May 2015 EV Sales Up 27%: The “Big Boys” Re-Take The Playground


Tesla Was Selling 'Em As Fast As They Could Make 'Em In May

Tesla Was Selling ‘Em As Fast As They Could Make ‘Em In May

Despite George Clooney's Best Efforts, Consumers Still Remembered The First Gen Chevrolet Volt In May

Despite George Clooney’s Best Efforts, Consumers Still Remembered The First Gen Chevrolet Volt In May

Before US plug-in sales surged ahead in May, the story had been of minor brands and models stepping out of the shadows to make the headlines.

But during May, the “big boys” in the plug-in business all reclaimed their sales turf (and former glory) during the month.

For the month, an estimated 11,540 plug-ins were sold, an improvement of 27% from April, but still slightly down (7%) from a year ago when Toyota blew out almost all the Prius PHVs they had in inventory (2,692) with a clearance and price cut.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Tesla Model S continued to be the top selling EV in North America, with an estimated 2,400 sales during May.

However, the resurgence of the Chevrolet Volt (despite the next generation 2016 Volt arriving in September) to over 1,600 units sold was not expected by anyone – especially considering the Volt had only managed to sell 905 in April.  Same goes for the Nissan LEAF in May, as the 84 mile EV crested the 2,000 unit mark for the first time in 2015.

Ford also reached a new high with nearly 1,900 plug-ins sold between the Fusion Energi, C-Max Energi and Focus Electric.

Heading into June, Toyota has announced that the 1st gen Prius PHV production will be halted, but before that happens the company is actually shipping a little more depth of inventory in the US for the first time in nearly a year – a fact that translated into a new 2015 high as well with 787 plug-ins sold.

2015 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 – *Estimated Tesla NA Sales Numbers – Reconciled on Quarterly Totals, ** Fiat Does Not Report Sales Directly, Estimate Based on State/Rebate Data

Some Other Point Of Interest From May:

Top Manufacturers Of Plug-In Vehicles:

  1. Tesla Motors – 2,400*
  2. Nissan – 2,104
  3. GM – 2,017
  4. Ford – 1,866
  5. Fiat 717
  6. BMW – 935

Pure Electric Car Market Share vs PHEV In May*

  1. BEV – 6,803 – 59%
  2. PHEV – 4,737 – 41%

New 2015 Highs Set In May By Model (previous 2015 high in brackets) **-Record High

  • Nissan LEAF – 2,104 (1,817)
  • Chevrolet Volt – 1,618 (905)
  • Ford Fusion Energi – 986 (837)
  • Toyota Prius PHV – 727 (473)
  • Ford C-Max Energi – 715 (715-tie)
  • Volkswagen e-Golf – 410** (309)
  • Mercedes B-Class ED – 278 (240)
  • Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid – 105** (88)
  • Kia Soul EV – 108 (73)
  • Misubishi i-MiEV 18 (16)

Looking Ahead:  We expect year-over-year sales to be mostly flat through August of this year thanks to an out of production Toyota Prius PHV, idled Chevrolet Volt and reportedly soon to be upgraded, longer range 2016 Nissan LEAF. However, by late September we expect the industry to show gains of 20-30%  almost indefinitely.

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


Category: BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Kia, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Sales, Smart, Tesla, Toyota, VW

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42 responses to "May 2015 EV Sales Up 27%: The “Big Boys” Re-Take The Playground"
  1. ffbj says:

    Musk: I would like to introduce the Model S.
    Reporter: What makes the Model S car go?
    Musk: Garlic Butter.

    1. Speculawyer says:


    2. Peter says:

      Funny and do not forget that it is free charging at the SuperChargers 🙂
      My sencond model S is on it’s way to Sweden now.
      Two model S on our driveway soon so happy.

  2. Assaf says:

    Hi editors,

    I know you like the positive angle, but still it is customary at least to report the year-over-year situation. Even when it’s not that rosy.

