Will March U.S. EV sales pull us out of the slump and set new records?

March marks the 42nd month of consecutive year-over-year monthly sales gains for plug-in vehicles.

Each month InsideEVs tracks all plug-in EV sales/deliveries for the United States by automaker. While January showed notable year-over-year growth, deliveries were down from previous months as expected. February U.S. electric car sales barely topped last year's deliveries, as well as that of January 2019. The saga continued this March.

More Info: Updated deep dive into our estimates and methodology

It's been an interesting year for sure, since the top-selling electric car in the U.S. (Tesla Model 3) has made its way overseas. In addition, Tesla just launched the $35,000 base Model 3 on our shores. So, as the year moves on, we'll continue researching and evaluating the situation to further improve and streamline our sales reporting processes. Hopefully, as this first quarter comes to a close, we'll have a more solid grasp moving forward. Please continue to bear with us as we work hard to sort it all out.

Top Months for U.S. EV Sales to Date (estimated):

  1. December 2018 – 49,900
  2. September 2018 – 44,544
  3. November 2018 – 42,588
  4. August 2018 – 36,347
  5. October 2018 – 34,074

An estimated 361,307 plug-in electric vehicles were delivered in the U.S. in 2018. Of course, we expect that number to rise in 2019. However, as stated above, the first several months of 2019 (like that of 2018) have left us a bit uneasy.

In January, almost all newly-produced Model 3 sedans were in transit to Europe and China. That continued to be the case in February, but we've been able to report that those cars are arriving regularly overseas and deliveries are accelerating nicely. Based on the information we've received regarding overseas Model 3 deliveries, Tesla looks to be in pretty outstanding shape. The big question is, how many cars was the automaker able to deliver in the United States? Not to mention information about deliveries in China has proven difficult to come by.

Tesla published its Q1 production and delivery report. Based on the information, our initial U.S. Model 3 delivery estimate was on track. Tesla shared that it delivered 50,900 Model 3 vehicles globally this quarter.

According to our research, Tesla delivered 22,425 Model 3 sedans in the U.S. for the quarter as a whole, and 10,175 this March.

The most significant piece of information in Tesla's report -- at least as far as we're concerned with regard to U.S. sales -- is that demand for the Model 3 on our shores is not the issue. In fact, Tesla just simply can't deliver enough Model 3s to meet the demand. Keep in mind that this is prior to delivering the $35,000 Standard Range Model 3.

Model S and Model X sales were down significantly for the quarter. So much so that we had to adjust our estimates down. Tesla reported delivering only 12,100 of its flagship vehicles globally over the last three months. It's clear that the focus has been largely centered on the Model 3, in addition to the fact that the Tesla's small sedan is taking sales away from its Model S and X.

Based on Tesla's report and our research, we put March U.S. deliveries at 2,275 for the Model S and 2,175 for the Model X.

Tesla ended up with a large number of vehicles in transit at the end of the quarter (10,600), most of which are likely headed to China. This was a sticking point for us as we prepared our estimates. We had to play a bit of a guessing game, and we assumed these cars had already been delivered. We don't officially track global deliveries, though we have to be on top of it to get U.S. sales estimates. Our global ballpark figure came in at 70-75k, with no real indication of deliveries in China. Tesla reported 63k global deliveries + 10K in transit, so we feel confident that our tracking was on point, however, we had no way of knowing for sure if those in-transit vehicles made their way into buyers' driveways.

GM has discontinued monthly sales reporting, so we offer you estimates each month and then reconcile (as necessary) at the end of each quarter. The numbers are now in, and we learn that GM delivered 4,316 Bolt EVs and 2,520 Volts in the U.S. for Q1 2019.

Our estimates put March sales at 2,166 for the Bolt EV and 1,230 for the discontinued Volt.

Nissan LEAF sales for the month of January were down from prior months, but way up year-over-year. However, moving into February, sales were down even more. We hoped that March deliveries would rise, however, with LEAF Plus deliveries ramping up soon, we assumed we might have to wait another month or so.

For the month of March, Nissan reports a grand total of 1,314 LEAFs delivered in the U.S. This is way up from last month, but down about 12 percent year-over-year.

