Which Automakers Care About Electric Vehicles The Most?


Anyone who follows the plug-in industry knows who the big volume players are in the segment.

Entering each month, we know the top selling plug-in will be the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan LEAF or the Tesla Model S.  Past those three, the Ford C-Max/Fusion Energi and the Toyota Prius plug-in will do battle for 4th spot.  Past those six, come 8 other smaller sized participants.

Plug-In Sales July 2013:

  1. GM (Volt – 1,788/Spark EV – 103) 1,891
  2. Nissan (LEAF) 1,864
  3. Ford (C-Max Energi – 433/Fusion Energi – 407/Focus EV – 150) 990
  4. Toyota (Prius PHV – 817/RAV4 EV – 109) 926
  5. Honda (Fit – 63/Accord PHV – 54) 117
  6. Mitsubishi (i-MiEV) 46
  7. smart (smart ED) 58
  8. Fiat (500e ) 35*  (estimated)

However, the volume of sales of one particular car does not necessarily mean that the automaker behind it is any more or less serious about selling electric vehicles.  For some smaller nameplates, it could mean a lot more.  For the sake of this experiment we have excluded Tesla because…well, we know how committed they are to electric vehicles!

The Smart ED (cabrio shown) Is A Big Part Of The Brands Revenue

The Smart ED (cabrio shown) Is A Big Part Of The Brands Revenue

For smart, it means almost everything, with close to 7% of monthly sales already being of the plug-in variety.

Now, one can say that smart is part of the Daimler family (which is true) so that invalidates the result, but unlike the Fiat 500e sales that are clearly compliance based to bail out its much larger sibling Chrysler’s quickly oncoming CARB deadline, Daimler has a sea of plug-ins arriving in the US after this year, including the new B-Class in early 2014, and a relatively low compliance threshold to meet.

Simply put, smart only sells plug-ins in the United States for the sake of making money.  And when you factor in the average transaction price per vehicle at each of the automakers vs the average selling price of their EVs, plug-ins factor even higher at smart – we estimate more than 11% of total automotive revenue.   (Random factoid: the highest average vehicle transaction price in July was GM at $33,364)

July Total Sales/EV sales:

  • General Motors Leads Both Overall Vehicle Sales In The US And Plug-In Sales

    General Motors Leads Both Overall Vehicle Sales In The US And Plug-In Sales

    GM – 234,071 – 1,891

  • Ford – 193,715 – 990
  • Toyota – 193,394 – 926
  • Nissan – 109,041 – 1,864
  • Honda – 141,439 – 117
  • Fiat – 26,423 – 35* (est)
  • Mitsubishi – 5,230 – 46
  • smart – 860 – 58

Plug-In Percentage Of Overall Sales/Estimated Percentage to Revenue*:

  • As A Percentage To Sales, Smart's EV Program Is By Far The Largest

    As A Percentage To Sales, Smart’s EV Program Is By Far The Largest

    smart – 6.74%  (11.25%)

  • Nissan 1.71%  (1.95%)
  • Fiat – 1.3% — (2.20%)
  • Mitsubishi – .88% (1.05%)
  • GM – .81% — (.90%)
  • Ford – .51% — (.55%)
  • Toyota – .47% — (.55%)
  • Honda – .08% — (.11%**)

(*data used against average new car selling price in July 2013 as provided by TrueCar when available)

Going into the future, smart’s plug-in percentages will not be regressing either, as the car will be made even more widely available.   We spoke to Mark Webster, General Manager of smart, recently about this very topic:

Looking ahead, and at your current total sales for the smart brand…are you are looking for the smart ED to range between 10% & 15% of that?

“Yes, well we will go with a 50 state launch in October, so we expect a little bit of an increase for October, but for right now we will just be in those 8 states and probably get a little bit more than those 60 per month until October, then we think it will go up a little bit after that.”

It is also worth noting that smart Canada sold 25 Electric Drives (and only 210 petrol cars), bringing the North American total to 82 plug-ins sold against 1,013 gas cars – for a cumulative total of 7.5% or about 12.5% of all new car revenue for the company.


