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USA Plug-in Vehicle Sales for 2017 Q4 and Full Year

by Roland Irle, EV-volumes.com

The 4th quarter of 2017 finished with a sales increase of 19 %, compared to the same period of 2016, with 2017 ending just below the 200 000 plug-in vehicles mark (+27 % YoY), with 53 % of them being pure electric (BEV). The plug-in share of the total light vehicle market was 1,2 % for the complete 2017, compared to 0,9 % in 2016.

Much of the growth can be attributed to the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the new Toyota Prius Prime PHEV, with this latter representing  regularly 20 - 25 % of all Prius sales. Yearly volumes remained significant for the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, and Ford Energi models, but in Q4 these models had significant drops, albeit for different reasons (New model coming for the Japanese, increased competition for the others).

In 2017, Tesla retained the 1st position for both individual nameplates (Model S) and OEM totals.

We expect a significant market growth in 2018, with sales doubling to 400 000 units, pulling the rolling stock of plug-ins to over one million units. The major driver of the growth is the Tesla Model-3. Its ramp-up to mass production has been delayed several times during 2017, which is part of the reason for the moderate growth of USA Plug-in sales, compared to other markets. For 2018 we expect around 150 000 units Model-3 to be delivered to eagerly waiting customers in North America.

first USA Plug-in Vehicle Sales for 2017 Q4 and Full Year image

Production Hell - Second Chapter

Elon Musk tweeted in July the ambitious ramp-up plan of the Model 3, targeting 100 units in August, 1500 in September and 5000 per week by the end of the year.

In October, Tesla reported the Q3 results and we could see how the first chapter of the Production Hell turned out, with only 220 deliveries, numbers were below what was expected.

Then, in the first days of January, the Q4 report was published and we could see how the second chapter of the Model 3 saga unfolded. With 2 165 Model 3 being built and 1 330 units delivered in the last quarter of the month, it was good progress over Q3, but still a bit below the originally stated target of 1 500 units/month in September, let alone the 5 000 units/week at the end of 2017.

Tesla stated that ending December the production rate reached 1 000 units/week. Reaching 2500 units per week until the end of Q1-2018   seems feasible now. The next step to 5000 units per week at the end of Q2 carries higher uncertainties again.

These problems were not a complete surprise, and reservation holders still seem patient.  If Tesla does manage to scale up without compromising quality, the Model 3 has all chance to lead EVs into the mainstream car market

second USA Plug-in Vehicle Sales for 2017 Q4 and Full Year image
third USA Plug-in Vehicle Sales for 2017 Q4 and Full Year image

Plug-in Share Above 1 % Now

USA is the 2nd largest market for Plug-ins, but growth and market share are less impressive than in many other developed economies. 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. Despite these headwinds, the plug-in vehicle sales grew 27% to almost 200 000 units, and market penetration finally crossed the 1 % mark. We are confident that 2018 will see some 400 000 units being registered, helped by the nationwide availability of the Tesla Model 3, but also by the restyled Nissan Leaf, of which the Japanese carmaker expect to triple sales, the progressive sales ramp up of the Chevy Bolt, and increased deliveries from the growing number of other models on the market.

2018 will be a game changer in the USA, as the Tesla Model 3 will start to be produced in high numbers, essential for the American brand to satisfy the six-figure long waiting list there.

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