Plug-in Car Sales Get Off to Slow Start in 2012

By · February 01, 2012

Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt

The Nissan LEAF outsold the Chevy Volt by 73 units in January 2012.

January was not a strong month for plug-in vehicle sales in the US. Nissan reported sales of the all-electric LEAF at 676 units in January 2012. That's below the 954 LEAFs sold in December 2011, but a bit up from the 672 LEAFs Nissan sold in November.

Sales of the Chevy Volt dipped significantly with General Motors reporting that it sold only 603 units in January 2012. That's a drop from the 1,529 Volts that Chevy sold in December 2011, and well below November 2011 Volt sales of 1,139 units. The last time that Chevy sold less than 603 Volts in a single month was in August 2011, when it sold only 302 units. Perhaps misinformation that emerged during the federal government's now-closed safety investigation of the Volt had an impact on the market.

Critics are likely to point to the 600-plus sales of LEAF and Volt—and once again declare EVs as a flop. But 2012 is just getting started, and making any conclusions based on one month is risky. The greatest uncertainty at this stage is how the introduction of about 10 new plug-in models throughout 2012 will affect sales.

Regardless, LEAF and Volt sales are expected to rise compared to last year. Is 20,000 units each a realistic target? Will a newcomer burst onto the scene? Forecasts from analyst firms range from about 60,000 to 100,000 EV and PHEV sales in 2012. To reach those levels, the pace will need to quickly pick up in the coming months.

New to EVs? Start here

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