Mercedes B-Class Coming In 2014

Mercedes B-Class Coming In 2014

So, do the cold hard numbers today speak 100% for an automobile maker’s commitment to electric vehicles?  No – of course not.  It is not reasonable to expect GM, Nissan, or Ford to be selling 20,000+ plug-ins each month at this point – maybe in 2019. However, we felt that it is an interesting exercise nonetheless.

It is also worth noting some other fairly large players are late to the party entirely – Daimler, BMW, Hyundai/Kia, Subaru, Volvo have mostly sold nothing so far.  Once again, being late does not mean they don’t care.

  • Despite having yet to sell an EV, we judge BMW right near the top of the pack when it comes to support of plug-in vehicles with their purpose-built i3 (starting from $41,350) arriving in 2014, and the i8 past that.
  • We also know Daimler-Mercedes Benz has a lot of product in the pipeline (besides their subsidiary’s For Two ED), we would give them the thumbs-up as well despite having no presence at the moment.
  • Volvo has the V60 plug-in already in production and selling well in Europe, and is considering a B-segment all electric (they lease a C30 electric in small numbers now in Europe).  Either of which could be made available in the US very quickly if they choose.  Grade?  Yet to be determined.
  • VW-Audi-Porsche is an odd duck.  The are the undisputed kings of the press release, announcing and then un-announcing plug-ins almost daily (total exaggeration).  Our feeling is the really don’t want anything to do with EVs, they still want to sell diesels, but are begrudgingly coming along.
  • Hyundai/Kia?  Almost total disregard for the segment, and despite a Kia Soul EV project, we think that attitude will continue as they focus on what has worked for them – the entry level car market.  Maybe when the cost of lithium batteries falls further, and EVs retail for much less we will see the Korean automaker enter the segment seriously.

What we have now is some good starts by some automakers, and some no-so-good attempts by others. But what will really be of interest is what the list looks like a couple years from now…

Category: AudiBMWChevrolet, Chrysler, Fiat, Ford, General, Honda, Infiniti, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Smart, Subaru, Toyota, Volvo, VW,


28 responses to "Which Automakers Care About Electric Vehicles The Most?"
  1. zilm says:

    35 is sold out? damn italians

  2. James says:

    I’ve been following the EV market for a long time. Seriously, the only
    two companies that have been “all in” for BEVs have been Nissan and
    Tesla. Carlos Ghosn, unless a very good poker player who’se staged
    board meetings and every EV speech for the TV cameras, and privately
    despises them as much as Fiat or Audi’s executives – seems to be
    an EV evangelist and one who stands nearly above all others, as his
    executive power over Renault-Nissan is large and his resolve to see EVs
    float on their own appears sincere. I believe Ghosn truly believes
    humanity needs to move towards electrification for the betterment of
    our future. For Elon Musk, electrifications seems an opportunity and
    a challenge. I don’t see Musk as staying on with Tesla much after
    the Bluestar appears. He’s said as much, and he may not be as
    much the Henry Ford of EVs as Ghosn.

    I disagree with the statements made here re: BMW. Go watch the
    New York introduction of i3, and listen to the executive interviews.
    They plainly state that i3 and i8 are BMW’s strategy moving forward
    to meet European and American regulations. This is not passion,
    folks, or a resolve to make products that get us off oil and increase
    national security. I’m a lone voice here saying i3 and i8 don’t make
    much sense. I don’t see i3 nor i8 as competing at all with any other
    BMW products. They’re merely hedges against government actions.

    I’d rank Toyota 3rd behind Nissan and Tesla, only because they’ve
    cracked the hybrid formula, and they have sacrificed much to become
    the world leader in that segment. It has paid off for them and they
    see significant profits. At that, Akio Toyoda and other high-ranking
    Toyota suits have stated that pure EVs were not worth going all-in

    Tesla’s success and Nissan’s determination are literally dragging all
    others into at least putting their little toes in the EV water. If government
    regulations are reduced and/or removed, the BEV/PHEV market would
    dry up in one year.

