willing to make in the first year of production.

Sadly, it seems I was wrong. This is very disappointing. 😥


The Prime vs Bolt comparisons you make seem to indicate that it is neither styling nor range that make the sales difference, but price. Prime is selling well, Bolt is lagging (though still doing ‘ok’).


Steve Majoros, Director Chevrolet Bolt Marketing, said they priced the Bolt according to what they believed the market would support. I expect Chevy to make price corrections by end year.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the Leaf 2.0 brings to the table and at what price. It’s possible the Leaf 2 will also provide pressure towards a Bolt price correction. Time will tell.


Latter half the year, there may be Tesla 3, Leaf 2, eGolf, new Ioniq (~200 miles range), who knows what else. By that time, Bolt will seem dated. Far better is to sell the Bolt now while there are people whose EV leases are up. They are extending their leases and other tricks itching for new EV, and GM could swoop them up with right price (at least lease price).

Keeping the price high now is going to make it tough to meet sales goals when lot more competition show up later in the year, especially with the brand name of “Chevy”.


I agree. GM has a golden opportunity to get people into a Bolt and they’re blowing it. It’s sad GM marked the Bolt up $5,800 more than the equivalent Bolt sold in Canada. Now they’re pocketing $5,000 of the $7,500 federal tax credit on Bolt leases. I’m not sure whether to cry or laugh at them calling the remain $2,500 “lease cash”. These tactics are clearly having a detrimental impact on sales. The Bolt seems like a great BEV, it’s a shame GM isn’t trying to sell as many as they can manufacture. As of Sun. 4/2 there was 2100 Bolts in stock on the west coast and only 300 on the north east coast. What’s their timeline, Oct. 2017 before it’s available nationwide?
Oh well, as you mentioned there should be several competitors available nationwide by end of year.


Is the Chrysler Pacifica QC hold specific to the PHEV version, because we do see the gasoline versions out there?

Big Solar

Does anyone else think Bolt sales are way low?


Yes, I think too, see my comment above. I am also surprised to hear nothing about preorders or reservations, which is good indicator too.


Yes, I’m surprised the Bolts sales are as low as they are. I had expected it to do significantly better than the Leaf did the first year it was on the market.

I was walking home yesterday from a Mini-Mart when I discovered that the Chevy dealership 3 blocks from my home as 5 Bolts on the lot! (I’m in Monroe, WA., & the dealer trucked them up from California.) It’s a nice looking little car, and if I wasn’t in the middle of buying a new home, I might have gotten compulsive and drove off with one of them.


Looks like we will end up around 17k for the month. Not too bad — but frankly I would have hoped we’d be steadily over 20k/month by this time. I guess not until the Model 3 and the new Leaf are released. Disappointed in the Bolt and Prime numbers.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven

The 118 Mirai sold in March is a whopping 188% increase over last year. Just sayin’ 😉

In case anyone was wondering, Honda sold 23 Clarity in March, bringing the 2017 YTD total up to 92.


“Oh, the humanity!”

Big Solar

Phenomenal!! I invented a toaster that runs on diesel fuel and so far I sold 7 this year! Keep the ingenuity comin folks!


I thought my burnt toast smelled like rolling coal. Now I know why I have to scrape the Diesel Soot off before slapping on the Parkay!


Sven ‘s point is worth thinking about. The Mirai is already selling more per month than half the plug-ins listed above.

This is quite an achievement given the limited number of hydrogen filling stations.

Scott Franco

My experience in Silicon Valley echos the Leaf numbers. I have seen a flood of brand new leafs (with the plates from the dealer). Beats me why people would rather buy into the past, but I think we assume buyers (especially here in the heart of Silicon Valley) are up on the technology, and I don’t think they are.

I have seen a few more Bolts, but it is nothing like a wave. Me, after doing a few long trips just to try out the Bolt, now I have fallen into a pattern of not charging more than about every 3 days. I don’t charge unless the range falls below 100 miles, and my commute is just not that challenging these days.


I don’t buy the “Bolt inventory is constrained” idea. There are 91 Bolts on lots around central Virginia, and only 41 Leafs.


Oops! Make that 94 Bolts.


Bro1999 can only buy so many Bolts. The rest need to drop by 10k to move.

Jean-François Morissette

Am I the only one who had hope that the C350e could be the beginning of something for Mercedes with 210 sales in January?

I’d rather see people buying Mercedes at least being exposed to electrification with a tiny battery throught short range PHEV than nothing…


For those interested, Total Tesla USA sales ending March 2017 = 121,486

This is based on the data from IEVs scorecard.

