Published November 2, 2012
By Jeff Cobb
Since automakers began launching electrified vehicles in earnest around the beginning of 2011, there’s been this push-pull relationship between the portrayers of reality and spin about their market acceptance and viability.
While critics are correct saying we’ve seen some slower than expected starts, as well as some conspicuous dropouts from EV development by Toyota and Audi, automakers are nonetheless building with superlative strides on the small market.
Included among examples would be GM, which has set month-over-month sales records with the Chevy Volt the past three months; Nissan’s Leaf is also gaining ground again, and Ford just announced it topped a mainstay competitor with the first full month sales by the Ford C-MAX Hybrid against the Toyota Prius v.
Volt vs. Nissan: The original (non)race
When asked, GM does not concede it is in a race with Nissan, but we’re keeping tradition alive given industry watchers have otherwise noticed both cars are electrified alternative offerings, and both launched around the same time in December 2010.
And actually, the Chevy Volt has been a big fish in a diminutive but growing pond by topping the electric car sales chart for several months now. For its latest milestone, the car just missed the 3,000 unit barrier with a record 2,961 units sold for October. GM's Chevy with a plug port saw an uptick from September’s record 2,851 units sold, which in turn had been an uptick from August’s record 2,831 Volts sold.
At the same time – while some have been wondering about the Leaf in light of mixed publicity – Nissan reported a big increase to 1,579 units sold in October from 984 Leafs sold in September. And like the Volt, the Leaf’s sales rose from August, but by a larger margin, given that its August sales were 685 units. So is the Leaf on the upswing again? Last year it sold relatively better than it has most of this year. The past three months have seen respectable gains however.
Year to date, the Volt has scored 19,309 sales, and the Leaf has 6,791.
These numbers fall short from their makers previously projected targets. GM long-since stopped saying it will sell 45,000 Volts in North America this year, and will match supply to demand. Any guesses on how it will finish the calendar year?
Nissan has said it would shoot for 20,000 by end of its fiscal year, which happens to be the end of March 2013. With around one-third of its target now accomplished, and with five months to go, it would need to average 2,642 Leafs per month to do it. It's not out of the question, but does not look likely at this juncture, and Nissan executives have conceded this.
So, sure enough, expectations, hopes, and projections are having to be adjusted, but this endeavor is still very much playing out, with improvements to the Leaf pending, and the Volt still overcoming lingering effects from harsh critical attacks from last year into this year.
But proliferation of electrified vehicles is happening. Slower than some wanted, but happening just the same.
And speaking of which, look out world, Ford is late to the party, but it is predicted by Pike Research to be the only automaker that tops 400,000 units of plug-in vehicles sold by the year 2020 – admittedly still a long way out, but this indicates strong initial promise.
Not unlike how Toyota's anticipated Prius plug-in for its inaugural month March 2012 was noted for topping the Volt's first month of sales (and first March sales), the anticipated C-MAX Hybrid bested the established Toyota Prius v with 3,182 units sold to Toyotas 2,769.
"The new C-MAX is off to a fast start in the heart of the hybrid market, not only outselling Prius v, but drawing a lot of interested Toyota customers who chose our new hybrid instead," says C.J. O'Donnell, manager, Ford Electrified Vehicles. "Customers now come into our showrooms for fuel economy, and we're delivering with six vehicles that offer 40 mpg or better, including the new C-MAX Hybrid at 47 mpg combined, with another two on the way by year's end."
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Ahem. It’s not like anyone is waging a campaign of rubbing Toyota’s nose in perceived shortcomings every which way it can or anything like that. Or is it? In any case, if you were thinking about a shiny new Toyota hybrid, Ford recommends you drop by to see whether it can change your mind.
The Prius v has in recent months typically ranked in the top 4 along with its other T-branded hybrid brethren. Expect to see more of this one-upmanship by the American brand with the blue oval against the established brand from Japan when and if it can for the C-MAX Hybrid and its other electrified vehicles.
Ford says the new C-MAX Hybrid led the company to its best October hybrid sales month ever with a total of 4,612 sales, up 142 percent over October 2011.
We’ll have more sales news for you as we go, and the HybridCars.com Dashboard will be up as soon as all data is received.