By on October 7, 2011


Because electric cars represent the first fundamental technological shift for the automobile since its invention, their appearance on the US market has elicited quite a bit of skepticism. And as with any new technology, the first generation of EVs does have some serious downsides. For example, you can charge a Nissan Leaf at any outlet, but it takes 21 hours. Also, the Leaf’s range that was once promised at 100 miles is typically under 70 miles in the real world. Plus, it’s not exactly cheap. In the face of these challenges, you might think the Leaf, the first mass-market pure-EV in the US, would be forever doomed to a small niche of the market. But small compared to what? To give a real-world taste of how America’s first pure EV is selling in the context of the broader market, here are the year-to-date sales numbers for the Leaf and 15 other vehicles that you might not expect to be selling worse than an electric car. Incidentally, all of these models are also selling better than the market’s other pioneering plug-in, the Chevrolet Volt… which now has its own graph in the gallery below.

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58 Comments on “The EV Market In Context: 15 Cars That Are Selling Worse Than The Nissan Leaf (And Chevy Volt)...”


  • avatar
    Almost Jake

    I would never have guessed the Panamera was selling poorly since I see them fairly often. The odd body proportions turn me off, as well as the need to sell family member for scientific experiment to afford it.

    • 0 avatar
      keet

      this doesn’t mean its selling poorly, it just means its selling less than the leaf. i do believe the panamera is porsche’s best selling vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        MrWhopee

        Exotic four doors with price tag around $100,000 will never sell in big numbers, obviously. That’s OK, the manufacturer still makes lots of money from it from the profit margin alone. Lower priced cars, though need to sell in big numbers to be profitable. Most unfortunate of them all is high priced cars that have small profit margin, due to its cost, developmental and manufacturing cost, like Volt. It truly is between a rock and a hard place.

    • 0 avatar

      As Keet pointed out, you don’t have to sell very many $100,000+ cars to do well.

      To give you a direct comparison, in 2010 13,608 Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans were sold in the USA. Considering that the Panamera is probably significantly more expensive on the average than the S-Class, I think Porsche is doing pretty well.

      I see them all over the place in Palm Beach County, too, although admittedly this is probably one of the nation’s best markets for that kind of car.

      D

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        More like the other way around.

        The S Class (for the non-hybrid models) starts at $93K and goes up to $209K (the S600 is still a hefty $158K).

        The Panamera starts at $74K and goes up to $135K.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    I’d say take another look next year, when both Leaf and Volt (and Prius plugin?) are available in all major cities and states, _and_ distribution actually puts salable cars on lots in different colors and option pkgs.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I just performed a search from Chevy’s web site for 2012 Volts in the Boston area. It returned five pages. Mac Mulkin Chevrolet has 5 of them listed.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        Pick one car randomly from those 5 pages, call that dealership and ask a salesman if they have it in stock, and how much.. you will quickly find out the truth. You can also email and ask for a quote, otherwise they will ask you to come down and look at the Cruzes.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Herm, I took the challenge and called…

        “We’ve got 4 right here.”

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Can we get a similar chart for the Volt?

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    No Galant, no Endeavor,Lancer? Mitsu. should really get out of the car business in the US

  • avatar
    carlisimo

    I’m sad that the US auto market doesn’t like the Miata more.

  • avatar
    BlueEr03

    It would be interesting to see what the 5 or 10 cars directly above the Leaf are, for context.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Agreed – ditto on the Volt. Just provides a bit of context on what cars they are chasing.

      Some real surprises. I know the 370Z doesn’t sell well, but stunned it sells that poorly. I know the new A6 has gotten bloody expensive, surprised sales are also that low. I see a ton of A3′s around here, figured they would sell better than that. The Hyundai Veracruz also surprises me – neighbor owns one (admittedly don’t see many on the road) and they love it.

      Back to the 370Z, if Nissan only sold 6,081 YTD, half of those must have been sold to the residents of Puget Sound – ditto on the Leaf for that matter. I am seeing Leaves EVERYWHERE lately around here.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yup I see lots of Leafs running around in So King Co. Seems like I see at least 1 or more every day. I know a guy that bought one, and his friend who lives in my neighborhood has one too. Stadium Nissan has certainly been advertising them heavily.

