November car sales: Plug-in electric cars hold steady

November car sales were strong for most automakers, and it looks like deliveries of plug-in electric cars were about level with last month's car sales, Voelcker writes. 

Rick Bowmer/AP/File
A Nissan Leaf charges at an electric vehicle charging station in Portland, Ore. The Nissan Leaf battery-electric car logged 2,003 deliveries in November, precisely one car more than the October car sales of 2,002.

As the year winds toward a close, U.S. car sales are at their highest levels in years. And modern plug-in electric cars will set a new sales record too.

With one month left, November deliveries of cars with plugs look like they'll hold steady with last month's.

The Chevrolet Volt sold 1,920 units last month, against 2,022 in October, bringing its sales for the year to date to 20,702.

Sales of the Volt through the first 11 months of the year are now essentially equal with those from last year, despite a $5,000 price cut on the 2014 Volt in August. 

Neck and neck with the Volt, the Nissan Leaf battery-electric car logged 2,003 deliveries, precisely one car more than the October number of 2,002.

That raises the Leaf's 2013 sales so far to 20,081, just 621 units behind the Volt. Nissan noted that, once again, Atlanta was the hottest market for Leaf sales.

No Tesla numbers

Sales are not known for the third of the three highest-selling electric cars, the Tesla Model S, because Tesla doesn't report monthly sales at all. Its third-quarter U.S. deliveries ran about 1,500 cars a month.

Overall, it's looking like plug-in electric cars will total between 90,000 and 100,000 sales for 2013, out of a U.S. market of more than 15 million vehicles.

That's almost double last year's total, which itself tripled the 2011 number.

It doesn't hold a candle to one other country, though: In Norway, electric cars took fully 12 percent of all new-car sales last month--due to strong government incentives to buy zero-emission vehicles.

Plug-in hybrids on a roll?

But back to the U.S. If plug-in hybrid vehicles from Ford, Honda, and Toyota continue October's trajectory, they could end the year stronger than ever before

While sales of the Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid have been below 100 units a month, Ford and Toyota together sold more than 4,300 plug-in hybrids in October.

Toyota sold exactly 1,100 Prius Plug-In Hybrids, less than half October's all-time high of 2,095 but right in line with this year's monthly average. The November sales pushes the total number for the year to 11,169.

Meanwhile, Honda delivered 68 more Accord Plug-In Hybrids, bringing the yearly total since January to 488.

Ford's plug-in vehicle sales breakdown will be issued tomorrow; how those numbers come in will be key in assessing exactly how good the month proves to be.

In October the company delivered almost 2,200 plug-in hybrids, issuing its first press release touting the fact that its two Energi cars had outsold Toyota's plug-in hybrid for the month.

Low-volume & compliance cars

Bringing up the rear of the sales charts are the seven plug-in electric cars with sales of less than 150 units a month.

Some are clearly "compliance cars" built solely to satisfy California laws for zero-emission vehicle sales.

Those arguably include the Chevrolet Spark EV, the Fiat 500e (for which sales are not separately reported), the Ford Focus Electric, the Honda Fit EV, and the Toyota RAV4 EV.

Sales of the Chevrolet Spark EV totaled 87 in November, bringing the total sold over six months to 463.

The Toyota RAV4 EV logged 62 sales last month, a third lower than October's 91 and well below its best month of August, when 231 were sold. The yearly total is now 1,068.

The Honda Fit EV racked up only 23 deliveries, for a yearly total of 518.

Two additional models, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the Smart Electric Drive, sell in low numbers because of their small size and low number of dealers.

The little i-MiEV may have the lowest reported sales figure of any production plug-in car, with a sad 12 cars delivered in November--bringing its yearly total to just 1,018.

We'll add the figures for the three Ford plug-ins when they arrive tomorrow.

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