Chevy Volt Outsells Other Leading Plug-in Cars in May

May was the second-highest sales month for the Chevrolet Volt since its launch in December 2010, with 1,680 units delivered, and exceeding numbers posted by ostensible rivals.

The Volt’s all-time record was set in March this year, when Chevrolet sold 2,289 of the extended-range electric plug-in cars, topping a previous high watermark set in December of 1,529 Volts sold.

Compared to April’s (expected) downturn of 1,462 Volt sales, last month things went in a more positive direction for GM’s still-proving-itself technological halo, even as new competition has since come online from Toyota.

In March, the Japanese maker of the long-established Prius began delivering its long-awaited plug-in version, which as soon as April topped the Volt in units sold at 1,654 versus 1,462.

May saw the tables turn with the Prius plug-in hybrid selling just 1,086 units. During the same month, Nissan’s all-electric Leaf – also launched December 2010 – improved from 370 sold in April with 510 units sold for May.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Al Castignetti, vice president of Nissan’s North American sales said part of the Leaf’s shortfall was due to lack of availability.

“I have huge dispersion issues,” Castignetti said. “In places like California, dealers have pretty good inventory, but I’ve got states that literally have no Leafs, and we’ve got to address that.”

As for the plug-in Prius, while the Volt’s May victory is not insignificant, it should be noted the first three months for the Toyota PHV were better than the first three months for the all-new Volt last year, and Toyota’s hybrids have a comparative legion of fans.

Taken as a whole, last quarter the Prius line – comprised of the Liftback, Prius c, Prius v, and Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle – established themselves as the third-leading seller worldwide.

Without a doubt there is positive pressure favoring everything Prius that Volt and Ampera fans will yet want to watch and see as to whether it proves a continued sales booster for the plug-in Prius in months ahead.

At any rate, for those rooting for the Volt to make it, May was a good month as GM puts behind it a federal battery fire inquiry, congressional hearing, and many critical voices that amounted to mud thrown at an idea that could very well prove out.

If we look at month-to-month sales as a “sprint,” the Volt is standing on the winner’s podium for May. What’s arguably much more important is the long-term endurance race in which GM’s “Voltec” technology is still very much competing.

Even if the Toyota PHV outsells it on another day, and the Leaf and other plug-in cars come along as well, the big picture is electrified technology is progressively succeeding. While fans will have their favorites, others have pointed out that it’s not necessarily a zero-sum game, but one where each of these different approaches contribute to a departure from conventional fuels.

At the same time, they are forcing automakers to create high-mpg conventional cars as California’s Air Resources Board and federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and European legislation also add pressure on every automaker to clean up its act in order to continue onward.

  • Van

    Perhaps others are coming to the same conclusion, the PIP needs a bigger battery to provide a 20 mile plus range. If these numbers are not a fluke, i.e. Volt outsells the PIP in June, perhaps it will encourage Ford to put a 20 mile range battery in its Plug in Fusion. Time will tell.

  • MS

    From memory Volt was having a long list of buyers waiting for the car, even with a hybdrid sales decrease as they were already awaiting for it.

    I guess that when we have the magnific article of with the hybrid May sales, we will see a decrease of Hybrid sales, that I would associate to a oil price decrease, now under 100 usd per barrel.

    However it’s good that they keep on incleasing the sales, we need efficient cars!

  • Modern Marvel Fan

    Volt would have sold far more if they have inventory. California had a shortage of the Volt that qualify for Car pool access. Now I will bet that June should be even better as more and more Volt are arriving to California in the next few weeks.

    Prius Plugin is a scam. The only people that are buying it are either hard core Prius fans who like slow car or those who want carpool stickers for the cheapest price.

  • Thomas F.

    Long term, I’d be surprised if the plug in version of the Prius matches Volt sales. Prius fanboys and girls gave PIP an early release bump, but facts are facts.

    The Chevy Volt is just a LOT more car than PIP and doesn’t really cost that much more. People wont pay $30k for a PIP when they can pay $33k (after rebates on both) for a Volt and get a car that is actually fun to drive and has vastly greater electric performance.

    Pure electrics can only ever be a niche vehicle until range and charge times/options drastically improve, even assuming perfection on the part of the designers. And the Leaf is well short of perfection.

    The Tesla Model S should drastically outsell the Leaf despite costing two to three times as much, simply because it offers decent to long range depending on the battery you buy, and it looks likely to be a beautiful car to boot.