    I still believe Tesla will prosper. The faster Tesla prospers, the quicker
    other car companies will have to attempt to compete. Otherwise,
    they’ll all look like the dinosaurs they really are. 2019 may be a bit
    optimistic. I’d say look towards 2025 or so for affordable BEVs to
    be plying our roads in any numbers that challenge traditional ICEs.

    1. nwdiver says:


      The “Legacy Automotive Manufacturing Enterprises” or LAMEs as I like to call them have not committed to EVs. I agree that Nissan leads the pack but they seem determined to keep EVs isolated in their own little niche. I’ve never heard anyone refer to the LEAF as “sexy”. Nissan knows how to make a good looking car, yet they didn’t do that with the LEAF, imagine how well it would sell if it had more of a family resemblance to the Altima. I think they designed the LEAF to eat into Prius sales; Nissan is afraid of cannibalizing their ICE line. Until they really start going toe-to-toe with Tesla on power, range and aesthetics with EVs and leave their ICE legacy behind them the LAMEs are just going to get more… lame.

      Bottom line:
      The LAMEs know there is a market for EVs; that is the market they make EVs for. There is also a market for ICE… The LAMEs don’t want to make an EV that is too marketable in the ICE market. This is where Tesla is MASSIVELY disruptive. ONLY TESLA makes an EV that can not only compete but dominate in the ICE market.

    2. Jim says:

      Toyota may be 1st for nickel hybrids, but far behind for EV’s or plug ins. Toyota would love to see CARB requirements go away as much as any other manufacture.

      The Prius plug in’s 11 miles seems like it is specifically designed to look good on the EPA cycle, but considering the average American commutes 32 miles round trip it will have FAR less EV miles than either Ford’s Energi products and a fraction of what a Volt can do. The price point of the Rav4 EV, which they didn’t even develop the drivetrain for is far out of reach compared to a Spark EV or Focus EV. I’d put them far behind Ford and GM when it comes to anything with a plug.

      Tesla 1st, Nissan 2nd, though I hope they start to provide better battery management soon. GM a close 3rd.

  3. James says:

    It’s a stretch to state Smart “cares” about EVs more because a large
    percentage of their product may become BEVs.

    It’s true Smart is a very small division of Daimler. BEVs are a small
    percentage of a very small niche division. In all the years Smart cars
    have been around – only the ForTwo has survived. Their other
    attempts at going upmarket have flopped. So the Smart is a 2 seat
    city car – the “golf cart” we all moan and roll our eyes at when we
    see folks compare BEVs to.

    I don’t see any big growth market here. There is NEV competiton
    from all sides, and more Chinese NEV-type golf cart BEVs just
    around the corner. We’ve seen scores of tiny BEV companies
    fail and it’s just a lame subject to assume Smart “cares” about
    EVs because it may someday become a large part of the tiny
    niche they now populate.

  4. James says:

    So far nobody has addressed the sheer costs of i3. Who is going to repair
    an i3 that has body damage? How much do you feel it will cost?
    How much will the BMW ICE rental service set you back? How about the
    sheer high price of BMW parts and service?

    Now let’s address the 2 cylinder limp-to-charger concept. For the USA
    and Canada where longer trips must be considered, as well as topography
    which includes mountain grades and inclement weather, the i3 idea falls
    flat. Better to buy what’s already out there. The huge price penalty and
    unknowns re: Body damage are enough to make it a dumb buy.

    Factor in service costs and “special amenities” BMW has bantied about
    to enhance the i3 user experience. BMW doesn’t do affordable. The car
    really only makes sense in a European perspective. Those lengths of
    drives and their low Co2 zones make for a bit more excuse to pump
    out the large coin for such a limited vehicle. Mostly, it’s a 80 mile
    BEV – and a very very pricey one at that. I think when reviewers start
    flogging i3s around corners, it’ll be a black eye on BMW’s performance

    We’ll see if Mercedes’ B-Class EV has any more to offer. It will also
    come with a high sticker and mundane AER, but at least it seems
    to be repairable by body shops in town that won’t cost you your
    first-born child.

