EV Sales Surge in California After Chevrolet Bolt Introduction; Hybrids Take a Dive

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
ev sales surge in california after chevrolet bolt introduction hybrids take a dive

If the automotive market were a foot, electric vehicles would be the curled-up toe on the outside edge. It doesn’t take up a lot of space, you’re not entirely sure what it’s there for, and some people think it’s weird. Still, it clearly has a purpose to serve and it’s hard to imagine the foot without it. There’s potential in that digit.

Strong Chevrolet Bolt deliveries in California pushed up the state’s EV sales by 91 percent in the first quarter of this year. It may still account for only 2.7 percent of the Golden State’s new vehicles, but it’s still more than many of us expected to see this soon. Sales of the more-affordable, longer-ranged EV seem to suggest the market might begin to gobble up plug-ins as more affordable models with superior range continue to arrive.

“If they can actually deliver, that will be the best opportunity to draw in new buyers.” Kelley Blue Book analyst Rebecca Lindblad told the Los Angeles Times.

General Motors is already cleaning up on the West Coast. Of the 13,804 pure electrics sold in California last quarter, 2,735 were Bolts. However, Chevy is just the tip of the iceberg. Tesla, which currently only sells the pricier Model S and X, is readying its $35,000 Model 3 for end-of-year deliveries while Nissan is prepping the next-generation Leaf (with a competitive 200-mile range) for a fall debut. But things aren’t happening as quickly as California regulators would like.

With 15 percent of all Californian cars sales required to be zero-emission vehicles by 2025, all of the upcoming EVs will need to be hits. “We’re a long way from getting anywhere close,” Lindblad said.

California is also the exception, not the rule, for electric vehicle sales. While EVs are much more popular there than in the other 49 states, it’s still only a sliver of the overall market. Still, the California market reflects a consumer trend seen throughout the United States. Pure EVs are gaining in popularity while hybrids are losing ground. Regular hybrids were down 9.2 percent while plug-in hybrids were up a whopping 54 percent.

Toyota’s Prius is a perfect example. Sales of the Prius have taken a severe beating in 2017, with the plug-in Prime variant the only model to have made any positive headway. Obviously, its updated styling hasn’t helped its appeal, though annual sales have been shrinking by a considerable margin every year since 2014.

Are former hybrid owners migrating to BEVs and PHEVs, or are they making their way back to more efficient traditional powertrains while new customers go for the plug-ins? It’s a question automakers would like to know the answer to. Certainly, Toyota is considering changes to its one-time green leader as the market continues to shift.

[Image: General Motors]

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5 of 27 comments
  • Carguy67 Carguy67 on May 22, 2017

    "... Obviously, its updated styling hasn’t helped its appeal ..." You mean making a hideous car even uglier didn't help sales? I'm shocked.

  • Orenwolf Orenwolf on May 22, 2017

    There was a vocal contingent here in the past that suggested Hybrids would be the market winner over BEVs, because they were more practical than a range-anxiety inducing all-electric vehicle. Others, like myself, argues that wasn't likely, because a hybrid was the worst of both worlds - all the complexities of an ICE powertrain AND all the bits of a BEV powertrain in one. It appears the market is agreeing with the latter presumption.

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    • Carlson Fan Carlson Fan on May 23, 2017

      @HotPotato The Volt is exactly what GM said it would be, an extended range EV. Love my Gen 1 and the only way you'd talk me out of it and into something else is with the substantially improved Gen 2.

  • Wjtinfwb How does the ICE mid-engine C8 platform work for... anything else? A sedan? SUV? With a mid engine configuration? A mid-engine SUV will have to be Suburban sized to offer the utility of a CRV. GM should dust off the Omega platform designed for the Cadillac CT6 for an SUV/Sedan offering with exceptional handling, Rear or AWD capability and acceptable space utilization. They also need to focus on interior fit & finish, trim choices and high quality final engineering and assembly. What GM doesn't need is another half-baked product with a storied and prestigious badge on the decklid and a premium price on the Monroney. No more Cimarron's, Allante's or X-cars needed to tarnish the reputation of Corvette.
  • InCogKneeToe BUILD It and they will come.By Build It, I mean a Vehicle that the Customer Wants and it works for them. It could be called Chevette for all that that matters. The Mach E's success isn't because it totes the Mustang on it.Just build what people want, the next Caravan/Taurus/Beetle/Maverick (truck).
  • YellowDuck Wait...how do you make a mid-engine crossover? Or even a 4-door coupe? Me not get.
  • 28-Cars-Later Thanks Corey. The head stud job on NOrthSTAR-T was $3K *years ago* as it involves an engine pull so rear wheel arch rust in and of itself isn't a show stopper. I'll be sure to check out the trunk as it may start to add up on deferred maintenance. Supposedly this was garaged so the underneath the rockers etc. should be decent but if those are shot its not gonna work.
  • Mark 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, G4NG engine with connecting rod bearing issues. Engine needs to be replaced, but Hyundai is denying warranty claim. I have all maintenance records from mile zero. It has been in Hyundai Service department 5 time in 4 months. They added the knock sensor and software update to let you know the engine is about to blow up. They kicked the can down the road doing patch work until the car was past the 120k extended extended warranty. I have that documentation too. So how can I join the class action law suit or find a Lawyer that handles these types of issues?