Leaf & Volt Sales: February 2012

UPDATE: General Motors swooned at the prospect of President Obama purchasing a Volt when he leaves office, and as a result, production has been halted for five weeks at the cost of 1300 lay-offs. The real reason for the suspension is that GM needs to ‘align it’s production with demand’, which in plain English means the GE purchase order hasn’t arrived yet and the supply chain is stacked worse than a casting call for Baywatch circa 1991, or something.

Thanks to long-suffering reader WTF for the link, good spot.

Original post:

Electric vehicle sales figures are out for the second month of the year, and GM handily beat Nissan by selling 1023 Volts against the Japanese auto-makers 478 Leafs.

The Volt had its fourth-best ever month while the Leaf sold the fewest units in a month since April last year. Perhaps the Superbowl ads that featured space aliens trying to figure out why an ‘electric’ car has a gas engine helped GM beat out the all-electric Leaf.

The Volt has a potential new buyer in Forbes writer Kenneth Rapoza, who admits to knowing nothing about cars but figures with gas prices hitting near-record levels that he can’t lose. Though someone should tell him the Volt actually does need gas:

The Prius gets 50 mpg’s on average. It cost just $23,000. It’s okay looking. But the Chevy Volt is even better looking, sort of like a brand new girlfriend.

If gasoline is going to $6 a gallon, as libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul thinks, and as Steve Odland considered here at Forbes last week, then I want a car that doesn’t need any gasoline at all. Oil can go to $150 a barrel and my transportation expenses won’t rise a cent. I feel like I’m beating the market, and that feels pretty good; pretty, pretty, pretty good.

GM won the GE lottery when it announced that in future, all sedan purchases by the firm would be Chevy Volts. That will help their numbers, even if there are easier ways to redistribute taxpayer dollars without investing in fiery chariots of doom pretend electric cars.

But GM look like marketing geniuses against Nissan, unless the recall of 86,000 gas-powered cars wasn’t part of a dastardly scheme to drive customers towards the battery option.

Even though sales are still rolling for both Leaf and Volt, there are still at least three good reasons why they’re still a tough sell. Still, things could be worse:

*hippie not included

Neither Chevy or Nissan is facing the level of marketing disaster currently plaguing Tesla. The electric sports car firm was forced to admit that should the battery be drained all the way, it’s no good. Forever:

If the battery is ever totally discharged, the owner is left with what Tesla describes as a “brick”: a completely immobile vehicle that cannot be started or even pushed down the street. The only known remedy is for the owner to pay Tesla approximately $40,000 to replace the entire battery.

Here’s a little something from the Video Volt. See what I did there?

..

 Check in next month for more fun with electric vehicle sales.

Leaf & Volt Sales: February 2012

UPDATE: General Motors swooned at the prospect of President Obama purchasing a Volt when he leaves office, and as a result, production has been halted for five weeks at the cost of 1300 lay-offs. The real reason for the suspension is that GM needs to ‘align it’s production with demand’, which in plain English means the GE purchase order hasn’t arrived yet and the supply chain is stacked worse than a casting call for Baywatch circa 1991, or something.

Thanks to long-suffering reader WTF for the link, good spot.

Original post:

Electric vehicle sales figures are out for the second month of the year, and GM handily beat Nissan by selling 1023 Volts against the Japanese auto-makers 478 Leafs.

The Volt had its fourth-best ever month while the Leaf sold the fewest units in a month since April last year. Perhaps the Superbowl ads that featured space aliens trying to figure out why an ‘electric’ car has a gas engine helped GM beat out the all-electric Leaf.

The Volt has a potential new buyer in Forbes writer Kenneth Rapoza, who admits to knowing nothing about cars but figures with gas prices hitting near-record levels that he can’t lose. Though someone should tell him the Volt actually does need gas:

The Prius gets 50 mpg’s on average. It cost just $23,000. It’s okay looking. But the Chevy Volt is even better looking, sort of like a brand new girlfriend.

If gasoline is going to $6 a gallon, as libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul thinks, and as Steve Odland considered here at Forbes last week, then I want a car that doesn’t need any gasoline at all. Oil can go to $150 a barrel and my transportation expenses won’t rise a cent. I feel like I’m beating the market, and that feels pretty good; pretty, pretty, pretty good.

GM won the GE lottery when it announced that in future, all sedan purchases by the firm would be Chevy Volts. That will help their numbers, even if there are easier ways to redistribute taxpayer dollars without investing in fiery chariots of doom pretend electric cars.