    1. Schmeltz says:

      While I agree with your questions and sentiments about the BMW i3, my guess is that the typical BMW customer does not care about most of the things you mentioned. Cost of ownership? Cost of repairs? I think their general attitude is “meh”. I mean, most of the vehicles BMW sells are expensive from any angle. The i3 is simply a BMW for the “green techies”.

      As far as BMW “caring” more about EV’s, I think they are now closer to the top. They dumped a pile of cash into the i cars already, and let’s face it, they really didn’t have to. If they were shooting for just CARB compliance, they could’ve marketed the Active E, and went home for the weekend.

      1. James says:

        Here’s BMW CEO Dr. Norbert Reithofer for your enjoyment.

        Start at 1:04 in the video and you’ll hear the reasons why BMW
        is doing the i’s.

        “Doing carz like zee iZree are a MUST!”… Not due to CARB -…but
        all the worldwide restrictions and regulations. i8 is BMW’s ELR –
        for $150-180,000. It makes no sense and will sell in the hundreds,
        if that. There is zero comparisons to make vs. Model S.

        “A MUST” connotates having to do so…like eating vitamins or
        not overdoing the fried foods. Not zo much ze passion for ze
        Ultimate Driving Machine, huh?

        Doing these cars gives them a hedge against, say, a future
        Democratic admin. here that will stick to, and not water down
        current C.A.F.E. 54mpg by 2017 rules. And to make a tiny
        limited amount of $150,000, 15 mile AER. 2 seater PEVs
        to somehow attempt to make BMW driving dynamics and EVs
        look better in the same sentence. Tesla has already done this
        without billions spent in carbon fiber development.

        1. Jay Cole says:

          I think if we are being honest with ourselves, without the US/Euro new emission standards the entire landscape would be very different from all the OEMs, except maybe 1 or 2.

          They have all been forced to respond. It is just that some have responded begrudgingly, and others have responded with “this is where we have to go, so we are going to embrace the change and try to dominate”.

        2. James M says:

          I think InsideEVs has done an analysis that accurately reflects companies’ commitment. Sales are the market’s way of reflecting a dedicated and successful investment in a product. Consider the success of the purpose build products: Prius, Leaf, Volt, Model S, and soon to be i3. All the remaining plugins are effectively hybridized ICE vehicles. This emphasizes two alternative strategies: 1) leverage existing product branding and manufacturing to retrofit a plugin solution, 2) invest in a purpose built EV from the ground up. Strategy 1) is lower cost and risk, but 2) shows to be consistently more successful. BMW has invested in market research, beta testing (with MiniE and ActiveE), ground up design, and state of the art manufacturing to make the i3 affordable. BMW aptly classifies the i3 as a city vehicle. A practical short range hatchback, it is designed intentionally in a category with most EVs (Leaf, Focus Electric, Fiat 500e, Spark, etc), but in a premium class of its own. As a result it competes with neither the Leaf nor Model S, and will sell well on it’s own. BMW has capacity to sell 25,000/yr or more. US’s challenge will just be to wait in line with many countries world wide.

          1. James says:

            James M,

            Laughable everyone is comparing i3 and i8 to Tesla’s Model S.

            Your points are valid, but it still ignores i3’s painfully weak
            capabilities. BMW’s CEO claimed that whilst driving his i3 the
            other day, he was being followed by a competitor. I’m assuming
            an Ampera/Volt, LEAF, or a Fiat500e. He states that he walked
            off and left it in the dust. For one, he HAS to be talking about
            straight-ahead quickness, because one look at i3 and it’s skinny
            tires and wheels, and the words of MT’s Kim Reynolds who test
            drove one, don’t give a whole lotta confidence that i3 is about
            driving dynamics such as cornering and handling. One also
            has to remind oneself of i3’s cost. As I’ve said again and again,
            not just it’s MSRP but the sheer cost of it’s ICE rental plan,
            telematics, charging stations, service, etc, etc. etc. Not to mention trying to repair proprietary carbon fiber composite. SO WHAT if it
            beats Ampera and LEAF by 1.5 seconds to 60 in a straight line when we add in all of the above facts?!

