How are vehicle sales impacted by gas prices? According to a University of Michigan study cited by GasBuddy.com, the effect is immediate. While a vehicle purchase could impact a consumer’s finances for over a decade, Americans toss aside fuel economy concerns and go big when gas is cheap. When oil and gas prices spike (as they always do), the tide turns and green cars become popular again.
In November, U.S. green car consumers appeared to shrug off the low gas prices on the way to purchasing 6% more plug-in vehicles than in the prior year. Most pure electric vehicles — from the cheaper golf-cart models to more luxurious German EVs — saw considerable gains on the month. New electric vehicles hitting the market also provided a boost, proving that consumers want these cars on principle, cheap gas or not. They just need viable options when they go shopping.
Here are seven electric vehicles that powered U.S. green car sales in November. (Note: Since Tesla does not quote monthly sales or sales by country, the Model S is never up for consideration on our monthly lists.) Statistics are provided by the automakers.
Mercedes B Class Electric Drive
Mercedes’ first pure electric car made hay in November, when U.S. consumers drove away 193 units off Daimler lots. That figure is nearly double the electric Benz’s sales total (98) in October, its previous high-water mark.
Don’t sleep on Mercedes with the B Class Electric Drive. According to InsideEVs, the luxury automaker is only shipping limited quantities of the Electric Drive until 2015, when the market will open up to all of the lower 48. In other words, it’s no compliance car. Maybe that famous emblem will shatter the dork factor that has kept some consumers on the fence about EVs.
BMW has a legitimate force on its hands with the its first pure electric vehicle. The i3 continued its roll in November, selling 816 cars and trailing only the Nissan Leaf and (we think) the Tesla Model S in U.S. EV sales. To put that figure in perspective, the Cadillac ELR has sold 989 units for the entire year, January through November. While BMW’s i3 fell off the quadruple-digit sales totals it had posted from August through October, 816 was a solid number.
BMW’s pricey, gorgeous i8 plug-in hybrid deserves an honorable mention as well. Though it remains a low-volume seller because of its $140K price tag, the i8 had a great month with 126 cars sold. Compared to the Cadillac ELR ($75,000) the i8 trailed by only 29 cars sold in November, according to InsideEV’s stats.
In November, the king of U.S. electric vehicle sales reigned once again. After setting the record for stateside EV sales for the year, the Nissan Leaf continued raising the bar with another 2,687 cars sold. That total was 34% better than November 2013 and the 22nd straight time Nissan set a record for the month in sales. Yes, even the automaker is getting tired of repeating that fact.
Ford dropped the price of its Focus Electric to match the Leaf’s a few months ago, but Nissan’s EV hardly shed a sale to Ford’s low-volume entry in the segment. As far as volume electric vehicles are concerned, it’s the Leaf’s world. Every other car just lives in it.
Kia Soul EV
New entries to the electric vehicle segment showed promise in November. Despite the fact Kia is not reporting sales of its Soul EV, InsideEVs.com calculated 140 units of the funky green car delivered in November to U.S. consumers in its first full month on the market. With its considerable range (93 miles) and low price point ($33,700), the Soul EV has considerable potential among Americans. If consumers have access, they will buy.
The Volkswagen e-Golf was the other big EV debut in November, and it didn’t disappoint. VW sold 119 electrified Golfs in its first month on the market. Situated price-wise between the Leaf and the German luxury brand EVs, the e-Golf should have a market for consumers who prefer the Volkswagen brand over, say, Kia or Nissan. In fact, the coming months should hint of what’s in store for the e-Golf as it becomes more readily available. For a debut month, it showed plenty of promise.
Smart ForTwo Electric Drive
You know you want one. Well, 303 consumers drove home a Smart Electric Drive in November, which gave Daimler’s mini EV its best month of 2014. The Smart ED doubled its October sales, eclipsed 300 units sold for the first time this year, and posted a gain of 105% over November 2013. If none of that is worth celebrating, we’re not sure what is. Smart had the fourth-best selling pure electric vehicle in the United States in November.
Ford Fusion Energi
Though Fusion Energi sales dipped slightly (13%) year-over-year, Ford’s plug-in midsize hybrid sold 752 units in November. That total was one of the stronger performances among vehicles with pure electric range. (By contrast, the Toyota Prius plug-in sold just 451 units). Through the first 11 months of 2014, Fusion Energi sales are up 103% over 2013.
Ford is showing it believes in the long-term viability of hybrids in its full line of vehicles, including the F-150. Gas prices rise and fall, but a car may go 10 years or more in the same owner’s hands. Choosing an efficient hybrid or electric vehicle is the smart choice for long-terms cost savings and emissions reductions.