Gas prices are down all across the U.S., hitting below an average of $3 in the first days of November, the lowest since 2010. As if climate change or the guaranteed future rise oil in prices no longer were factors, U.S. consumers went out and binged on SUVs and pickups. Trucks accounted for 12 of the top 20 on the sales board.
In a month like that, electric vehicle sales were going to take a hit. For the first time since plug-ins were widely available, electrified cars sold in lower volumes than the same month the previous year. Here are eight of the big winners and losers in October’s electric vehicle sales report. Thanks to InsideEVs.com for the figures.
Toyota Prius Plug-in: Loser
It has been dark days for the Prius plug-in hybrid. After recording its worst month of 2014 in September (353 units), the car followed with 479 units in October, 77% worse than October 2014 and less than one-fifth what it sold in May 2014 (2,692 sales). Every model save the Prius V (up 11.5%) slumped for the Prius, which was down 13.5% hit across the nameplate compared to the previous year.
Chevy Spark EV: Loser
The 2015 Chevy Spark is the most efficient vehicle on sale in the United States for the upcoming model year. Though it is available in limited markets (i.e. the West Coast), it had been selling in decent numbers in 2014, peaking in May with 182 units sold. After posting its worst month (51 units) in September, the Spark EV couldn’t climb out of its funk with 58 sales in October. Low gas prices probably don’t bode well for the months ahead.
Honda Accord Plug-in: Loser
The Honda Fit EV is a very in-demand vehicle that simply does not have enough inventory, so its sales will always be low until the automaker quits producing them altogether. On the other side of the equation is the Honda Accord plug-in hybrid. This car, which retails about $17K more than the base Accord, is radioactive because of its price tag. Honda sold just 34 units of this EV in October. While it was better than some months in 2014, this car has come to represent irrelevance in the automotive space.
Ford Fusion Energi: Loser
Take one of America’s favorite midsize sedans — one made in Michigan — and add an electric motor for gas-free driving when making small trips. Ford had a great idea and executed it with the Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid. Unfortunately, customers didn’t see the appeal in shelling out for greater efficiency in October, when it sold just 686 units. That number was nearly one-third of May 2014 sales (1,939 units) and 37% worse than October 2013 (1,092 units).
Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive: Winner
As new electric vehicles like the Kia Soul EV and Volkswagen e-Golf become available, it is important to see a bump in sales along with the rise in inventory. The Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive has been moving in the right direction since hitting the market in July. After selling 65 cars in September, Mercedes added another 50% for 98 units sold in October. There’s still a long way to go for the B-Class, but the early returns are respectable.
BMW i8: Winner
BMW was a winner across the board in electric vehicle sales in October. The i3 “pure” EV hit its highest sales total to date with 1,159 units in the books. With the i3, it seems to be a case of “If you put it on the lot, they will buy.” October totals are nearly triple what they were in July (363 units) for the i3.
Now to the i8, the high-style plug-in hybrid that starts around $135,000. While far cheaper cars like the Chevy Spark EV ($26,820), Ford Focus Electric ($29,170), and Honda Accord Plug-in ($39,780) couldn’t break 200 in sales, the BMW i8 moved 204 units in October. That figure was almost four times what sold in September (58 units) in its first full month on the market. It was a huge win for a very expensive — and very appealing — car.
Tesla Model S: Winner
During the quarterly earnings call for Tesla Motors, Chief Executive Elon Musk explained to analysts why the company didn’t break down monthly sales for public digestion. According to Musk, “…the media tends to read all kinds of nonsense into the deliveries.” (Ouch!) Still, Musk went on to present a picture of an automaker who can barely make cars fast enough for people to buy them.
“Essentially in the third quarter we sold every car, that was including cars from like showrooms and everything we basically had,” Musk said. “There was just nothing left to sell.” That sounds like a win from any automaker’s standpoint, so the Model S makes an appearance without a precise count.
Nissan Leaf: Winner
One could argue the Nissan Leaf is the only true winner in monthly EV sales (other than Tesla). Its record monthly showings have become almost boring. In October, the Leaf sold 2,589 units, 29% better than October 2013 and the 20th straight month that it beat its previous showing. With 24,411 Leafs sold through the first 10 months of 2014, Nissan officially set the record for electric vehicle sales in a single year on U.S. turf.
There are still two months to go, so the Leaf will shatter that record by year’s end. Though there wasn’t much good news on the green car front in October, it’s hard to ignore the Leaf’s success story.