            In NA, the 80 mile urban commuter i3 ( ReX or no ) will not sell in any significant numbers, period. There’ really is no apparent reason to spend all that money to show off the propeller logo and brag to your neighbors about it’s aluminum castings, composite lightness and magnesium dashboard mount! I mean, REALLY… It’s performance that counts, and i3 doesn’t deliver much more than your garden-variety 80 mile LEAF.

            Folks give that 2 cyl ReX WAY too much credit. So far, all
            indications are that it’s no Volt in convenience or capability.
            i3 ReX is an expensive big toe with nothing to match it to.

            RECHARGE! ,

            Another James M.

            1. Peter Gorrie says:

              I agree about the extra costs that will come with the i3, but I’d suggest waiting to write about its capabilities until you’ve driven one. I have, and, unlike Reynolds, was very impressed. It’s not as fast as a Model S straight ahead, but beats it in handling and quickness. The tall tires take a bit of getting used to on fast corners, but that doesn’t mean they’re not performing well. They are.

    2. Taser54 says:

      Likewise, who is going to repair the expensive aluminum body of the Model S? It, like other aluminum cars, require clean rooms to be repaired. The expense of maintaining those clean rooms, limits the number of shops that can repair aluminum cars.

      1. James says:

        I’ve addressed this elsewhere. True, repairing aluminum isn’t as cheap
        as your basic steel auto. Also true, is that your insurance will cover it
        Also true is that if you paid $60-110,000 for your Tesla you can afford
        a bit more than the average Joe in body repair.
        Will your insurance cancel you out if you pay BMW auto body prices?
        Aluminum body repair can be done even by shops in my little town.
        Proprietary carbon-plastic composites and complex aluminum castings
        that make up the underpinnings of i3 are a totally different story. Those
        are things only BMW can repair. Most likely, i3 owners will get in a fender
        bender and it will be considered a complete total by insurance companies.
        Imagine the scenario: “My wife bumped into a guy in the supermarket parking
        lot with the i3 – a little damage on the bumper, insurance company considers
        it a TOTAL LOSS! LOL! Snap! There goes his insurance!

        Have you seen race cars and airplanes that need carbon fiber repair? it
        rips and tears – much like when a fiberglass Corvette gets into an accident
        and you see the fibrous fiberglass matte that snaps and breaks when
        forced past it’s limits. Carbon fiber is incredibly stronger than fiberglass,
        and incredibly more expensive. BMW specialists will have to repair it,
        and it will cost you more than you realize. Even a scratch or scuff can be
        a real mess.

        Food for thought for all you guys thinking i3 is a better Volt.

  5. Schmeltz says:

    The EV sales vs. Total vehicle sales numbers are pretty bewildering to see for an EV advocate. The only real game changer I can see will be when they come out with a vehicle that can check all of the following boxes:

    1. Meat of the market sedan or crossover. A tiny little Smart isn’t going to sell in volume. It’s got to be something the masses will buy.

    2. If it’s a BEV, they’ll need a min. 300 mile AER. An EREV or PHEV would probably sell better in the next 10 years time frame. Range anxiety needs to be out of the equation all together with whatever philosophy is chosen.

    3. The vehicle has to seat at least 5 people, and it still needs a trunk (or Frunk).

    4. Most important: Cost! They need to shoot for a vehicle with a max. $3000 increase over the similar gas model. With such a vehicle a case can be made that the slight cost increase will be quickly paid back in gas savings. If it saves an average driver $100 a month in gas, they could conceivably have the cost premium paid back in less than 3 years. That sounds defensible and reasonable.

    None of the Plug-in cars today can check all of these boxes. The best sellers in the segment are good starts. They achieve most of these, but not all of them yet. It will be interesting to see what is come up with as the next generation cars.

    1. vdiv says:

      If there is a will, there is a way. This is what Tesla has demonstrated. For various reasons there is no will with the established automakers. This is why EVs rely on gov’t regulations. This is horrible for two reasons, the fickleness and inefficiency of the gov’t, and the ideological and political backlash it has created.

