Op-Ed: 2016 Plug In Sales Predictions for US


It is that time of year again…

Now that CES and NAIAS have teased us on the near and far future of (self driving, self charging, don’t need us anymore) EVs, it is time to get down to brass tacks.  How many actual plug-ins will leave United States lots in 2016?

2015 was not the rising tide that most of us had hoped (planned) for.  And just to make sure we all keep full accountability here, I am starting this off with a list of my terribly delusional slightly off predictions. Check out your own predictions in the comments from last year’s post here.

Some highlights/lowlights from 2015 predictions:

The Ford Energis (and Focus EV) Performed As Expected

The Ford Energis (and Focus EV) Performed As Expected

The Good

  • Ford Energis (14k predicted – 17.5k actual) – Totally bucked my trend of gas prices and proved Ford right on their mixed model strategy.  C-Max fared even better if you compare it to the regular hybrid, people really did turn to this more often as a plug-in.
  • Tesla Model S (26k predicted – 25.2k actual) – Definitely the best pick of the pack, as most people doubted there wouldn’t be enough demand for Model S to battle for the top sales spot with a $100k average selling price.
  • BMW i3 – (10k predicted vs. 11k actual) – BMW deserves a serious round of applause beating my predictions on sales, unlike virtually every other.
  • BMW i8 – (2k predicted vs. 2.2k actual) – The i8 beat out my bold sales predictions for 2015.  This is truly a standout halo product for BMW, a $150k supercar styled, eco-friendly, performance machine. It holds a niche of its own.  This is where Fisker wanted to be.  BMW just has better engineers and deeper pockets
These Two Guys Singly-Handedly Took A Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound To 2015 EV Sales In The US

These Two Guys Singly-Handedly Took A Self-Inflicted Gunshot Wound To 2015 EV Sales In The US

The Bad

  • Nissan LEAF (32k predicted – 17k actual) – Gas prices did matter, and Georgia tax credit mattered even more.
  • Chevrolet Volt (30k predicted – 15k actual) – 2016 Volt really didn’t actually happen.  Instead of nationwide availability in September (my expectation), we have nationwide availability in Spring 2016.  So much for a 5k single month sales record.
  • Tesla Model X – (6k predicted vs. 214 actual) – Tesla was estimating some ambitious numbers this time last year, we believed them.  Mistake.
  • Toyota Prius Plug-In – (10k predicted vs. 4k actual) –  Wow, I just didn’t see this coming.  Toyota could have sold 20k of these if they cared tried.  Instead cutting off production in June, and didn’t over build inventory.  I guess all those Mirai credits will fill the gap?

Total Market – 150k predicted vs. 116.5k actual – D grade

What can I say?  I predicted a very mild up year and we got our first down year.  Totally blown.  Gas prices may have provided a sag, but the 2016 Chevrolet Volt not going nationwide, Nissan taking the legs out under themselves by being too slow out with the 2016 edition LEAF and the Toyota Prius Plug-In suddenly being unavailable for half of 2015 doomed any forward momentum in the US.  The rest of the field, ex these three models achieve the gains I had expected.  We won’t have two of these years in a row.

Time To Look Into The Future

Time To Look Into The Future

Prediction Time

2017 Chevrolet Volt Interior

2017 Chevrolet Volt Interior

Now that I have fully licked the wounds from last year,it is  time to forget the past and brave boldly into the future.  I am selectively changing the format this year.  The focus will be on plug ins that consistently hold the top spots on the sales chart, and sprinkling in a few other “hot names”.  With the sheer number of models being released, I would have to be putting together a “McKinsey report” and charging you for it, to be fully inclusive.

Just to quickly give the background on how I do this.  Despite the name of this site, I have no inside knowledge from OEM executives, tier 1 suppliers, or big dealerships conglomerates.  I base these predictions on three things: articles I read on this site, my EV fanboyism, and my engineering pessimism.

I dare you to do better.  And please do in the comments.

*Disclosure – Since this piece is talking about future sales of EVs including Tesla, I will let everyone know that I do own a small amount of TSLA shares.  This in no way effects my opinion of Tesla or the other automakers.  The stock was more of “support for the cause” purchase.  Additionally, this is not a financial site and nobody should be using anything I write to guide investment decisions.

