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USA Plug-in Sales for Q1-2017

High sales of Plug-ins in December, mostly related to year-end deliveries of Tesla, had little or no effect on the start of 2017. Sales increased by 72 % in January, 55 % in February and 31 % in March, all compared to the same months of 2016. The combined increase is 47 % y-o-y, with 40 700 Plug-in sales and a market share of 1 % for the first three months.

Much of the growth over 2016 Q1 can be attributed to Chevrolet Volt & Bolt, Tesla Model X and the new Toyota Prius Prime, the successor of the slow selling Prius Plug-in. Compared to the 1st quarter of 2016, BEVs increased by 39 % and  PHEVs by  57 %. The BEV category is dominated by Tesla, which stood for nearly half of pure EV sales during Q1.

Our prognosis for the complete 2017 stays at 250 000 units, including at least 50 000 deliveries of the new Tesla Model 3 to US customers. Questions remain about the Chevrolet Bolt's role for GM and possible changes in targets for CAFE and GHG reductions. For further analysis read further down in this article.

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PHEV still gain, but for how long?

PHEVs gained another 1 % in Q1-2017, versus 2016. This reasons is a surge in Prius Prime sales, which became the #3 plug-in vehicle for the quarter. Deliveries started in November last year and it's selling at a monthly rate of around 1500 units in the US now, which is close to the best year of the predecessor, albeit in a much larger market. The new Chevy Bolt still sells only around 1000 units per month, which is more a question of availability than market demand, according to most industry observers. Despite the current trend towards PHEVs, we deem this to be temporary, until more affordable long range BEVs, like the Tesla Model 3 and the next Nissan Leaf become available.

As a footnote, we are also tracking fuel cell vehicle sales. Not so much because of their efficiency and charging convenience, but for the headlines they create, at times. In 2016, a total of 1082 FCEVs were registered in the US, by 3 brands, 1034 of them were Toyota Mirai. The global total was 2300 units for 2016. The 1st quarter of 2017 saw 412 reg's in USA and 844 globally.

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250 000 for 2017 are quite possible

USA is the 2nd largest market for Plug-ins, but growth and market share are less impressive than in many other developed economies. 2015 was a lost year with the Chevy Volt change-over and the wait for the Tesla Model X. CAGR was 54 % from 2011 to 2016, which compares to 72% worldwide and 143 % in China. Nearly 50 % of USA plug-in sales are in California  and only 38 % are outside the 10 states with ZEV mandates.

Most US policy proposals indicate that support for GHG reduction will be scaled back. We are still confident with 250 000 units for the complete 2017, with new, more affordable, long range BEVs entering showrooms in 2017, notably the Tesla Model-3, the next gen Nissan Leaf and, hopefully, better availability of the Chevy Bolt.

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