Plug-In electric car sales for February: winter doldrums continue

As in previous years, the dog days of January and February were not kind to electric-car sales this year. Both 2014 and 2015 saw the lowest number of plug-in cars sold in their first two months, and 2016 appears to be following that pattern. While February sales were slightly up on those in January, both months stayed at 6,000 to 8,000 vehicles-nowhere near the 8,800 to 14,000 per month sold last March through December. Continuing to ramp up sales of the all new 2016 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, GM delivered 1,126 Volts in February. That compares to 693 a year ago, and brings the two-month total to 2,122 against last year’s 1,235. Sales of the Nissan Leaf battery-electric car stayed below 1,000 units for a second month, with February’s 930 a step up on January’s 755.

Both numbers were lower than the same months last year, a puzzlement considering that the new 30-kwh 2016 Leaf with 107-mile range should now be arriving at dealers. Sales of the BMW i3 and the Volkswagen e-Golf were far below their late-2015 levels, too, at 248 and 198 cars respectively. One source suggests that BMW is deliberately keeping its inventories of 2016 i3 models low in anticipation of the longer-range 2017 version that goes into production in July. Tesla? Who knows? It’s possible, in fact, that the Tesla Model S could have been last month’s best-selling electric car but we don’t know, because Tesla Motors refuses to release monthly sales data. Among other plug-in hybrids, the Ford Fusion and C-Max Energi logged sales of 932 and 490 respectively- both up on their January numbers.

The C-Max Energi continues to sell at levels lower than last year’s, though the Fusion Energi is staying roughly on pace with its 2015 numbers. Audi delivered 248 A3 e-tron hatchbacks in the car’s second full month on sale, adding to January’s roaring launch total of 327 high numbers for a luxury maker. And a mere 6 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrids were delivered in February, indicating the the model has finally sunsetted after it went out of production last spring. A new 2017 Prius Plug-In is expected to be launched this spring or summer, and go on sale this fall, with a battery range of perhaps as much as 30 miles. Luxury plug-in hybrid SUVs surge meanwhile, three newer plug-in hybrid arrivals continued to log strong initial sales.

The BMW X5 xDrive 40e plug-in hybrid is doing surprisingly well, with February sales of 345 almost doubling the 181 delivered in January. Since it went on sale in October, BMW has delivered more than 1,400 of the luxury plug-in hybrid SUV with the 14-mile electric range. After five months of single- or double-digit sales during 2015, the Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid luxury SUV has hit its stride, with 176 deliveries last month adding to 226 in January.