Sales predictions for the heavy hitters:

Tesla Model S Holding Its Own In 2016

Tesla Model S Holding Its Own In 2016

Tesla Model S – 25k

If Tesla is going to hit the bottom end of their 80k – 90k in worldwide sales, they will probably need another 25k of US Model S sales to get there.

Nissan LEAF – 18k

The 2016 LEAF got an very important battery upgrade to differentiate it form the rest of the “100 mile” EVs.  But unfortunately, the promise of the “affordable” 200 mile EVs is just around the corner.  Enough of the EV crowd looking for a 2nd gen will hold off, but sales should improve over last year.

Chevrolet Volt – 20k

Finally 2016 will bring full availability of Volt 2.0, as a 2017 model.  The Volt should be a solid sales success.  My expectations are slightly lowered now that Volt 2.0 will be so closely followed by Bolt, and that national inventory likely won’t arrive until ~April.  Some current EV owners that are looking for the latest, greatest may just wait the extra 6 months or so for the other next-gen platform.

Ford Energi(s) Fusion/C-Max – 15k

I am lumping Fusion and C-max together this year.  Ford has been masterful at maintaining inventories and moving plug-ins off the lots with their flexible manufacturing scheme.  Despite the lone setback of reduced cargo space, the Energi versions have proven to be a good value for many on sales lots.  Even with more options from foreign automakers coming this year, I think Ford will keep up their pace.

There May Be Less BMW i3 Sales This Year In The US

There May Be Less BMW i3 Sales This Year In The US

BMW i3 – 7k

i3 has been a very successful start to BMWs plug-in future, but this year has all the making of a down year for US sales.

Fiat 500e – 5k

It may be a compliance car that Sergio “doesn’t want to sell”, but people really love this car.  It would be a 5 figure seller if it was sold nationwide.

Volkswagen eGolf – 10k

VW is really going to have to push something other than TDI for fuel efficiency in the US.  eGolf  should pick up some of that slack.

PiP (DOA) – 66

Yeah you read that right.  There wasn’t a digit (or three) missing.  Toyota has no more to sell, and the production line is closed.  Best of luck if you want to buy a PiP before 2017.

Sales predictions for the hot/new names:

Tesla Model X To Make An Impression In US In 2016

Tesla Model X To Make An Impression In US In 2016

Model X – 15k

I feel a little sheepish on this one after missing X sales by 2800% last year.  But at some point Tesla will figure out how to build more than just a few of these.

And it will happen this year.  And they have already pre-sold a ton of them.  And most people (that can afford one) have never seen it, touched it, or driven it.

The only way 80k – 90k worldwide total Tesla sales occurs is if many Falcon wings fly their way into driveways.

BMW i8 – 2k

This car is a flat out runaway hit for its style and price range, 2 door super/future car for $150k.  Don’t look for it to let up this year.

The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron - Priced Closed To The Base Edition After Incentives In US

The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron – Priced Closed To The Base Edition After Incentives In US

Audi A3 eton – 5k

This might be the most interesting new “full year” offering for 2016.  I feel like we are at the same point as B Class ED last year.  Is Audi serious?  The pricing makes me think so.  It isn’t full BEV, so should have wide availably and less of the infrastructure worries.  Plus Dieselgate.

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV – 1k

Don’t read this prediction as any knock on the prowess of the vehicle.  This has everything to do with Mitsubishi and who they are in the US.  It just isn’t the same brand it was 20 years ago, and they know it.  We are at the bottom of their totem pole.  They will ship what they have left over here, to test the water, but how many will that be?  Maybe 2017 will show some real volume for this awesome vehicle.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Debuts In Detroit(InsideEVs/Tom Moloughney)

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Debuts In Detroit(InsideEVs/Tom Moloughney)

Chrysler Pacifica PHEV (details here)- 1k?

I really don’t have a feeling for when or at what level Fiatsler will kick this into production.  But it is an incredibly interesting product.

While it might not be the plug in SUV people have been screaming on deaf ears for, it is by far the largest, most useful plug in package to hit the market.  If Pacifica PHEV finds demand that exceeds production, maybe competitors will take this space more seriously.

