September EV Sales In US Improve: BMW Inspires With 1,710 i3 Sales


The BMW i3 Came Out Of Left Field In September To Sell A Record 1,710 i3s (seen above in new "Fluid Black color)

The BMW i3 Came Out Of Left Field In September To Sell A Record 1,710 i3s (seen above in new “Fluid Black color)

2016 Chevrolet Volt 'just missed' Being Counted In September, But The Race For Green Stickers In California Begins Next Week

2016 Chevrolet Volt Just Missed Being Counted In September, But The Race For Green Stickers In California Begins Next Week

Heading into September, we had hoped that electric vehicle sales in the US would rise over the previous month’s result thanks to a resurgent newcomer arriving back into the fold.

Turns out we picked the wrong horse.

For the month, an estimated 10,134 plug-ins were sold, good for a 13% improvement over the ~8,972 moved in August.

We had expected that the next generation 2016 Chevrolet Volt would make it to market by mid-month, and show strong enough gains to propel the market higher.

But in the end that didn’t happen, as some early quality control holds apparently kept the 2016 Volts ‘in the pen’ in September.

Thankfully, those cars are now released, and at time of press, are now being shipped to customers.

September Was i3 Nation In The US

September Was i3 Nation In The US

Instead, it was the BMW i3 who took center stage, selling 1,710 copies – which lead the company to be the 2nd highest seller of EVs for the month in America for the first time.

September i3 sales were quite an achievement for BMW, as the previous high water mark for monthly sales was 1,159 – set in October of 2014.  Before this month’s result we had assumed (quite incorrectly) that US demand was not strong enough to push sales to this level.  We are happy to be wrong.

During September, Tesla also introduced the Model X (watch launch party/more details here), which was big achievement for the company as the all-electric SUV has been a long time coming.  But in regards to sales, it was insignificant to its sister-product, the Model S – which ended the quarter strongly (as per the norm), selling ~2,500 copies in our estimation.

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

Looking ahead:

Both The 2nd Generation Chevy Volt and Upgraded 2016 Nissan LEAF Arrive In October

Both The 2nd Generation Chevy Volt and Upgraded 2016 Nissan LEAF Arrive In October

As we mentioned before, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt didn’t arrive in September, but all those sales are now making their way to California (and possibly 10 other states), and will start to tally for October as deliveries are made in a few days.

We have confirmed with Nissan that the 2016 LEAF (now with an optional 107 mile range – details) will be arriving in October. Unfortunately, a request to nail down exactly when those might start to arrive, has of yet, been unanswered.

We don’t expect any volume production of consequence from Tesla in regards to the Model X.  Same goes for the Volvo XC90 plug-in, of which should start consumer deliveries in October.

Going forward (and as we have been saying since last winter), the extended EV sales drought in the United States should now be behind us.  We look for monthly sales to show strong gains beginning in October, and continuing (for the most part) into the foreseeable future.

Some other Points of Interest from September

Tesla Stays #1 For Top EV Manufacturer In September - Helped Slightly By The Model X

Tesla Stays #1 For Top EV Manufacturer In September – Helped Slightly By The Model X

Top Manufacturers Of Plug-In Vehicles:

  1. Tesla – 2,506*
  2. BMW – 1,892
  3. Ford – 1,672
  4. Nissan – 1,247
  5. General Motors – 1,142

Pure Electric Car Market Share vs PHEV In September*

  1. BEV – ~6,154 – 61%
  2. PHEV – ~3,980 – 39%

New 2015 Highs Set In September By Model (previous 2015 high in brackets)

  • BMW i3– 1,710 (1,089) – all-time high
  • Mercedes S550 PHV – 17 (10)
  • Tesla Model X – 6 (first month)

(*) estimated/Tesla North America

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, Volvo, VW

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25 responses to "September EV Sales In US Improve: BMW Inspires With 1,710 i3 Sales"
  1. Jim says:

    So Nissan sold 1,247 Leafs in September. Better than I expected. I had predicted 1,000.

  2. Warren says:

    Any idea how many of the i3 sales were Rex?

    1. BMW doesn’t break out the sales data of REx vs BEV. However they have said many times in the past that the trend has been about 60% REx and 40% BEV

      1. Warren says:

        So the best selling plug-in is the most expensive one, which also happens go at least 200 miles. The second best selling one is the second most expensive, and 60% of those can go 150 miles.

        Sounds like there could be a big market for a $40K electric that could go 200 miles…even with cheap gas. 🙂

        1. RexxSee says:

          The market for an affordable long ranged BEV has always been HUGE! This is where Tesla is heading, and this is where gas car makers try to avoid and delay the most they can while making believe they do genuine efforts to take the green turn… B.S.

      2. JoeS. says:

        I’m sorry if I missed it, but I was wondering if the i3REx is classified as PHEV or BEV in your sales statistics, appropriately allocating that 60%/40%?

