Last month Nissan sold its 175,000th Leaf since launch and the Renault-Nissan Alliance now outdistances the nearest automaker globally by more than three-to-one cumulative electric vehicle (EV) sales.
The automaker headed by pro-EV CEO Carlos Ghosn accounts for 238,000 units or about 47 percent of the cumulative total of all electric cars sold in the world to date.
Much of Renault-Nissan’s success can be attributed to the Leaf which last month crossed its latest global milestone with 177,000 actual sales – around 79,000 in the U.S. – accounting for 74 percent of the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s total.
The Renault-Nissan Alliance’s contribution is heads above next-nearest Tesla’s 74-75,000 sales through May. Further, the kinds of cars sold are all mass-market oriented, a goal Tesla has only in sight as it proffers upscale creations starting at $75,000 for those who can afford them.
The Leaf is also the number-one selling plug-in electrified vehicle (PEV) – a class that includes plug-in hybrids – followed by General Motors’ Chevy/Holden Volt and Opel/Vauxhall Ampera extended-range electric siblings at 91,325.
Tesla’s total since 2008 counts 2,500 Roadsters but it’s tough to nail down as it does not report monthly sales like other major automakers, so this estimate is based on most recent statements from shareholder letters and other disclosures.
Its total for battery electric vehicles also ranks above third-place EV seller Mitsubishi. Despite the poor i-MiEV today being all but stagnant in the U.S., around 50,000 of the otherwise decent little converted gas cars from Japan have since 2009 have been churned out under different nameplates.
Mitsubishi is still developing new electrified vehicles and is not really asleep. To show that, if we momentarily step aside from our discussion of pure electric cars and include plug-in hybrids, Mitsubishi ranks second for PEVs with 111,000 global sales thanks in no small part to it Outlander SUV with over 60,000 sold.
Similarly, speaking of all PEVs, GM would be the third-best-selling PEV maker with 94,320.
But coming back to the main topic of pure battery electric cars, the second-best seller is actually Tesla – a remarkable achievement for a startup selling high-priced vehicles.
Rapidly Changing Market
Out of about 510,000 battery electric cars sold worldwide to date, Nissan’s Leaf accounts for about 35 percent, Tesla about 15 percent, and Mitsubishi about 10 percent.
We can’t quite say the Leaf is resting on its laurels but momentum this year has slowed for the EV late in its life cycle and as competitive newcomers are on the horizon.
Speaking of which, Tesla has in view a Model 3 – in its mind’s eye and not the public’s as the first revelation of this car that’s been promised for the past few years is expected next year.
While a first entry level car for Tesla, the Model 3 is to arrive in a couple years or so alongside second-generation efforts by Nissan and Chevrolet.
Specs for this new benchmark are a mid-$30,000 price point and “200 miles” range. Of course details will be presented later, including how much options can push above the teaser rate, but on broad brush that’s the hope.
What third-place Mitsubishi does in the EV market will remain to be seen but this is a shakeout, and other carmakers – such as GM – may come into greater prominence in the pure EV field.
Of significance is how soon EVs will be deemed viable as “mass market” cars able to compete in the open market against internal combustion cars – now and when tax credits begin to go away for early leaders in a few years.
Other carmakers including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and more are promising battery electric cars but these vehicles even at their best trade at low volumes.
One goal of EVs held also by Tesla which for now rubs elbows with these upper crust German brands price-wise is to change the paradigm.
That was supposed to be the goal as others such as hybrid pioneers Toyota and Honda sidestep the challenge saying EVs are not as viable as fuel cell cars.
What others including the Volkswagen Group may do in the mass-market EV space in coming years is also an open question, but settled for now is who’s out in front – that’s Renault-Nissan.
Thanks to sales tracker Mario R. Duran in compiling figures for this report.