Chevrolet Bolt EV – 326

Why so exact? Well since I have no idea when or at what level GM will get production rolling on this all new vehicle, I just took the 2010 sales of the Volt.  Seems close enough to me.  All of the 30k vs. 50k talk will have to wait for 2017.

Chevrolet Bolt EV - Likely Only To Make A Big Impression In 2017

Chevrolet Bolt EV – Likely Only To Make A Big Impression In 2017

Total Sales 140k

The macro auto market isn’t kicking off 2016 is grand fashion and gas prices have taken some shoppers completely away from the plug-in market.  So very mild growth is my safe route this year.

The releases this year is nationwide availably of Volt 2.0, and we only get that for 2/3rds of the sales year and the Model X eventually hitting full production.  2017 will be much better (Bolt, LEAF 2.0, PiP back), 2018 is going to be a tidal wave (full year Bolt/LEAF 2.0, economy plug-in SUVs, Model 3 and lots more).

Bonus Round, Vaporware:

Tesla Soon To Show Off The Model 3 (March 31st), But How Many Deposits Will They Take?

Tesla Soon To Show Off The Model 3 (March 31st), But How Many Deposits Will They Take?

Model 3 pre-sales  (March 31st debut/order details here)

Most of us know the brewing battle for 2017/2018 will be Bolt, LEAF 2.0, and Model 3 in the BEV space.  Even though Tesla is assured to be the last one to put metal on the road, they ironically will be the first to take money from customers.

I am confident we get a tally on how the pre-sales of Model 3 are going almost immediately and throughout the year.  This should be a barometer test for how the whole $35k, 200 mile, BEV market will do in the near future.  For this reason I thought it would be worthy of including in this year’s predictions.

Prediction – 100k

I know that is an absurd number, it is 86% of all 2015 US plug in sales last year.  But this number won’t be broken out by region.  It is my lone worldwide sales number.  And these hand raisers will only be risking a refundable $1k.  It also may take Tesla 2.5 years of production to actually fill this level of theoretical orders…but that doesn’t stop them from taking deposits.  If there is a sense that not placing a deposit could put a potential buyer on the wrong side of a $7.5k tax credit, a rush could ensue.

100k is a very round, and very unlikely number.  50% below and 100% above are just as likely, I am shooting for a median prediction here.

So what do you predict?  Let’s battle it out in the comments!

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74 Comments on "Op-Ed: 2016 Plug In Sales Predictions for US"

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Oh yeah, the mirai will definitely fill the gap the PIP left. Baaahahahahaha!

Well if H2 cars still count as more than one EV then the Mirai may be able to get them enough credits

Cannot give you a number, but can say that the 2016 sales will be negatively impacted(as were 2015r’s)by the expected upgraded LEAF II, KIA Soul EVII, VW E-Golf II. The only way that will not happen is if the big EV makers come to their senses and drastically reduce prices on those pre-Gen II models. Nothing wrong with 107 mile LEAFs, but they are half of the Bolt EV and such. People are just not going to put hard earned cash into a lame duck model—unless the price is simply too good to be true.


ur probably right

Not to say that the price on the Leaf shouldn’t be lower, but I see EVs with this range as a run around town second car. The problem with the higher range EVs like the Bolt is that their raison d’etre is to go a long way on the battery. However, if you don’t have the fast recharging network like Tesla is building out, then you still can’t really use this as a road trip car. The sweet spot for the next 5-10 years may be a full complement of PHEVs like the Volt, with 50 mile plus AER backed up by a gas engine for longer range, and thus bypass the road trip recharging issue. Otherwise, put your deposit down on the Model 3.

The 84 mile EVs are city cars.

The 200 mile EVs without Supercharger network will be “suburban” cars. There is simply a lot more utility in driving around 180 miles with a an emergency bank of 20 miles than driving around 64 miles with an emergency bank of 20 miles.

Neither are cross country road trip cars but suburban cars are significantly more useful than city cars.

Announcing significant upgrades for 2017/18/20 is a dumb marketing practice. All ICE companies are not dumb. Besides such a move is a very effective way to NOT sell many in 2016, the time to deal with this annoying bug Tesla.

California Green Carpool Stickers are no longer available – this may hurt plugin sales this year if the stickers don’t come back.