    The plug-in segment has proven very resilient to bad press – otherwise, EVs would have shriveled and died a couple of years ago already. So one not-positive headline from won’t kill it 🙂

    Meanwhile, you have a journalistic reputation to uphold. You’re doing a great job, just don’t be afraid to tell it like it is. May is down 6.7% over May 2014, and YTD we are almost precisely flat.

    It is what it is, we’ll survive the news. Please don’t lose credibility trying to protect the segment.

    Thanks, Assaf

    1. Mikael says:


      1. Jay Cole says:

        I’ll add in a little note, just to protect our journalistic integrity (although we did cover the “flatness” of the segment in the story), (=

        “For the month, an estimated 11,540 plug-ins were sold, an improvement of 27% from April, but still slightly down (7%) from a year ago when Toyota blew out almost all the Prius PHVs they had in inventory (2,692) with a clearance and price cut.”

        For the record, I think this month was probably the strongest/deepest showing for the industry to date (especially considering all the headwinds)…other than the 12,363 that were sold in June of 2014.

        We didn’t want to make the headline a negative one on year-over-year data, but rather stress the month-over-month improvement, because the “down” metric was caused by a singular outlier (Prius PHV) under an extraordinary circumstance, of which Toyota made a conscious effort to not supply this year.

        Ex-Prius PHV, the segment was up 1,100 units (5k+ for the year) even with the ex-sales champs (Volt/LEAF) getting long in the tooth and heading for significant upgrades in the Fall.

        If the next gen 2016 Volt, LEAF, Prius PHV were available this month instead of the trio of lame-ducks, this market would have likely easily sustained a 15-16k sales level.

        1. Londo Bell says:

          Care to share your thoughts on reduction/elimniation of incentives in various states and their impacts on EV sales (or roll out delays)?

          I dont’t see anything being mentioned in this and the scorecard post, so I take that the incentives aren’t significant at all?

          1. Jay Cole says:

            The incentives that are expiring really aren’t significant, outside of the impact of Georgia on the Nissan LEAF…which has already seen volumes drop big time in 2015. The other states that are dropping/changing incentives are pretty much a wash with the 2-3 that are coming online.

            The truth of the matter is that the Federal incentive is the main driver, and that is followed by the demand that is seen in California.

            Past that, with a full third of the market today being made up of average MSRPs north of $50,000, these are at price-point where the existence of a regional incentive is likely to have no deciding factor in whether those EV purchases are made or not.

            If all the incentives, ex-federal and CA CVRP went away, we likely would see at most 500 less sales…which is basically equal to Toyota’s US manager’s decision to stock (or not stock) the Prius PHV. Basically, the whole thing (a loss of incentives) could be counter-acted (or exasperated) by the whim of one OEM.

            The main driver’s to the next generation of the market (and by that I mean September 2015 to June 2017) is Chevy’s marketing drive behind the next gen Volt, the introduction and pricing (inside a lease) of the 30 kWh LEAF in SV/SL trims in October and Tesla’s ability to roll-out and sell the Model X…with maybe a little touch of “how much commitment will VW/Audi” really show.

            Really, all the numbers have been/are fairly set in stone over this 28 month period. Not that we would, but we could really write all the headline numbers from August of 2014 though the end of 2016 ahead of time and probably nail 95% of them.

            From August 2014 to August 2015, the comps are really tough given the plug-in product that was available (and highly thought of) a year prior and the generational switch over of 3 of the top 4 sellers this year.

            But from September 2015 until at least December of 2016 we have inspired new products and 2nd generation products at lower prices up against lackluster comps.

            1. Londo Bell says:

              Agree to disagree there. IL, eg. had a $4000 incentives. That’s a lot of $$$ too. So, if everything kind of washes out with new states incentives here and there, like you said, resulting in minimal net loss (then add on new models), we actually should not see any increase at all, because sales of current models will either dip for a while (pend up demand for the new models in this case), or rise due to incentives to clear out inventory (lower demand for new models).