But GM look like marketing geniuses against Nissan, unless the recall of 86,000 gas-powered cars wasn’t part of a dastardly scheme to drive customers towards the battery option.

Even though sales are still rolling for both Leaf and Volt, there are still at least three good reasons why they’re still a tough sell. Still, things could be worse:

*hippie not included

Neither Chevy or Nissan is facing the level of marketing disaster currently plaguing Tesla. The electric sports car firm was forced to admit that should the battery be drained all the way, it’s no good. Forever:

If the battery is ever totally discharged, the owner is left with what Tesla describes as a “brick”: a completely immobile vehicle that cannot be started or even pushed down the street. The only known remedy is for the owner to pay Tesla approximately $40,000 to replace the entire battery.

Here’s a little something from the Video Volt. See what I did there?

..

 Check in next month for more fun with electric vehicle sales.

Leaf & Volt Sales: January 2012

The sales reports for January 2012 are out, and in the first month of the year the Nissan Leaf beat the Volt by selling 676 units to the Volt’s 603. January is a significant drop for both manufacturers after a relatively strong finish to 2011.

Volt sales are less than 40% of the 1529 units sold in December. GM is suffering the fallout from stories that the vehicles can catch fire after accidents, and sales are so soft, GM dealers are turning away cars they can’t sell:

…we’re hearing reports of dealers who don’t want to buy the cars from GM because customers just aren’t materializing for the Volt. Automotive News gives an example this morning in the New York City market where last month, GM allocated 104 Volts to 14 dealerships in the area and dealers took just 31 of them, the lowest take rate for any Chevy model in that market last month. That group of dealers ordered more than 90% of the other vehicles they were eligible to take.

The NHTSA has closed its investigation into Volt fires, but the pain for GM may not be over yet, because a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report is scathing about the politics of the delayed NHTSA report:

…it is deeply troubling that public notification of the safety concerns related to the Volt was inexplicably delayed for six months – a period of time that also coincides with the negotiation over the 2017-2025 fuel economy standards. The necessity of a full explanation for NHTSA’s silence concerning the Volt’s safety risk has been compounded by its lack of cooperation with the Committee.

Fires in a new model vehicle are bad enough for a car company which is still trying to shake the ‘Government Motors’ image. If it turns out there was any political interference in the reporting of potential safety issues with the car, it might be enough to erode trust in the Chevy Volt beyond the point of no return.

The Volt has undergone a few design tweaks for improved performance. But don’t get excited, the improvements only help the car qualify for California subsidies, not extra range or speed.California has mandated that by 2025, 1 in 7 new cars must be an EV, so GM’s move makes sense.

In fact GM will likely focus its sales efforts in warmer states, as cold weather and poor battery performance is still a major problem that needs to be overcome before drivers will be persuaded to ditch the gas-powered car for an energizer bunny cart.

Reports suggest that as a group, auto-makers are recognizing the EV may not turn out to be the future they hoped it would be. But Bob Lutz, GM’s ex-Chairman defends the Volt and blames its poor performance on ‘right-wing’ media. No, really:

…the Oscar for totally irresponsible journalism has to go to The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News, with, as its key guest, Lou Dobbs. Amid much jocular yukking, the Volt was depicted as a typical federal failure. In attempting to explain why Chevy has sold fewer than 8,000 Volts, Dobbs states, flatly, “It doesn’t work.” He elaborates, “It doesn’t go fast and go far on electricity. What happens is it catches fire,” adding that Chevy has recalled some 8,000 Volts. Bill O’Reilly, nodding approvingly, helpfully interjects: “So they’ve recalled cars that haven’t been sold.” Boiled down to the subtext, Dobbs’ message was this: “All Volts catch fire, and therefore all Volts have been recalled.” That simply isn’t the case.

Perhaps Lutz hasn’t been keeping up with events, but when a car company ‘suggests’ all owners of a model return them to the dealer for modifications, or offers to buy them back, that’s a ‘recall’ in everything but name.

Nissan plans to double US sales of the Leaf, which sounds aggressive until you remember their boast that they’d sell 500,000 EV’s a year by the end of 2013.

Other markets are proving as difficult as the US market for EV’s. The UK has more charging points than electric vehicles and in Australia, where just 49 EV’s were sold last year, the inflated price of the ‘eco’ option is expected to be a major barrier to consumer take-up. That and the fact they’re already labeled ‘coal-powered’ cars.