      Change will come, but it will be slow and a generational one. If kids grow up with EVs they will be less likely to accept ICE. Kids are not happy that their parents and grandparent are mucking up their world. The ME generation stands for More Electric 🙂 Let’s encourage that.

    2. Tom A. says:

      The Tesla Model S has no price premium over luxury large sedans with similar performance. The EV you say is necessary is already here.

      The GenIII will also have over 200 miles of range and, again, will have no price premium over other luxury mid-sized sedans (about $40k before gov’t incentives).

      The same will be true of the Model X due out in late 2014. It will be competing with Audi Q7 and BMW X7, etc., but be comparably-priced.

  6. Jesse Gurr says:

    I think that the sales figure for Ford is a little off. They sold 193,715 total vehicles.

    Also, Hyundai/Kia have a disregard for the segment because they want to focus on Fuel cell vehicles. Probably the same with some of the other companies that are late to the party. Mercedes is outsourcing its B-Class BEV to Tesla for the drivetrain, so that is good for Tesla. I wonder if they will make it compatible with the Superchargers. That would be interesting.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Sorry about that, a little transposition error in publishing that out…short-changed Ford by a few hundred (percentages/data calculations still accurate).

      /fixed, thanks

  7. Anon says:

    The Toyota Rav4 EV with Tesla Drivetrain, is not Super Charger (or even L3 fast charge), compatible. Clearly, the electrical support side for it was pulled back, lest it be too popular a machine.

  8. Spec says:

    Tesla, Nissan, and GM care. Everyone else are posers.

  9. scott moore says:

    I don’t see how marketing a me-too hybrid (Volt) and only marketing the Spark in a few selected states to field a compliance car translates to “GM cares”. This is the same company that killed off their first EV five minutes after they managed to pack the CARB and kill off the mandate. Sorry, no sale. I’ll wait to see their commitment after Spark becomes serious (and perhaps until after they stop trying to start charger standards wars).

    1. ClarksonCote says:

      How can the first mass produced plug in hybrid to hit the market be referred to as a “me too” hybrid?

      Personally, I feel the Volt is game changing technology, and it is still unrivaled in today’s plug in market. It gives people all electric driving for their daily driving/commuting needs, and provides a gas engine to go on as far a trip as they please without having to change habits.

      It is, in my opinion, the best gateway drug that electric vehicles have on the market today. One day, we can have affordable all electric vehicles with sufficient range and charging infrastructure. But for today, the “slow to change” masses can purchase a Volt, buy American, and go a long way to reducing gasoline usage.

      1. scott moore says:

        GM dragged on while hybrids gained traction coming from Japan, and introduced the volt only when plugging in hybrids was eminent from several makers. Then they stood by while others reintroduced the electric car that they botched and pronounced impossible to profit from. Now they are playing catch up with Spark, but only as a COW car (California Oregon Washington), and they decided to start a charger standards fight to boot.

        The “america first” crowd annoys me. The number one, made in America electric car is Nissan, made in Tennesee. What has GM done?

        1. Jim says:

          Nissan didn’t exactly lead in the hybrid game. Volt is designed and made in the US too. Total sales are higher than your Leaf. Calm down boy, you are being annoying.

    2. James says:

      Exactly +++ I couldn’t have said it better myself. As a Volt owner – I don’t expect
      a version 2 – and if they do eventually built it upon D2XX, it just may be a
      20 mile AER C-Max; Fusion Energi competitior for $35,000 before tax credit.

      1. James says:

        A successful 200+ mile, $35,000 Tesla Bluestar with a maturing
        Supercharger network will/would force GM into “compliance” to
        not be labeled a loser. This is when things could very well get
        very very interesting.

        Oh, thank the Lord for competition and modern risk-takers!

        Ghosn and Musk. Everyone else is treading water.

  10. Raoul says:

    While I agree that this article and website target mostly the American market, it may be worth looking at what is happening elsewhere in the world. Since Renault/Nissan was mentioned I would have a look at Renault, for Europe with the Twizy, Zoe, Kangoo Z.E. and Fluence Z.E. : http://www.renault.fr/gamme-renault/vehicules-electriques/