  3. Chris B says:

    Honestly, the thing that impresses me the most here is Ford’s Energi twins. Look how little press those cars get and how comparatively little effort Ford probably had to put into them as heavily compromised (see trunk space or lack thereof)
    conversion” cars. Despite all of this, Ford moves almost as many cars as several of the dedicated, high press EV rides like the Volt or i3, and blow past a bunch of others in the field. In many ways, it justifies Ford’s position to do the minimum necessary to stay up with the technology until the whole EV and PHEV field takes off…sad, but probably true.

    1. David Murray says:

      It may be more complicated than just that. For example, in my area (Ft.Worth, TX) most of the Chevrolet dealers around here don’t stock the Volt. If they have one, it is hidden the back somewhere and you practically have to beg them to buy it. If you came in asking about a Volt, it would not be a surprise if they tried to sell you a Silverado instead.

      However, the Ford dealers all have several Cmax and Fusion Energi cars on the lot, with charging stations available, and signs about the cars in the showrooms. However, you won’t find a Focus Electric on any of their lots.

      Thus, if anything, I think the dealerships have just as much to do with the issue as the manufacturer. And you can clearly see the sales result difference between the Focus Electric and the Energi cars. Obviously the dealerships don’t like dealing with the pure electric, but they can pretty much sell the PHEV models without much of any change in their usual routine.

    2. Mike says:

      What really amazes me is that Ford can sell so many Energi Fusions. I test drove one and thought it was a very nice car, but the trunk is basically worthless because of the battery placement. It would be hard to get a bag of groceries in there.

      1. David Murray says:

        I disagree about it being worthless. It is actually a much larger storage area than popular vehicles like the Kia Soul, Chevy Spark, etc. And I’m sure I could fit all of my groceries back there. But I am sure a lot of people are turned off by it, though. It wouldn’t bother me. I rarely use the cargo area of my car.

      2. Braben says:

        The Fusion’s trunk is sufficient for grocery shopping. In fact it’s quite convenient, because the first “step” keeps stuff from shifting far into the back of the trunk. You can also fit two roll-aboard trolleys.

        What does not work is vacation trips with more than 2 persons …

        1. shaggy says:

          I was going to say I get 5+ bags back there all the time. I also use the back seat a lot. Since I don’t ever have 4 people in the car at once, it’s not bothered me too much.

          I will say the bigger issue is the folded rear seats don’t provide more then a 2×4 or a ski worth of pass through the trunk.

    3. rs_rwc says:


      Ford fully entered the EV business with all three of its models (Fusion, C-Max and Focus) in the second half of 2013. (Some say that they are overdue to refresh their lineup but it has only been a little over two years.) Since then, they have had a US market presence equal to any. Here are the rankings by year –

      H2 2013: #1 GM, #2 Nissan, #3 Ford, #4 Tesla
      2014: #1 Nissan, #2 Ford, #3 GM, #4 Tesla
      2015 YTD (Thru Q3): #1 Tesla, #2 Ford, #3 Nissan, #4 GM

      That is, upon introduction in 2013, Ford quickly occupied the #3 spot, and since then has been #2. Minimal development costs and they didn’t even advertise much. Additionally they have by now gathered a ton of operational data across all demographics (C-Max in particular appeals to women) and different models, both PHEV and EV. They likely have, in their deliberate way, already figured out what they are going to do next in the EV space. They are in no hurry – they are making record profits at a corporate level – but have built up a corporate capability to relatively quickly go big on EVs if they want as battery price/energy density improves.

      I think this means that

      1) Style and features and seating for five matter

      2) There is a good market for offering EV capability as an option for existing successful ICE models, as opposed to making geeky looking EVs from scratch. When you do that you can leverage the investment put in for the style and features of the base ICE (see point 1)

      3) A great selling point for now is to make the additional cost of the EV option about equal than the Fed and State incentive – so you get your EV option for free

      4) 20 miles of EV capability covers around-town trips for a lot of people – if you regularly arrive home with some charge left you have paid for expensive batteries you don’t need

      5) Thermal battery management matters

      6) Resale value matters – (2011 and 2012 Leafs are e-waste, see point 5)

      7) You can fit 5 bags of groceries or a suitcase + garment bag for a week-long business trip in the trunk of a Fusion Energi which will do for a lot of people

      8) Sync infotainment wasn’t perfect, but everybody else’s was even worse

      Seeing this success, the Germans are copying Ford’s approach.

      As to sales of the Leaf substantially increasing because of an incremental range increase – maybe, but maybe not – see point 1

      P.S. Sync 3 is looking good

  4. Even with Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF sales down on YOY (2015 vs 2014), total PEVs delivered in Sept were 10,134 (15) vs 10,921 (14). Seems BMW and Tesla have been picking up the pace while others are coasting.

    PS: at current pace, there’s a chance BMW i3 will secure #3 spot on the Year-end sales chart, nocking Chevy Volt to #4. Grab a seat as the 2015 PEV race rounds the bend for Q4 finish.
    May the odds be EVer in your favor!

