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:
Tesla 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.
Thanks 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.
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.
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