October 2017 US EV Sales Update

So we come into November with the news that President Trump’s new tax plan (at least the version put forth by the House) seeks to eliminate the US Federal EV Tax Credit, possibly rendering this entire discussion moot.  The Senate version, on the other hand, retains the tax credit.  We can only hope that either the bill is reconciled favoring the Senate version, or that the whole proposal gets caught in the usual Washington quagmire and simply goes nowhere before the end of the year.  But I digress…

The October sales figures are in and there are a few high (and low)-lights to note.

The Chevy BoltEV set a second consecutive monthly sales record with 2781 Bolts hitting the road in October.  Even with this result, it doesn’t break GM’s record of 4290 EVs sold in December of 2016, thanks in large part to the 3691 Volts sold that month.  But watch this space!

On the other side of the coin was the fact that Nissan only sold 213 LEAFs, it’s lowest month since February of 2011, in only the third month of its being available in the US when 67 copies were sold.  While one may be tempted to say that this is simply due to the fact that everyone is waiting for the 2018 LEAF 2.0 to appear, it’s probably more true that even if you wanted one you probably couldn’t find one.  The outgoing fleet is being sold off and there were fewer than 300 to be had nationwide at the end of October, and fewer than 200 as of this writing.

The Tesla Model 3 was also a disappointment as well.  Production bottlenecks continue to push back the anticipated ramp of Model 3 production.  While actual figures are not known, InsideEVs estimates that only 145 Model 3s were sold in October (although I believe this is poised to change in November–stay tuned).

Back to the highlights side, the Chrysler Pacifica PHEV sold 1175 units this month, establishing October as a record for FCA of 1485 vehicles.

Outlook

So what do things look like in the final 2 months of the year and heading forward?

Tesla

I’m still estimating 2400 Model S and 1860-1880 Model X for the remainder of the year.  Based on October’s estimate of 1120 and 850 respectively this may seem optimistic, but it will probably come out in the wash since December will likely be a strong month for Tesla (unless they decide to start diverting even more of those vehicles overseas).  In fact, that is the stated reason for the lack of sales–they are apparently stockpiling vehicles to send abroad in December in hopes of finishing the quarter off strong.  For the Model 3 it is starting to appear that the Gigafactory bottleneck that has been the cause of the slow start is finally starting to ease.  Recent VIN spottings and sightings of car carriers loaded with Model 3s indicate that there may be around 1000 Model 3s on the road as of mid-November.  Given the lag in these reports, this would indicate to me that we are probably going to see in the neighborhood of 1000 Model 3 sales in November, which basically puts us 2 months behind Elon’s initial ramp estimate.  The company themselves indicated that it’s perhaps a 3 month delay.  Either way this will certainly seem like an insignificant blip by next year.  I am going to maintain by estimate of 1000 Model 3s in November and 2000 in December, although this could be pessimistic.

Altogether this brings Tesla to 160,222 by year end.  I think it’s very clear at this point that they will not cross 200,000 anytime soon in 1Q18, and therefore I figure they will position themselves to cross that line in April of next year.

However, based on my assumptions for the ramp and expected Model S and X sales in 1Q18 (2000 per week in January, 2500 climbing to 3500 per week in February and 4000 climbing to 5000 per week in March), and a continuation of Model S and X sales, I estimate that Tesla would cross 200,000 just before March 15.  They will therefore have to take some kind of action to cross the line in 2Q18.  With the assumption that they divert an additional 5% Model S & X overseas (above and beyond what they normally do), and either stockpile 1000 Model 3s a week, or basically stop selling for the final 2.5 weeks of March, effectively creating a stockpile of 12,000 Model 3s ready to go on April 1.  With these actions, I estimate they will be at 199,248 on March 31, right where they want to be.

GM

I have revised my BoltEV assumptions to 3000 per month for November and December.  Uncertainty around the fate of the US federal tax credit, and a typically strong December for the car industry and EVs in particular will likely translate to record sales for the Bolt.  With these assumptions, I have GM leading Tesla at year end with 167,486 US sales.  Furthermore, this puts them on a run rate of around 4500 vehicles per month.

Extrapolating that into next year (with a few tweaks), I estimate that GM will exit 2Q18 at about 192,400 vehicles.  If they want to game the system, they too could delay hitting 200,000 until 4Q18, but at this point it’s probably too soon to tell just how far BoltEV sales will go.  If they continue their upward trend, then GM may find themselves beginning the phaseout period next July, only one quarter behind Tesla.  For now I will consider this the most likely scenario.

Nissan

I project Nissan will exit 2017 with 115,690 US sales.  The thought is that LEAF 2.0 will revitalize Nissan’s sales figures, although it remains to be seen how the market will accept the slightly shorter range, but significantly cheaper vehicle.  Even if we assume 5,000 vehicles per month, they will easily cruise into 2019 with their tax credit intact (assuming the politicians don’t get in the way).

Ford

I estimate Ford to be at 104,731 US sales at the end of the year, which is a surprising figure given their sole BEV, the Ford Focus Electric, has only had lukewarm sales, tallying a total of only 8780 sales between its introduction in 2013 and my 2017 year end estimate.  Most of Ford’s sales come in the form of strong PHEV sales.  But still there is a long way to go and it will be well into 2019 before we can start to seriously look at Ford’s 200,000 aspirations.

Others

Despite a lot of talk and on-again off-again plans, the European automakers–BMW, VW, Daimler–sit at 55,203, 26,510 and 13,176 respectively.  Supposedly 2020 will be the year when we really start to see massive numbers of EVs from those makes, but until then, there is no danger of them getting near 200,000.

Toyota has a respectable 67,326 (estimated) and is showing good strength with their plug-in Prius.  But until they start to get really serious about battery electrics (again, supposedly in 2020), we’re still a few years away from seeing them cross the line.

Fiat-Chrysler is actually estimated to be at 29,155 by year-end, thanks to the success of the Fiat 500e and more recently the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid.  While obviously a long way off, it will be interesting to see how that minivan does in the market.  It may just turn out to be a winner if they market it.

Hyundai/Kia is estimted at 12,903, but with they are poised to come on strong with their Ioniq lineup.

 

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