After all is said and done with electric vehicles, are they the wrong technology, or is compressed air the future of motoring?

December Leaf & Volt Sales

Nissan and GM have released their December sales reports, and in the last month of 2011, the Volt beat the Leaf.

Nissan sold 954 Leaf units and GM persuaded 1,529 fearless (or fireproof) hippies to buy a Volt.

At the time of writing, the number of returned Volts was unavailable.

GM sold 7671 Volts in 2011, plus 326 in December 2010. Nissan launched the Leaf a year ago, and sold a total of 9,674 in 2011, handily beating GM for the most EV sales by 2000 units, despite a strong last quarter surge by GM.

click for larger

In December, industry analysts pondered GM’s missed prediction of 10,000 sales in 2011. In fact, GM should get credit for achieving 80% of that number, it’s probably a closer performance than Nissan will manage against its wild prediction of selling half a million Leafs per year by the end of 2013**.

The Volt suffered a major setback when four vehicles turned into flaming wrecks after the batteries were damaged, and the firm is frantically working on a fix for the issue. Which might make die-hard hippies happy, but won’t persuade many other customers to pay for an over-priced pseudo-electric car that may or may not burn up in your garage. The suspicion that the battery problem was hidden from the public for months, until cars began to turn into piles of expensive ash overnight.

To add to the long lost of woe for the Volt, it came third on the list of Worst Product Flops of 2011.

The Volt is not the only electric car to catch fire, Fisker is has recalled its entire production output of the Karma performance electric car. Now that’s bad Karma. That’s another $500 million the US taxpayer won’t be collecting a return on.

the reworked commercial will feature a fire hose

Nissan has enjoyed a relatively easier ride with its Leaf, with no major drama despite one epic facepalm moment. Yet Nissan should be worried, because the failure of other electric vehicles to sell, or even be safe enough to park at home, affects the entire sector. USA Today thinks the bloom is already off the EV rose:

It’s not that potential car buyers reject the idea of being green. Most love the idea — until it involves the hassle and substantial expense of installing a home charger on top of paying a substantial price premium over an equivalent non-electric car. And then there is planning for range limits.

All electric cars have face the issue of limited range, and even manufacturers are using stories about competitor owners unable to get the promised range from their vehicle. That might turn into a legal problem if this case against Honda is won.

A final thought for those who drive a hybrid Prius and feel pretty good about themselves. Your car kills Mexicans.

You’re welcome.

**Note: The countdown clock for Nissan’s claim has been adjusted to reflect the actual prediction made by Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s CEO, rather than the somewhat misleading headline used by the IBT. The good news for Nissan is they have 365 extra days to make it, the bad news is they won’t.

November Leaf/Volt Sales

**UPDATE: General Motors has offered a buy-back option for nervous Volt owners. That sound you hear is a hippie stampede.*** Original post continues below:

GM wins for the second month in a row – Nissan sold 672 Leaf vehicles and GM sold 1139 Volts.

Nissan is still far in the lead with a grand total for the calendar year at 8720, though GM is slowly closing the gap at 6142 sales. Note that for comparison purposes, the 326 Volts sold in December 2010 are not included. To balance this, Volts which spontaneously combust are not deducted from total sales, despite the total loss of vehicle, and sometimes the home too.

Whether or not stories of fiery Volts will affect future sales remains to be seen, though for a car in its early stages of adoption to require complex ‘power-down’ procedures in the event of accidents isn’t a good sign. Imagine if Ford had advised Pinto owners to follow a protocol to drain the gas tank after a collision. Not good.

it's deja vu all over again

It doesn’t help that lithium batteries burn hot. Thermite hot. As you’d expect, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking at the risks to the public. That’s for all battery-powered cars, not just the Volt.

Nissan has its own problems, as disenchanted owners discover the rosy glow of driving an electric vehicle soon wears off when the juice runs out:

This is not easy to admit. First, because it makes me feel like a jackass. More than a year ago, when I first read about the Leaf, I put my deposit down and eagerly waited eight months to buy the car.

… after driving this car for five months, I can tell you I have yet to get 100 miles per charge. The last three times I measured, it was 55, 58 and 58.  My life now revolves around a near-constant calculation of how far I can drive before I’ll have to walk. The Nissan Leaf, I can report, is perfect if you don’t have enough anxiety in your life.

Don’t expect to see that on any Leaf advertising though.

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October Leaf/Volt Sales

Chevy sold 1108 Volts (PDF) in October, while Nissan sold 849 units of the Leaf.