  5. Mikael says:

    Haha… Talk about trying to put a positive spin on a negative result.

    13% improvement compared to last month, which is irrelevant, but a 7% decline compared to september 2014.

    Or will we get an article in about the January sales and the “Massive decline in EV sales!” when you compare it to the december numbers? 😉 I highly doubt it…

    Tell the story as it is, not as you want it to be.

    1. Mel4EV says:

      I would say a positive spin is quite justified with two of the top sellers, Leaf and Volt having subdued sales due to impending new models, and yet the month showing a jump up from prior months and not too far off 2014!

      1. Jay Cole says:


        With respect, considering the extraordinary factors at play right now (no Prius PHV in production, no Chevy Volt/LEAF inventory or demand, due to generational/big ugrades), a comparison to last year – when ALL of those cars were clipping at full speed, has little merit. Other than to inaccurately portray the overall demand of the market year-over-year to me less.

        Whereas a month-to-month improvement with the same players – apples-to-apples is more valid. The big December to January fluxuation you quote is once again, an outlier point that we would not want to make because again, there is extraordinary factors at play.

        1. Mikael says:

          It’s definitely not apples to apples since different months have different buying patterns. The december to january example was just made because it’s the most extreme month to month decline and something you know comes every year.

          Explain and state the reasons for the decline, but don’t hide from the fact that it is a decline.

          1. Jay Cole says:

            Yes, they do have different buying patterns.

            Unfortunately for your position, the trend is for sales is to go way down between August and September…something that is not occurring now . Again, despite 3 of the top 4 selling EVs from 2014 being out of production or heading to an upgrade with no inventory to be had.

            2015 8,972 vs 10,134 +13%
            2014 12,172 vs 10,921 -11%
            2013 11,273 vs 8,927 -21%

            So yes, sales are up in September vs August. And yes, sales are down 7% from last year. But it is a positive story, to paint it otherwise would be to disingenuous, and a dis-service to those reading who want take away some context on the number.

            It is about keeping the sales in proper context…and that is what we are doing.

            1. Mikael says:

              Now we are talking, that I could accept as a sign of a positive trend and a sign that the sales are about to get into increasing numbers again. 🙂

              And always remember that even when I have some criticism (sometimes fair, sometimes unfair) I still love and appreciate the work you do.

              1. Jay Cole says:

                Ok, we will call it a draw, (=
                (I appreciate the positive feedback too)

                To be fair, we actually had the 2014 vs September 2015 numbers in there, with a little ditty not too different than this exchange explaining why Sept was actually a positive month. It was only removed for fear of everything getting a little sidetracked/convoluted, and the fact the monthly swing will be so drastic (in theory) next month in the other direction.

                ie) October of 2014 only yielded 9,739 sales, 9646 in November.

                So what would happening if you just go by year-over-year is that September will look like a underperformer at -7%, then October will be great at +25% or something, November maybe +45%. Which would appear on face vale as – “Huzzah! A 50% increase in EV sentiment/demand in just 30 days time” – which really isn’t what is happening.

                In reality it is more like a 13% gain now (ex-Prius PHV/Volt/LEAF for 2014 and 2015) and then an increase of 25%-40% overall in the last 3 months of the year when the new 2016 Volt and 2016 LEAF arrive bumping demand with better offerings.

                Anyway, that was our thinking behind this piece.

                1. Londo Bell says:


                  Sometimes, a negative view is NOT a bad thing…in fact, it can be GOOD.

                  Think of policy making. Positive view on EV sales – do we (government policy makers) still need to have those subsidies, and can we add some taxes/fees to EV sales? Negative view on EV sales – may be it’s too early for us (government policy makers) to pull all those incentives, and add those fees. In fact, we may as well reinstates those incentives and pulls those taxes/fees just to growth sales again, to a healthier, more sustainable level.

                  That’s why, I look at the overall numbers (which don’t lie), but not to dissect and justify/interpret them (which can be influenced by opinions).

      2. Mikael says:

        No, it is not justified. There are good reasons for the negative results, but that doesn’t change that the results are negative.

        And if the i3 would have sold in normal numbers the decline in September would have been a lot higher than the yearly average decline so far.

        I’m just asking for keeping it real and not being some kind of inverse EagleAID.

  6. David says:

    Surprised to see the low priced LEAF sink to #4. Two most expensive EVs at #1 and #2.
    Meanwhile BEV still outsell PHEV, 61/39%. Wonder what will happen if/when a 200 mile BEV shows up.

  7. Warren says:

    Well. I still think the best year for EVs was 2009. The future was going to be amazing. We were about to have EVs that looked like sailplanes, cost $25K, and would go over 100 miles on a charge.

    After six years, we have EVs that look like your father’s Buick, the $25K offerings barely do 60 miles, and EVs costing 50% more are just now getting to 100 mile range.