              A few other important things I believe that one needs to evaluate since there’s no crystal ball (well, I have one)…

              1. IMHO, incentives are not just $, but also a mental push for one to get electric vehicles. Without them, budget priced model* will have to complete with regular ICE vehicles, which the latter may actually have better factory incentives for sale. That’s why I believe incentives are important – that mental push.

              2. What are the geo-culture on EV like in the States that will have incentives? Are the infrastructures there more than adequate for EV sales?

              Just my 2¢.

              1. Jay Cole says:

                It is all good my friend, (=

                …just nice to talk it out

        2. Assaf says:

          +1 Jay. I appreciate you responding.

          The PiP outlier is a valid point, but it is outliers like that one which have saved 2015 from being down year-over-year nearly every month. Which you do say in the story.

          Personally right now I’m disappointed with Kia. They are not a chump-change player in the US market anymore – 62k units last month, including 14k Souls – and barely 100 Soul EV, not even separated out in their report. They have squandered nearly all the one-year lead time they had on a 100-mile Leaf, and they don’t seem in a hurry to make up for it.

          1. jelloslug says:

            Kia flatly said that they will only build a maximum of 5000 Soul EVs a year (for the entire world) and they will not have any problem selling them where they want to.

    2. Nix says:

      Assaf — Personally, I thought they pretty much covered that HERE:

      “For the month, an estimated 11,540 plug-ins were sold, an improvement of 27% from April, but still slightly down (7%) from a year ago when Toyota blew out almost all the Prius PHVs they had in inventory (2,692) with a clearance and price cut.”

      And HERE:

      “Looking Ahead: We expect year-over-year sales to be mostly flat through August of this year thanks to an out of production Toyota Prius PHV, idled Chevrolet Volt and reportedly soon to be upgraded, longer range 2016 Nissan LEAF. However, by late September we expect the industry to show gains of 20-30% almost indefinitely.”

      But I can’t tell if those were edits added after your comment, or if they were there when you commented…..

      1. Nix says:

        Ah, I see now the post from Jay. Timing issues with posting.

        Mods, please feel free to delete my posts.

        1. Jay Cole says:

          The 2nd quote was always there, we just added in the extra note about the Prius PHV above to make everyone happy!

    3. Stephen says:

      It all depends on your outlook.
      A 3 month moving average gives 10,325 vs 9,943 for May 2014 and a 1yr moving average gives 10,034 vs 8,821 for May 2014. Both climbing trend lines.

      1. James says:

        No worries – Isis, the Taliban and Iran will work together to muss up everything good enough – now with the Saudis flying several fighter plane sorties per day, and Isis eyeing their oil riches , surely oil prices will rise, and O.P.E.C.’s claims of no price increases for ten years will be a thing of the past.

        Not a bad showing, eh? With Volt, long-in-the-tooth and it’s predecessor being advertised five months before anyone can buy one at a dealership, and LEAF beginning to look a bit dated with it’s 80 mile range… RAV4 EV is gone, FitEV, gone, SparkEV, almost gone…

        These figures are nothing short of a big deal, don’t you think?

  3. sven says:

    2014 January to May cumulative sales: 43,937

    2015 January to May cumulative sales: 43,928

    1. Bonaire says:

      Flat like pancake. Paging Fox news to the white courtesy phone.

      Actually, without the Prius Plug in and Leaf and Volt holding sales up, this wasn’t unexpected. September may help – but I really think we are nearly flat for the year. And I’ve mentioned that almost every month since January when results were coming out.

      1. Bonaire says:

        The september boost seems a bit of a look ahead but the couple things to take into account.

        GA, WA and LA incentives going away or gone. IL rebate gone. Green stickers gone. Model X starting up will help a bit. Volt may be slow out of the gate except with expectant upgraders but some have gone over to Tesla. Leaf was hot in GA and CA and may still be hot in CA.