Bob Nan

So March-2017 also has already gained YoY with 12 more models yet to be reported. This is very impressive for March.

With both electric and plugin vehicle sales on the rise, its time CARB (California Air Resources Board) can remove the compliance rules. This will lead to the elimination of compliance cars like the electric version of 500, Smart, Focus, Soul, Golf, B250e, iMiev, etc. The combined sales of all these vehicles are not even 1,000 / month.

Bob Nan

Looks like 1,000 Bolts / month means only 12,000 / year for USA while the other 18,000 for the rest of the World.

So GM can make only 30,000 / year. I believe Tesla will be able to sell at least 10,000 Model-3 this year and then ramp it to 100,000 + in 2018. Let’s see whether GM can scale up.

I am some what confused by some of the comments about the Prime and Bolt sales. GM suggested they will sell about 30-50k globally. So that is about 15k-25k in the USA. It would not be crazy to see 8-9k sales in the last 3 months of the year. So you need about an average of 2k per month in the middle 6 months. That isn’t crazy considering they are just rolling out across the country now. I wouldn’t expect that to be a massive shift up in April but rather a 1300-1500 in April and then a couple 2500-3000 sales months in June, July, August and September mixed in with 1800-2200 per month. I agree with those saying that the bolt isn’t a run away success but it is not a disaster either. As for the Prime, this is simply supply constrained as more are built more will sell. Toyota are selling this globally which I guess means the first few months they are just going to be filling the pipeline. It’s great to see Tesla finding its grove and to see the volt and leaf keep going- in particular the volt growing. As much as I am disappointed… Read more »

BTW IMO if we can get well past 1 million global sales this year that would be fantastic which I think is very possible. Hopefully by 2021 we’ll all be laughing about how people in 2010 thought the EU target of 95 g/CO2/km was totally unobtainable.

Bob Nan

Your calcs are very reasonable and informative. Thank you very much.
My hope is 200,000 sales for the year.

Yes 18,000 + for March is a very big #.
For now, I am hoping for sales from Ioniq and in the last quarter from Model-3 & Leaf.

David S.

I’m looking forward to the sale numbers of the Pacifica PHEV and Ioniq EV next month.

***mod edit (statik)***
Thanks for the heads-up David, will do!
***mod edit***

David S.

Is the 2017 e-Golf (with 125 miles range) available at dealers now? Looks like it’s not there yet according to the Build and Price tool

Bob Nan

With both electric and plugin vehicle sales on the rise, its time CARB (California Air Resources Board) can remove the compliance rules. This will lead to the elimination of compliance cars like the electric version of 500, Smart, Focus, Soul, Golf, B250e, iMiev, etc. The combined sales of all these vehicles are not even 1,000 / month.

Bob Nan

Cadillac CT6 Plugin is already on sale, probably it entered in the last few days. April will be the first full month and lets see whether its able to sell at least few 100 units a month. With a much higher 31 mile range and a much lower 75K price tag, it should sell much higher than BMW 7 Plugin or Benz S Plugin.

In another related news, Lexus has stopped the LS600h Hybrid which had V8 engine and it was claimed to have V12 like power with the motor added and cost a whopping 120K price tag. Now they are planning to launch LS Hybrid in its place with a V6 engine. But they cannot even 75K because the Cadillac CT6 Plugin at 75K (31 mile electric range) should be much better than Lexus LS Hybrid at 75K. Ha ha ha, a Plugin slowly encroaching into the Hybrid territory. And neither can Lexus charge any lower than 72K because the LS range starts at that price tag.

Brave Lil Toaster

Well, there’s another nail in the coffin of the old saw that the thing that’s holding back EV adoption is purely range. The Bolt, selling for only somewhat more than the Leaf, is still behind the Leaf in sales after 3 full months of production.

I think Norway’s already got this one figured out: if you can buy a hatchback electric for the same price as a hatchback gasser, then you’re golden. It’s the sticker shock, stupid. X thousands of dollars more buys a lot of gas, and if you’re in the market for an economy car, that’s all anyone cares about.

The outlier is the Tesla, as always, but that’s because they’re competing for a completely different class of buyer in the first place. The Bolt and Leaf are competing with the Matrix and the Soul. That’s why the Soul EV’s sales numbers are crap: you do a direct comparison on the lot and immediately notice an $8000 difference on the price tag.

If they were still selling the 24 kwh Leaf, but for $5000 less than last year, there’d be no contest. Nissan wouldn’t be able to sell a single Versa.

Which might explain a few things.