US sales 2017-Q1 Alternative Power segment

Sales of Alternative Power cars in the United States increased a hopeful 47.2% in the first quarter of 2017 to 41,132 units, or 1% of the total US market. This is a combination of a 39.4% growth for EVs to 21,379 sales and a 56.7% growth for PHEVs to 19,753 sales. The EV segment is still slightly larger but the PHEV segment grows faster and is catching up, as especially luxury brands are entering this niche of the market before making a switch to full electric models. While regular (non-plug in) hybrids are struggling due to low gas prices, EVs and PHEV continue to benefit from Federal and State rebates that stimulate sales of these vehicles. And new entrants will keep arriving in showrooms this year, so expect the growth to continue.

Highlights for Q1 2017 EV segment:

  • US-sales-EV-segment-2017_Q1-Tesla_Model_S-Model_XTesla is firmly in control of this segment with almost half of all EV sales in the US. While the Model S loses an estimated 4.5% of its volume, that is more than offset by the 79.2% growth of its SUV model, the Model X. Tesla is estimated to have sold over 10,000 cars in the US this quarter, a new record, just like its 25,000 worldwide deliveries. With the more affordable Model 3 expected to start deliveries in the second half of the year, both Tesla and the segment as a whole could see booming growth in 2017.
  • Another contributor to that growth of the segment is the Chevrolet Bolt EV, priced similarly as the Model 3 and with comparable range. In Q1, the Bolt EV was only available in a couple of States, before its nationwide roll-out, so its 1,000 monthly sales are not reflective of the car’s potential by a large margin.
  • And even despite its limited availability, the Bolt EV almost outsold the Nissan Leaf, which is starting to show its age even though Nissan upgraded its battery to give it more range. Dealers are heavily discounting the Leaf at the moment to prepare for the arrival of the second generation in the fall of 2017.
  • The BMW i3 also benefits from an update which gave the model a longer range, and is closing in quickly on the Volkswagen e-Golf which will get a longer range in the coming months but improves nonetheless as VW dealers are shifting their attention from diesels to EVs. Its take rate of 5.4% is much higher than that of other non-dedicated EVs, which are below 2% (Focus and Soul), except for the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive, but this is artificially boosted by the Car2Go carsharing program.
  • While the Fiat 500e loses slightly, it’s followed by three models that more than double up: the Ford Focus Electric, the Kia Soul EV and the fuel cell electric Toyota Mirai. The other FCEV is the Honda Clarity FCV, which is still way behind on its rival.

US EV ranking 2017-Q1

  2017-Q1 2016-Q1 change 2017 EV ratio 2016 EV ratio
Tesla Model S 6,100 6,390 -4.5% 100% 100%
Tesla Model X 4,300 2,400 79.2% 100% 100%
Nissan Leaf 3,287 2,931 12.1% 100% 100%
Chevrolet Bolt EV 3,092 0 New 100% 100%
Volkswagen e-Golf 967 612 58% 5.4% 5%
BMW i3 940 264 254% 67% 35%
Fiat 500e 940 970 -3.1% 100% 100%
Ford Focus Electric 691 257 168.9% 1.9% 0.5%
Kia Soul EV 440 220 100% 1.8% 0.7%
Toyota Mirai 311 97 220.6% 100% 100%
Mercedes-Benz B250e 159 161 -1.2% 100% 100%
Honda Clarity FCV 92 0 New 100% 100%
Smart Fortwo Electric Drive 50 172 -70.9% 4.7% 13.2%
Chevrolet Spark EV 11 607 -98.2% 0.2% 11.8%
Mitsubishi i-MiEV 4 8 -50% 100% 100%
 Total 21,379 15,333 39.4%    


Highlights for Q1 2017 PHEV segment:

  • Toyota_Prius_Prime-US-car-sales-statisticsThanks to the replacement of the first generation Toyota Prius Plug-in by the more capable Toyota Prius Prime, the Japanese PHEV is able to better compete with the Chevrolet Volt, and is closer than ever. And with a 16.3% share of total Prius sales (including Prius C hatchback and Prius V wagon), the Prime also takes a bigger share of the nameplates sales than it did before. Still, the second generation Volt has also improved 39.5% and maintains its segment leadership with a 1,200 unit lead.
  • Ford occupies third and fourth place with the Energi versions of the Fusion and C-Max. As sales of regular gasoline versions of the midsized sedan have crashed down harder than those of its PHEV version, the latter has now increased its take rate to almost 5%. This is significantly higher than those of other midsized sedans Hyundai Sonata PHEV (1.7%) and Kia Optima PHEV (0.5%).
  • The C-Max is only available as a hybrid or a plug-in hybrid and in Q1 the split was close to 50/50.
  • The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron gains 33% on its volume of last year and increases its take rate vs the regular gasoline version to almost 20% of A3 sales in the US, the highest in the segment.
  • As already briefly discussed in the large premium SUV segment, the BMW X5 is the best seller of the SUV PHEVs, but the Porsche Cayenne wins in terms of take rate, at over 11%. The Volvo XC90 is struggling with supply thanks to global demand.
  • BMW is the #4 brand for PHEVs thanks to a 5-vehicle line-up, and the 330e clearly outsells its direct rival Mercedes-Benz C350e. The only segment where Mercedes outsells BMW in plug-in hybrids is the limousine segment, where the S550e outsells the 740e, but the latter only arrived in showrooms last December so it may level off later this year.

US PHEV ranking 2017-Q1

  2017-Q1 2016-Q1 change 2017 PHEV ratio 2016 PHEV ratio
Chevrolet Volt 5,563 3,987 39.5% 100% 100%
Toyota Prius Prime 4,346 0 New 16.3%
Ford Fusion Energi 2,445 2,751 -11.1% 4.8% 3.7%
Ford C-Max Energi 1,774 1,450 22.3% 49.4% 35.7%
Audi A3 Sportback e-tron 1,201 902 33.1% 19.7% 12.0%
BMW X5 xDrive40e 934 839 11.3% 7.7% 8.4%
Hyundai Sonata PHEV 660 650 1.5% 1.7% 1.1%
BMW 330e 638 19 New 4.4% 0.1%
BMW i3 463 498 -6% 33% 65%
Porsche Cayenne S e-Hybrid 424 562 -24.6% 11.6% 14.0%
Volvo XC90 T8 PHEV 282 580 -51.4% 6.2% 7.4%
Mercedes-Benz C350e 278 0 New 1.3% 0.0%
Mercedes-Benz S550e 166 67 147.8% 4.6% 1.6%
Mercedes-Benz GLE550e 158 0 New 1.2% 0.0%
BMW i8 157 175 -10.3% 100% 100%
Kia Optima PHEV 141 0 New 0.5% 0.0%
BMW 740e 95 0 New 4.5% 0.0%
Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid 12 0 New 0.0%
Porsche Panamera S e-Hybrid 6 83 -92.8% 1.0% 8.6%
Cadillac ELR 5 262 -98.1% 100% 100%
 Total 19,753 12,604 56.7%    


Note: Clicking on the model name opens the sales data page for that model. clicking year in the legend turns the display for that year on/off

About Krzysztof Wozniak

Kriss grew up in Poland reading German car magazines, before moving to England and graduating to the British magazines, which he still considers the best in the world and continues reading them after he'd moved to the US. In college he promised himself he's buy himself a used Porsche before he turned 30 (not to be accused of having a mid-life crisis), but instead family needs dictated a Subaru Outback. Still waiting for that perfect moment to buy a used 2008-ish Cayman...
You can find all his articles Here.

Let me know what you think of this article. Thanks!