        I don’t really share the exuberance of Jay with the September growth curve explosion. Although, my insurance agent just said he test-drove a Tesla P85D and said it was way too much car for his needs. He may look at others. But they really need to limit trying to get people interested in the P and look more at pedstrian versions which are not only less expensive but who won’t cause vertigo.

        1. Nix says:

          I think that now that the 70D is now a much more viable car than the 60 ever was, more folks will definitely be interested in Tesla’s base model. It will be interesting how that actually plays out in the actual sales numbers between now and when the X sales begin.

      2. Dave86 says:

        Frankly, I’m surprised that plug-in sales are as good as they are right now. With Gen 2 product a few months to a few years away, one might expect plug-in buyers to be sitting tight and waiting for the new stuff.

        New product that we know of:

        2015 –
        Chevy Volt Gen. 2
        Tesla Model X

        2016 –
        30KWH Nissan Leaf

        2017 –
        Chevy Bolt 200 mile EV

        2017 could be a really good year, especially if either the Gen 2 Nissan Leaf or Tesla Model 3 are also released that year.

        1. See Through says:

          You are forgetting the bargain hunters. If Chevy places a bundle of cash on Gen 1 Volt today, I will take that over any Gen 2 Volt.
          Cheap lease deals are what move these cars. Just look at what happened to Chevy Spark EV sales in April. Now, no lease deals, no sales in May.

          I also think, there was a pull-forward effect from expiring incentives in some states. July/Aug will become very interesting. I think, even maintaining 2014 sales levels will be pretty good.

          1. Bonaire says:

            There are thousands of off-lease Volts and other brands going out as used as well. They are quite inexpensive as well and can attract away from new vehicles. The used-lease phase can be a hit on any brand if the used models are priced well. Pay $15,000 now or $290/mo for three years for a lease @ $10,400. You own the car after three years rather than turning it in. I think if we are trying to get into sustainability, keeping a car for a longer period should be the goal.

  4. Nix says:

    I’m trying to think off the top of my head what completely new EV’s or PHEV’s are supposed to start showing up on dealership lots in significant numbers between now and the end of the year, and I’m coming up blank.

    There are model updates, but I can’t think of any completely new EV’s or PHEV’s. Is my memory completely failing, or are we really entering into a pretty dead time-period for new stuff?

    1. evnow says:


      Though Model X will be out – but won’t be on any dealer lots.

      1. Londo Bell says:

        2016 Wheego?

        The new Coda?

        The new Karma?


        1. Just_Chris says:

          The Wheego looks neat,

          I think these little guys are necessary to keep the industry honest. If they can make a car for $20k and up the power a little bit to get it to freeway capable level then that would be a great addition.

          I’d love to see a 2016 freeway capable Wheego in the monthly sales chart.

      2. Bonaire says:

        With states opening up non-dealership car selling, you should be seeing BYD models out there any year now with new models. If heavy-investor Warren Buffet has his way, perhaps even selling at Walmart stores in a revamped sales/service department (they just have service now).

    2. Lensman says:

      Sadly, it looks like 2015 is gonna be a letdown for us EV enthusiasts, at least until September. But for those of us looking ahead, that has been expected. The year-on-year percentage growth in sales has been dropping steeply over the past 2 or 3 years. (Note it’s just the rate of growth in sales which has dropped, not an actual drop in annual sales.)

      Unfortunately, I think we’ll be mainly marking time until 2017 and the nominally “200 mile” EVs go on sale. Not to denigrate the Volt 2.0 or the improved-range Leaf, but I see those more as interim measures along the road to a real resurgence in growth of PEV sales.

      1. Not so much of a let down if the growing “used EV market” sales could be easily reported.

        Both the LEAF and Model S are starting to reach notable volumes in used market as prior owner upgraded, or transitioned to a new EV lease.