The Toyota Prius Prime has made impressive waves in the PHEV segment in terms of overall U.S. EV sales. Still, numbers appear to be down in comparison to last year. Sadly, Toyota has stopped reporting its Prime sales separately. So, it joins the growing list of automakers that don't report splits. All we know for sure is Toyota delivered 5,410 Prius vehicles in March, which is down over 30 percent from last year.

Based on our estimates, Toyota sold 1,820 Prime plug-ins in the U.S. in March 2019.

The Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid kicked things up in 2018. It was the best-selling plug-in hybrid vehicle on our shores in October and December, thus giving the Toyota Prius Prime some real competition. In January 2019, the Clarity continued to prevail. Moving forward to February, results proved even more promising. This March, Honda reports a total of 1,416 Clarity vehicles delivered in the U.S.

Breaking down Clarity sales by powertrain puts our estimate at 1,311 Clarity Plug-In Hybrids delivered on our shores this March.

Keep yourself locked in and regularly refreshing the pages during the today and tomorrow as we put the numbers to the dialogue.

Questions entering March (with answers in italics as they come in):

  1. Will overseas deliveries affect Tesla Model 3 U.S. deliveries even though it's the last month of the quarter? (Yes. Tesla was unable to deliver enough Model 3s in the U.S. to meet demand.)
  2. How is the U.S. federal EV tax credit sunset situation impacting Model S and Model X sales? (Model S and X sales are very low for the quarter. While the tax credit is surely a factor, the Model 3 is clearly playing a role in many ways.)
  3. Will the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid continue to top the Toyota Prius Prime as the U.S. PHEV sales leader? (Not likely. While we don't know for sure due to Toyota not providing Prius splits, its pretty safe to say that the automaker sold more Prius Prime's in March than Honda sold Clarity PHEVs. Based on our estimates, this gives the Prime a healthy ~400-unit edge for the quarter as a whole.)
  4. With the Chevrolet Volt officially discontinued, and the tax credit diminishing now, how many was GM able to sell in Q1? (Sales are down as expected.)
  5. GM increased Chevrolet Bolt EV production to increase inventory. Has it helped overall sales this quarter? (Quarterly sales are down, though March sales are up.)
  6. What's the status of the 2019 Nissan LEAF Plus (e-plus) and how will it impact Nissan LEAF U.S. deliveries? (We still don't have any official information about LEAF Plus deliveries, but they're definitely in stock at dealers in small numbers. LEAF sales overall are up nicely for March, though not quite where they were a year ago.)
  7. Has Jaguar been able to successfully dial up U.S. I-Pace sales? (Based on our estimates, it doesn't seem so. Inventory remains low.)

Also of note this March:

  • Toyota sold 176 Mirai fuel-cell vehicles in the U.S. in March 2019.
  • Honda sold an estimated 13 Clarity FCEVs last month.

Last update: April 4, 2019 @ 7:50 AM ET

*Keep in mind that we use the words sales and deliveries synonymously. In order for a car to count as SOLD, it has to be paid in full (or leased) and be in the possession of the consumer. To further clarify, pre-orders, pre-sales, deposits, reservations, etc. don't count as sold or delivered.

*On year-over-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 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).

***InsideEVs' journalist Wade Malone provided in-depth, detailed, and heavily researched sales estimations and related analysis.

(Previous year’s monthly results can be found on our Historical Charts page)

UPDATE: Beginning in 2019, we're archiving our model recaps page and will no longer update it. We've found that much of the information no longer applies going forward, and very few people seem to be visiting the page. Additionally, the most pertinent information about top-selling models is always present in our monthly report card. We've also moved to publishing several sales reports each month with information pertaining to multiple models in the U.S., as well as abroad.

To view our Archived Individual Plug-In Model Sales Recap For Major Models, click here. It contains an individual run-down of each vehicle’s monthly result and some analysis behind the numbers.


Above - 2019 Monthly Sales Chart For The Major Plug-In Automakers – *Estimated Sales Numbers – Reconciled on Monthly or Quarterly Totals. BEV models are designated with the battery icon.

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