        Plus there are lots of people in the Sea area that like to think they are saving the planet. For the last couple of years the Prius was the best selling car in W. Wa. I can certainly see a few Prius drivers switching to a Leaf.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        The new A6 has just arrived at the dealerships. Audi reported 1124 sales last month, at that pace the YTD number would have been almost 50% higher than that of the Leaf.

        The A3 sales are very low, though (as are the 1-series). America loves larger cars …

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        Asian sports coupes just don’t sell well since they can’t compete on price with the American pony cars.

    • 0 avatar

      My list looks something like this:

      Volvo XC90: 7,923
      BMW 7 Series: 7,750
      GMC Canyon: 7,634
      Mitsubishi Outlander: 7,396
      Scion xD: 7,292
      Nissan Leaf: 7,199

  • avatar

    OK, I’ll do a Volt list… stand by.

    • 0 avatar

      Updated with a new graph: 15 Cars That Are Selling Worse Than The Chevy Volt.

      I didn’t include a Volt graph initially to make a point about pure electric cars, but the Volt takes down some once-big names itself. To be clear, I edited both lists for contrast rather than comprehensiveness.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    Can anyone explain why XC70 is so low? Kind of interested in that one? Chinese Sucky Sucky?

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Interesting perspective. Looking at the cars selling less than the Volt, if you hadn’t told me I would have sworn half of them were no longer in production.

    Not really aware if the Leaf network has reached Atlanta yet, but I have yet to see one outside of the AJC Auto Show. Granted, I don’t spend any part of my commute in the city where most of the Leafs are probably restricted to. I swear Atlanta has more Porsches per capita than peaches.

  • avatar
    JMII

    WOOHOO my wife’s car (Volvo C30) is below both the Volt and the Leaf… so its quickly becoming a rare collectors item. Kind of silly since other then price the C30 should be popular (turbo + hatchback = win!)

    Now I’ve yet to see a Leaf (in south FL) but I see all the less popular cars on that list about once a week, including the Panamera. The fact that I work in a trendy/upscale area (Boca Raton) might be the reason why however. In fact there is an Audi A3 in the office parking lot right now.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Do they still make the PTCruiser ? Or have they just not managed to sell all the cars they built ?
    So this means that the Leaf has sold almost as much YTD as the F-series sold last Saturday between 1.00 and 2.30 in the afternoon?

  • avatar
    gslippy

    When you’re selling in Saab/Mitsubishi/Suzuki territory, you’re in trouble unless you have some volume sellers to count on. It’s hard to imagine such low volumes being profitable for their mfrs.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “electric cars represent the first fundamental technological shift for the automobile since its invention”

    This statement is not correct. Electric cars were quite prominent in the first generation of Automobiles. I have read that they were about a third of the number sold in the early years of Century XX.

    As far as technology goes, there is less difference between my great grandmother’s Baker Electric and a Leaf than there would be between my grandfater’s Apperson Jack Rabbit.

    • 0 avatar

      And let’s not forget about the Stanley Steamers…

      Basic electric motor technology may not have changed much, but the difference between a modern Li-ion array and a Detroit Electric Edison Battery, is plenty impressive. On a more practical level, EVs represent a fundamental shift for consumers in terms of how they experience their vehicle (unlike hybrids). I did forget about the first EV boom though, so the wording should be changed.

      How about “electric cars represent the most fundamental technological shift for the automobile since the internal combustion engine came into its own.”

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        How about “electric cars represent the most fundamental technological shift for the automobile since the internal combustion engine came into its own.”

        Electric cars were the market share leaders in 1899 and 1900.

        They haven’t come very far since then. Over 100 years later, the fundamental issues of limited range and long recharge times have still not been satisfactorily addressed. The internal combustion engine has evolved to a significantly greater degree, which is why it remains the dominant method of powering motor vehicles,

        The problem isn’t with the electric motor, it’s with the inadequacy of the power storage. If a viable replacement for the battery can be invented, that’s when it will be possible to speak about technology shifts.