Here are my predictions – All electric drive only numbers.

Tesla Model S = 29k
Tesla Model X = 17k
Nisan Leaf = 23k
Chevy Volt = 24k
Ford Focus EV = 5k
BMW i3 = 11k
Fiat 500e = 6k
Volkswagen EV = 8k
Chevy Bolt = 65*

*Chevy Bolt for 2017 will be only constrained by supply. So, I am estimating at least 40k


I assume you are hoping the larger battery and addition of fast charging is going to bump sales of the Focus EV? I hope it does. But I think much of it will also be how hard Ford Dealers try to sell it. (or more likely NOT sell it)

I’m going with a 30% rise in US plug-in sales to 150k for 2016. I think Leaf and Volt sales will both be higher than your estimates.

I think you’re a little high on your Leaf 2016 sales number. I see 2016 Leaf sales coming in closer to their 2011-2012 number. Nissan LEAF – 11k
My reason – the 2017 Volt, Bolt and Model 3 also the general belief the people feel “good things come to those who wait”.


Last year, Josh Bryant predicted: “I will put the total sales target at 150k for 2015. That is 22-25% growth on a solid base of sales.” My own prediction was 10-15% growth over 2014 sales. Neither Josh nor I were in the ballpark, since actual North American sales were down by (if I have it figured correctly) 5.18%, according to the figures on InsideEVs’ Monthly Plug-in Sales Scorecard, which so far as I know are the most accurate publicly available figures. Last year was a learning experience for me, and quite possibly others. What I learned (and Josh probably already knew) was that the sales figures are mostly driven by the top three, or possibly 3-4, car models. That being the case, it seems impossible to give anything better than a wild guess for 2016 sales. We haven’t seen the Leaf 2.0; we don’t know how big its battery pack will be, nor do we have any estimate of its EPA rated range. Will it be able to challenge the coming Bolt’s 60 kWh and 200+ miles of (estimated, and plausible) EPA rated range? The new 600-lb gorilla of BEVs, the Bolt, isn’t scheduled to begin sales until the very… Read more »

I want to take a different approach, Europe sales:
Leaf 18k
Outlander 40k
Zoe 30k
eGolf 17k
Model S 20-25k
Model X 5k? (hardest to predict)
GTE Golf 20k
GTE Passat 20k
i3 13k
Rest below 10k
Overall 250-300k

Grammar Nazi says:

“With the shear number of models being released…”

That should be “sheer”, not “shear”.

Ooh, if we can bring up grammar, then where you have “This in no way effects …” it should be ‘affects’.

Leaf 8k
Bmw, vw down as well. All of the 100 mile cars will be severely Osborne by model 3 and bolt. Why on earth by a 100 miler when you know it will be worth next to nothing within months? Onl hardcore enthusiast would do such a thing. Or people not knowing any better.
Tesla s 25k
Tesla x 17k
Tesla 3 reservations 100.

Regarding the Tesla predictions, I think that is pretty accurate for the X and the S, I’d edge the X a little higher for US versus worldwide deliveries, though. It is the most truck-like equivalent in the purse BEV space, and there is a stronger demand for that in the US. For the Model III/E, I’d like to add that there will be a strong rush, but this is likely how it will go down: Nobody working at a Tesla sales center will be allowed to leave until every customer who has arrived has had a chance to place their order, which means a very long night for those wonderful folks. Online orders will choke their web system within 3 hours of availability. There will be separate manufacturing queues for founders, Roadster owners, S/X owners, etc. After this initial order bump, it should slow to about 50 deposits per day (average) until there’s more of the vehicle revealed. That will increase it to 70 deposits per day. Some depositors will up-convert to a CPO Model S, creating cancellations. In the September-October time frame, Tesla will actually run some sort of advertisement campaign, bringing the average deposits to 150 per day.… Read more »

Hey vexar,

I hope the prediction regarding the combination of power wall+car +solar +car port will hold true. I proposed something similar when power wall came out 😉

“Tesla… Model 3 pre-sales… Prediction – 100k”

Seems to be a popular guess. My initial reaction, when Tesla announced the low low reservation price of $1000, was to guess “up to 100k” reservations. At least one other commentor suggested 100-150k. (One person even suggested a million! That seems, let us say, somewhat unlikely. 😉 )

Why is this article OP Ed??