      2. Bonaire says:

        I did a presentation in August of 2014 at a local group here in my area regarding EV sales. In August, I estimated 2014 US sales at 125,000 – InsideEVs posted an end of year tally of 123,049. That being said, I had a similar “guess” for growth of 2015 at 30% at the time, thinking 162,000 total, and then in January of this year, revised it down to 5% growth as my own personal new-car plug-in market growth YoY. I guess now, I am shooting for 132,000 total plug-in sales.

        Even with something like 20-30% growth annually, the plug-in market in the US would only hit 341,000 using my August 2014 guesstimates. Now, if 2015 is generally flat, it is hard to estimate 2016 and beyond unless we know more about the oil price future. It is clear that we just saw CUV and SUV sales increase during 2015 and that “people just don’t seem to care” happening out there. I do consider apathy as one of the biggest hurdles of the EV and PiHV industry.

  5. Just_Chris says:

    I think that it is an interesting point in EV history. In the early days, Nissan/Renault came in, GM was pushed in, Tesla started as a tiny company, the i-miev happened and there were lots of Coda, Friska, Blade, EVee, bollar bule car, etc all starting up.

    Some failed but importantly some didn’t, Leaf sales make up 5% of Nissan America’s sales, Tesla took 10%-ish of the luxury car market and the outland PHEV went nuts to name but a few. I think this has shown that there is a market for these cars and let policy makers know that they are possible today.

    IMO this year is all about transition from exciting new stuff to boring stuff that grows painfully slowly. How long will the insideev’s list be in 12 -18 months time? how many of the cars in the list will have batteries under 10 kWh? plenty, from there I assume it becomes a ridiculously long p***ing contest where batteries get bigger every model cycle until eventually we have virtually every brand offering a PHEV or BEV for a reasonable price. Just as happened with Diesel and normal hybrid cars.

  6. Lensman says:

    Article says:

    “Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Tesla Model S continued to be the top selling EV in North America, with an estimated 2,400 sales during May.”

    Hmmm, I’d say it’s quite a surprise that in a month in which the former top-selling models, the Volt and the Leaf, experienced a resurgence in sales (I presume due to attractive incentives from auto makers and dealers), a car priced two to three time the former top sellers continues to be #1!


    1. przemo_li says:

      Or better deals are not purcheasable due to low stocks 😉

  7. GRA says:

    I think we can expect June will be good, followed by a big drop for July and August as GA’s ending of incentives plays out. I’d really like to see a state-by-state sales breakdown, or at least one for GA, pre- and post-incentive.

    Volt sales could go either way, depending on how much Chevy discounts the 2015s, and whether or not the CA. legislature adds more green HOV stickers so that the 2016s get a boost.

  8. przemo_li says:

    Is Ford doing anything special in USA?

    Are they increasing production? Shifting sales to USA? Just ramping up sales to match production rates.

    I think answers to that questions should influnece USA EV sales this year quite a bit.

    Ford is making up sales for others declining sales.

    It would be good thing if Ford atracted new customers.

    1. Goaterguy says:

      Ford is currently focusing on performance vehicles like the GT, GT-350, Focus RS and the new Raptor. Just a different approach to increase sales but away from electric cars.

  9. przemo_li says:

    Can we please have overall cars sales numbers?

    No point in expecting masive rise in market that shrink and vice versa.

  10. CBonville says:

    How is it that the Looking Ahead paragraph at the end does not include Tesla Model X? 😉

    1. Bonaire says:

      They initially promised MX end of 2013. So, will it really appear? I have to think it will but even Tesla said that the initial phase would be something like 5,000 during 2015. Unless they dial-up the output and Model S continues the same pace as today, the Model X may not actually be a big catalyst in 2015. For example, someone ordered a Model S last week and still got an end of June delivery estimate. The amount of sales Model X makes could basically “make up” for a dip in Model S sales – thus negating the catalyst for overall market growth.