    • 0 avatar
      dmw

      I have to second that, and as for Mr. Niedermeyer’s response, conceding that the problems of the electric cars are lesser only by degree gives up the whole game.

      The fundamental technological barriers to EV cars, and the fundamental relative advantages of gasoline as an energy medium, have not changed. In fact, the most substantive difference between those cars of old and the Leaf is electronic control systems, i.e., computers, not the battery or motor efficiency. 75lbs of gasoline in my car still beats the hundreds of pounds of batteries in an EV by any relevant measure of operational effectiveness—notwithstanding the pathetic 30% direct efficiency of an ICE. These charts prove that despite their advances, and the hype, electric cars remain relegated to novelty status by the gasoline ICE.

      • 0 avatar
        MikePDX

        Thanks to Edward for putting the Leaf in context. There are lots of reasons people choose a particular car, electric drive is just one of many.

        I see a Leaf at least once a day here in Portland as well, not counting the two in the lot at work. Nissan’s focusing on a few good markets first, with national rollout to follow.

        Battery technology has improved a factor of ten since those days, thanks to the laptops and cellphones creating a mass market for lithium-ion cells. Batteries continue to improve, and will be about another factor of two lighter and cheaper in five or ten years. Motors and controllers are incomparably better too.

        Gasoline is fantastic stuff, incredible energy density, can’t be beat. Except that it’s getting scarce, it’s fouling our nest, and we enslave ourselves to tyrants to get it. Electricity comes from nukes, or windmills, or solar, or natural gas, or whatever we choose to use here at home.

        When comparing weights, compare the whole system. On one side of the scale goes a 100 lb. motor, 10 lb. controller, and 200-400 lb. of batteries. On the other side goes 75 lbs. of gas, 250 lbs of engine, plus 100 lbs of fuel tank, exhaust pipes, radiator, coolant and oil. The gas car will go about 300 miles before a stop at the station. The electric will go about 100 miles, but you just plug it in every night. Except on the road trip, they’re both good daily drivers.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    Sad to see the 1-series doing so poorly. It’s the closest thing to the cars that so-called BMW fans say they want the company to build again.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Not really. It’s too close to being as big and heavy as the 3 series. It serves no useful purpose in the coupe form that it’s sold as in NA.

    • 0 avatar
      Nostrathomas

      Personally, I like that the 1-series is smaller, and the size reminds me of the more compact 3 series cars of the 90′s. The 3 has gotten a little too big for my tastes….I don’t need space just for the sake of space….i want my car as small as it can be while still getting the job done. Easier to park and maneuver around town, while still having the same great engine as it’s bigger brother. I even preferred the simple 128i over the 135….

  • avatar
    GS650G

    How many Volts were bought by the USG? And a large number are demos at dealers. And they are talking about 60K units next year?

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @GS650G: “How many Volts were bought by the USG? And a large number are demos at dealers. And they are talking about 60K units next year”

      I doubt very many have made it into any government’s fleets, they’re just starting to ramp up production.

      Most of the demos that are at dealers are only in the five or so states that can SELL the Volt. They will have to ramp up production just to stock the dealers that are coming online in 2012 that are outside of the test markets.

      The 60K units are worldwide. That would include shipments to foreign markets.

  • avatar
    Steven02

    Considering the availability of either the Volt or Leaf, it is a surprise to see the cars they are beating… like the Lexus HS. Terrible sales numbers there.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    The bane of the 1-series is it needs a 4 banger.

  • avatar
    obruni

    the Volt is outselling a Lexus hybrid.

    there’s your spin!

    • 0 avatar
      KixStart

      This it not too surprising. The Lexus hs250 EPA numbers are nothing to write home about (barely better than a Camry and not as good as a Camry hybrid). People often say this segment is about statement but it’s really about the numbers. People who want good fuel economy will buy a hybrid to get it. People don’t buy hybrids that don’t deliver.

      And $7500 from you and me makes the Volt more “competitive” on price.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    The A3 might be selling more if Audi had some, I look for a A3 TDI a few weeks ago and could not find 1 in three states, NY,NJ, CT in fact according to three dealers A3 gas modles were in short supply, maybe model change over?