It’s no more Op Ed than most of the articles here


I think the predictions look about right but I don’t think you can include 100,000 Model 3 bookings in the 2016 tally.

I mean a prediction is a prediction. Isn’t calling a “Prediction” Op Ed redundant?


As somebody who plans to replace a Leaf in about 12 months due to lease expiring, I’m not sure what the heck I’m going to do. I might have a better idea after seeing what the Tesla Model III looks like and its specifications. Otherwise we’re likely to replace the Leaf with a Bolt, or a new Volt.

However, if the vehicles are not available yet we may get a used Leaf or C-Max Energi to drive for a year until the vehicle we want is available.

I feel your pain, but your timing is better than mine, since my Leaf lease expired last September. My 15 mpg minivan is killing me, but I just couldn’t justify getting into another low-performance EV right now.

Personally, I’ve become enamored with the upcoming Kia Niro. Finally, someone has come out with a hybrid CUV to compete with the new RAV4 Hybrid. The plug-in version of the Niro (2017) is appealing, but so are the regular hybrid and hoped-for EV version.

Totally fun article Josh. I always look forward to it even if it makes the boss cringe. lol
Since it is totally for entertainment, I am glad you included the Model III predictions as well. I am betting they not only take 100,000 reservations, but they do so within the first 30 days.

I wonder what that will do to the stock price. One might think it should make it go up but on the other hand it might go down since these will be low margin cars. Besides one can never predict what will happen in the market.

I remember when I got hired as a junior engineer at AiResearch back in 1908. My supervisor gave me a book titled:

“What the Experts Know about the Stock market.”

It had quite a few pages. When I opened it up all the pages were blank.

Or sales plummet when something causes global economy to resume its cliff jump of 8 years ago, gas goes to 99 cents, GM and Chrysler beg for a bailout, Tesla becomes new Delorean, and Ford is last company standing based on strong F-150 sales. 🙂

Wow, I’d not predict 100K deposits. That’s $100 million dollars in a month! For a car no one has yet seen. I’m no Tesla hater, I wish them well and would love to see the M3 be a huge hit. But that is a lot of cash on “faith”. Then again, Tesla is the real deal and the car will be a winner, I believe.


I think Bolt number should include SparkEV as Bolt is to be SparkEV replacement. As such, it will be far more than few hundred.

I’m also pessimistic about 2016. However, it will be the year to have consumers take notice of EV, and it’ll more than make up in 2017 and beyond. I’d call it an investment year.

Josh, I am thinking the Volt and Leaf sales are going to be about 5%-10% more than your estimates. I also hope that the Chrysler Pacifica can get ramped up a bit quicker than your estimate. I am hoping they can crank out about 2k-3k this year.

Thank you, Josh for sharing your estimates. 😀

I’m not sure I agree with the mad rush for Model 3 reservations because Tesla will prioritize the types of Model 3 SKUs made and delivered first. This could put buyers in the odd spot of having to option their car up in order to get delivery before the tax credit runs out. To put it another way, people who option their cars up to the early delivery SKUs (larger battery, AWD, etc.) might pay the same price (net of tax credits but before sales tax) as someone who has a mid/low level SKU who takes delivery 9-12 months later after the TC starts to expire. At the very least, low-information buyers who know enough about the $35,000 price and $7,500 tax credit would reserve a spot in line in 2016 or 2017, but then cancel the pre-order when their base-spec model doesn’t come off the line before mid/late 2019 (and their visions of a $7,500 tax credit evaporate by 75%). I’m not getting a new EV until at least 2020 (got to make this Volt last the full 8 years!). So it’s not a calculation for me as to when to get in line for the Model 3. But… Read more »

Tesla Model S = 25k
Chevy Volt = 24k
Tesla Model X = 20k
Nisan Leaf = 14k
Ford Energi = 9k
VW eGolf = 7k
BMW i3 = 6k
Fiat 500e = 4k
Chrysler Pacifica PHEV = 3k
Audi A3 etron = 2.5k
Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV = 2k
Ford Focus EV = 1.5k
Chevy Bolt = 100

Model 3 200k US & 200k Rest of World reservations.