This is the first month since March that GM has outsold its Japanese rival in the EV sector, and is also the first time GM has moved over 1000 units in a single month since the Volt’s launch in December last year. The Leaf is still way out in front for total sales, beating GM with 8,048 Leafs versus 5,003 Volts in 2011. Some say that sticker shock is holding the Volt back, others suggest it’s political fallout from the bailout that earned GM the sobriquet Government Motors.

Both Chevy and Nissan earned some plaudits with Consumer Reports gave Chevy’s battery-powered jalopy a recommendation, which may or may not be better than Nissan winning Electric Vehicle of the Year in Europe.

Awards notwithstanding, GM dealers just want shot of the electric albatross:

Dealers are desperate to get the Volts off their lots, partly because GM makes them buy the autos from the factory up front. The dealers can only get their money back if they sell the cars, and so some have taken to desperate practices. According to various media reports, they’re discounting them to local governments, and selling them in bulk to companies that want to stay on the administration’s good side.

Americans may soon have more charging stations for EV’s than they have cars to use them. Walgreens and Cracker Barrel are two chains installing chargers. CostCo gave up and pulled the plug on its chargers in the summer.

As slow as sales are in the US, they are far worse in the UK, where only 106 electric vehicles were sold through a government scheme in the entire third quarter. To rub salt into the wound, Tesla had its case against motoring show Top Gear tossed out.

If you’re wondering what sort of people buy green cars, here’s a clue:

Found at the always entertaining Criggo.

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September Leaf/Volt Sales

The automotive war for hippie dollars continued through September.

The Nissan Leaf sold 1031 units last month, remaining far ahead of the GM branded almost-electric vehicle.

Chevy sold 723 Volts in September, the highest single month’s sales since its December 2010 launch. What’s odd is  no mention of this ‘achievement’ in the accompanying press notes. Or not, if you consider that GM’s Volt is selling at only a little half the rate of the Leaf.

click for larger

The bad news for GM is that while it has announced its vehicle will be for sale in Canada from September, Nissan is only now  rolling its EV out in some very large US markets:

Orders for the 2012 Nissan LEAF begin today [9/29/11]  in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York. Deliveries of the LEAF, enriched for the 2012 model year with additional standard equipment including quick charging and cold-weather features, will take place in these key markets by December.

That’s a reminder to GM that Nissan has been eating its lunch with the Leaf while the Volt has been for sale across the entire US. For added salt in the wound, Nissan also made the Leaf available in Canada a full month before GM.

Congratulations to Nissan for owning GM yet again, but the prediction about selling 500,000 EV’s a year by 2013 still looks wildly optimistic.

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Stretch Leafousine

The Leaf is outselling the Volt handily, so it’s no surprise the first stretch electric vehicle is based on the Nissan.

Here’s the elongated Leaf:

Anthill Mob not pictured

The stretch Leafo has the advantage that more passengers will be around to help push when the juice runs out. The problem is, I don’t think any hippies have that many friends to fill it.

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August Volt/Leaf Sales

August sales are out for the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt.

It’s no longer even a real competition as the Leaf is beating the Volt more than 4 to 1. Chevy moved 302 Volts, Nissan sold 1362 Leafs. Nissan looks good by comparison to Chevy, but the number is still far short of their goal to sell half-a-million EV’s a year by 2013.

*click for bigger

Every month that Chevy gets beat by Nissan is another green embarrassment for the Obama administration that continues to tout the doomed electric lemon even as consumers lose interest:

Interest in buying the $39,995 plug-in car is starting to taper off, not only among “early adopters” but among lots of other buyers, as well, reports CNW Marketing Research, which tracks such things. That’s interesting, considering that the Volt has some of the hottest technology going, such as the ability to go 25 miles or more without using any gas and having a backup gas engine on board for unlimited range.

The big problem — no surprise here — is price. It’s cited by both the early adopters and the EV enthusiasts as a stumbling block.

The other problem GM has is the way it treats its customers. The car giant is trying to weasel out of an expensive warranty liability for the troubled Impala, saying it’s now a different company to the one that made the Impala. Therefore, customers are SOL when it comes to their warranty. In light of that, how much do you suppose the few remaining car buyers in America feel about trusting GM to a) make a reliable product, and b) honor the warranty?

GM is pressing on with the plan and has announced a Cadillac plug-in for 2013. Let;s hope Cadillac drivers don’t visit Costco stores,  or the tow trucks will be busy.

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