    • 0 avatar
      Nostrathomas

      What’s also unfortunately is that you also can’t get the A3 with a quattro and manual (it’s only one or the other)…otherwise there would be one in my driveway. That car would be perfect otherwise. Unfortunately from the looks of it, they new A3 will only come here as a sedan, which is an even bigger shame….that hatch/wagon form was great.

      • 0 avatar
        slingshot

        I rented an A3 hatchback in Germany last month. Great car and I didn’t realize it was a diesel until I filled the gas tank. However, I believe CR states its reliability is poor. I also rented a BMW 1er in France; I didn’t like it at all. The AC was so loud that you couldn’t hear the music. The Audi is a much more substantial car.

        I agree with you, I want great mileage and AWD which no one has right now. The new 2012 Impreza with AWD will get 35Mph on the highway but it is a entry level vehicle. My daughter may be getting one.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    It’s still too early to make any call on Leaf sales. It wasn’t on sale for the full year across the US like pretty much every other car on the list. Ditto for the Volt. Of course the markets they have been available in were hand picked markets with lots of early adopters, techies, tree huggers and have been strong markets for the Prius. I’m sure that is why Seattle is one of the launch markets and why I see so many Leafs on the road. We’ve got all 4 groups here, in recent years Toyota advertised that the Prius was the best selling car in Western WA.

    Because they are a new market and there are competitors on the way the $64 question is just how much of this is pent up demand that is going to quickly be satisfied.

  • avatar
    don1967

    Talk about damning EVs with faint praise. After all the hype and government subsidies, edging out the Hyundai Veracruz isn’t much to brag about.

    To loosely paraphrase Dr. Malcolm, “EVs had their chance, but nature selected them for extinction.”

  • avatar

    Do you want the Real Truth ? Can you handle the Real Truth ?

    Nissan Leaf is not demand constrained at this point. It is supply constrained.

    Why don’t you make another chart that shows the number of months someone has to wait in the queue to get a model of car ?

    To write an article on the “sales” but not even mention that people in a large # of states can’t even order Leaf or that in states where you can order you have to wait 3 to 6 months to get one or if you can get an “orphan” on the lot, you will have to pay a primium – does sound too much like ‘the truth” to me. Sounds like a deliberate attempt to mislead (or being too lazy to do actual research – research as in do 5 minutes of web search).

    This is the reason I normally stay away from people who claim they know “the truth” or claim they are “fair and balanced”.

    • 0 avatar

      You obviously didn’t read the article, and yet you’re accusing TTAC of being lazy? If you’d taken a moment to review what I wrote, you’d find that I was making the point that the Leaf is doing better than some might expect, given its shortcomings (including the fact that it’s supply constrained). This wasn’t intended as a sign of total Leaf demand, but as some context for those who say EV demand isn’t going anywhere. For example, who would have thought that Nissan’s pure EV would outsell its affordable sportscar (the 370Z) or both of its luxury CUVs (Infiniti FX and EX) this year?

      This is the reason I normally stay away from people who are so invested in one car, company or technology that they get defensive even when you’re trying to make their side of the argument for them.

  • avatar
    solracer

    I think all of those 7200 Leafs (Leaves?) must have been sold in the Seattle area because I see one pretty much daily. It still has a ways to go to match the Prius (which is pretty much Seattle’s official car) but they aren’t just a curiosity. Never understood why GM didn’t offer the Volt here first and instead let Nissan establish a beachhead. It will be interesting to see if the Volt can dent the Leaf’s dominance of the electric vehicle market when it goes on sale here.

  • avatar
    Skink

    It’s silly to compare Leaf sales to those of any non-electric. Leaf buyers are eligible for $7500 US government incentives. Leaf buyers in CA get additional incentives. Then, on the other hand, is the low production rate, frustrating those who want to buy them. Some people don’t buy Leaves because they can’t buy them. Other people don’t buy them because they still cost too much even after incentives. Those who buy Leaves now probably paid $1000 for a BluRay player when they first dropped. Still others don’t buy Leaves because they don’t go far enough on a charge. Still others are skeptical of the Leaf’s ability to start, run for any distance , provide adequate cabin heat and defrosting capability in cold weather. Things will probably get better on these fronts.


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