Going by the comments thrown about by Tesla execs & PR people, I suspect the “unveiling” will be nothing like — they won’t show a working prototype, just artist’s sketches like magazines do for unannounced cars, and won’t give any hard facts about the car (dimensions, cargo capacity, motor rating, battery capacity).
If that ends up being the case, I’d be really surprised if they get >15K reservations (and 50K is possible, because only bleeding-edge EV fans would consider blindly giving someone a $1K unsecured loan without getting something significant in return (I may be wrong, given how many people actually participate in the silliest crowdfunded ventures).

Wild cards are volt and leaf, and how many model x can be produced and stay in the US

I’m thinking 130,000 – slightly bigger than 2014. Real growth won’t happen until 2017, and huge growth in 2018 if the model 3 is all that I expect.

Why do you not mention the Hyundai IONIQ EV?

Here are my predictions: Tesla Model S – concur with 25k prediction, but I think they have potential to be higher. I’d say 2016 sales range of 25k-30k. Leaf – 10-12k I think you’re being optimistic here. The new 30 kWh Leaf had not translated into the sales Nissan expected so far. I expect the Bolt and Model III will further depress Leaf sales. Volt – 15-20k This is a tough one. I expect some may wait for the Bolt or Model III. Others, however, may be uncertain about the longer range EVs (particularly due to lack of infrastructure for Bolt and charger congestion for Model III). C-Max/Fusion Energi – 13-17k Pretty much agree. The only thing that could change this is if Ford surprises us this year much like GM did last year with the Bolt. Hasn’t happened yet though. BMW i-series – I’ll default to your expertise here since I don’t follow bimmer that closely Fiat 500e – Same as bimmers e-Golf – 5-10k Despite hype, not expecting much from VW for the foreseeable future. PiP – Agreed. DOA. ‘Nuff said. Model X – 5-10k Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but given Tesla’s slow ramp up in Model… Read more »
These estimates are probably as good as any for 2016. It is 2017 and later I really worry about. What would the sales numbers be if one political party gets their way in the Congress and Presidency and they do the following (all of which they have talked about doing): 1) Kill the Federal EV tax incentive 2) Kill the Federal Solar tax incentive 3) Re-write “Clean Air Act Section 209 – State Standards” to deny California’s waiver that currently allows CA to write their own emissions standards, effectively killing CARB and all of the ZEV credit system. http://www3.epa.gov/otaq/climate/ca-waiver.htm 4) Kill the CAFE laws requiring better fleet MPG. Eliminate CAFE completely, along with window stickers and EPA MPG ratings. 5) Put a punitively high federal “gas tax”/highway tax on electric vehicles, similar to what they did to Solar in Nevada, making them by far more expensive to operate than gas cars? Who would be left selling EV’s and PHEV’s in the US after that? My guess is that Aston Martin, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Chrysler, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jaguar, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes, Mini, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Porsche, Subaru, Toyota, Volvo, and VW would all cancel plans for new models, and… Read more »

I don’t see Hyundai Sonata/Kia Optima plugin here. At $35k MSRP – $5k tax credit it may compete with with Volt.

Can I ask for global overview. Currently c 100M vehicles each year with 0.1% BEV.
2016, 0.15%
2017, 0.3% -0.5%
2018, 1%
Nobody seems to mention production scalability and infrastructure (recharge stations) Is the world ready for real growth?

Good news…:

2015 Sales
– Light vehicles worldwide: 82.9 m
– Light Vehicle Plug-ins worldwide: c. 550,000 (0.66% market share)
– Light Vehicle BEVs worldwide: definitely more than 250,000. My estimate is around 350,000 (0.42% market share)

Something like that…


My estimate for 2016 all plug-in sales worldwide: at least 1 m, of which at least 700,000 in China alone.

BEVs: around 60% of those.

Will the Model 3 carry Tesla’s resale price guarantee (which I vaguely remember from years ago)?

As much as I loved my Leaf, its depreciation was appalling – worse than almost any other car on the road. Thankfully, it was a lease and I could just walk away.

But if EVs generally suffer from terrible resale value, I’ll be reluctant to actually purchase one. Even plug-in hybrids could have the same stigma.

Tally one 2017 Volt for me as soon as they are available