The two plug-in cars everyone has been comparing since their respective December 2010 launches – the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf – set North American sales record in September.
In the Volt’s case its 2,851 units sold was an all-time record since launch, and in the Leaf’s case, its 984 units sold was a record for 2012 only, but no doubt welcome in light of modest sales in recent months. Year-to-date, Nissan has delivered 5,212 units.
General Motors only narrowly set its record selling just 20 more units than the previous high of 2,831 delivered in August. This makes 16,348 units sold this year.
This was accomplished despite a shutdown of General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck plant begun on the 17th of last month and lasting until the 15th of this month.
GM was offering attractive lease prices until early September, and has said it built up supplies prior to the shutdown to have enough inventory on hand.
Volt communications representative Michelle Malcho also told us last month GM has been seeing month-over-month increases, without committing to whether it will see these the rest of the year. As far as July to August to September goes at least, it’s so far so good.
Regarding Nissan, despite a solid September, Nissan Executive Vice President conceded at a roundtable discussion yesterday, Andy Palmer that the company is not on track to hit 20,000 units hoped for this year.
“We’re a little disappointed,” Palmer said. “The uptake isn’t as strong as we first hoped.”
Palmer said Nissan has made some marketing mistakes and aside from him, dozens of its customers in a few hot states alleging premature and excessive range loss are among others who are saying the company is still possibly making mistakes in its public relations.
Nissan has acknowledged seven Leafs analyzed in Arizona were found to have batteries within specification, admitted no defect, but did buy back two of them with diminished range under that state’s lemon law. Similar range loss issues have been reported by Leaf owners in Texas and in California. In the latter state, Nissan is now facing a class action suit.
Nissan has commissioned an independent third-party board led by EV advocate Chelsea Sexton to follow through, and we expect to hear more on these issues in coming days and weeks.
And speaking of opportunities to work on, while the Volt is leading the plug-in sales chart, Chevrolet’s sales and marketing network has room to grow according to a post by West Coast editor of AutoRetailNet, Alysha Webb on plugincars.com. A survey she cited showed GM’s division might need to create greater unity among its nationwide Volt dealers.
“There is a love-hate thing going on between Chevrolet dealers and the Chevy Volt,” wrote Webb. “Some love it because they can offer really great lease deals, and are enamored with the technology. But a smaller number really dislike it. GM needs to find a way to turn more of its dealers on to the Volt, because they will be very important to boosting sales.”
She cited certain dealers in California – the strongest state for sales – as ironically disliking the Volt, and contrarily others in Wisconsin who responded saying they loved it.
Mixed opinions from dealers as to how well GM is marketing the Volt also were reported.
Webb said 38.5 percent of dealers thought marketing is “poor or very poor.” Some 46.2 percent said it was “good or very good.” And 15.4 percent offered no opinion.
Citing another recent report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, titled “Policy Priorities for Advancing the U.S. Electric Vehicle Market,” Webb said getting dealers on the Volt’s side is critical.
Dealers can exert local political clout to work with regional legislators to help make their communities more plug-in friendly.
They can also spread the word via advertising, and Webb said the Carnegie report observed automakers need good relations with dealers to be as effective from region to region as it could be.
Webb suggested “GM needs to take that advice to heart” given inconsistent dealer support the AutoRetailNet survey showed is presently the case at hand.
“An overwhelming 83.8 percent thought the time is right for the Volt,” Webb wrote. ” But only 56.4 percent thought Volt sales would increase in 2013; and 43.6 percent did not think sales would increase.”
We’ll have more September sales news for you soon, and will post the Dashboard ASAP once we have all available numbers compiled.