Volt Records Second-Best Sales Month While Leaf Still Looks Withered

The Chevy Volt recorded its second-highest sales month since its December 2010 launch with 1,760 units sold, of which 90 percent were to retail customers. Its all-time high was in March, with 2,289 units sold.

And though GM has said it is “not in a race” with sales against Nissan’s Leaf which was launched the same month – and Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn has recently said he’s not worried over slumping sales at this juncture – the Japanese rival again posted numbers of around one-third the Volt’s, at 535 Leafs sold for June 2012.

Whatever the case, things at the moment are decidedly picking up for the Volt as the Leaf’s sales are still withered, or just holding on. In June 2011, a mere 561 Volts were sold, compared to 1,708 Leafs.

Or sliced another way, the Volt is up by over 300 percent year over year, and last June the still rolling-out Volt and Leaf “race” saw Volt year-to-date deliveries at 2,745 Volts versus 3,875 Leafs – representing 727 more Leafs in June 2011 compared to June 2012. Calendar year to date, Nissan has delivered 3,148 Leafs which is an average rate of around 6,300 per 12 months.

Even so, Nissan has defiantly said it will sell 20,000 Leafs this fiscal year ending in March 2013 considering that Tennessee production begins in December. However, if that’s going to be true, it will need to seriously quicken the pace for the rest of this year, or expect a major blitz at some point.

In contrast, GM stopped saying it will meet a previously specified – and even more ambitious – goal of 45,000 Volts for this calendar year. It has idled the Detroit-Hamtramck plant twice this year to trim supply to match demand. Nonetheless, it’s now in a healthier position, and the company’s mid-year sales of 8,817 Volts already now exceed its 2011 total of 7,671 for the entire year.

Sales for Volts are being helped by word of mouth, more advertising, and California Volts are now eligible for solo HOV lane access. Plus, it has been several months since a protracted spate of negative press set the Volt back to selling just 603 in January. Since then, it has easily topped 1,000 units per month, or specifically February: 1,023, March: 2,289, April: 1,462, May: 1,680, June: 1,760.

The Volt’s sales in June also rose as the aggregate of GM passenger car sales rose by 12 percent year over year.

GM credits its passenger car sales progress to a 32-percent increase in Chevrolet Malibu sales and a 21-percent increase in Buick LaCrosse sales. It also noted combined sales of all seven Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac crossovers were up 30 percent versus a year ago.

But it’s all a relative comparison. With just around 3 percent of the total market share being held by all plug-in vehicles compared to mainstream automobiles, the Volt versus Leaf race – or not a race as the case may be – is a microcosm of the big picture.

The big picture for the small market is many wild cards yet remain to be played in months and years ahead. Globally, pressures are spurring demand for these and other electrified vehicles, as their makers continue to race toward technological improvements and work on getting their respective value propositions properly marketed and understood.

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  • Wagstaff

    Sales are horrible for the Volt and all the spin about a 300 % increase over last year is meaningless when you only sell 1760 in June while its sister car the gas-powered Cruze sells over 18,000. The CA HOV model did not cause a dramatic increase in June over the 1680 sold in May. For perspective the Ford Edsel sold over 60,000 cars its first year. Volt is in its second year

    I want the electric car to succeed, but patting ourselves on the back for this, so far, miserable sales won’t achieve it. Sales need to be 10 times that number to be successful. We need to stop cheer-leading and start demanding a less expensive car or the EV will fail. Sooner or later GM will have to pull the plug if sales don’t ramp up dramatically.

  • Capitalist Oppressor

    I’d like to see higher sales too, but its just not true that GM will need to pull the plug at these sales levels. They could likely continue production even at 10k/year without losing money. And the halo effect the car provides by just existing likely improves the value of the company as a whole by far more than the company spent developing the vehicle.

    Fortunately its not even an issue. Volt is on pace to sell ~20k cars per year while absolutely killing its direct competitors, the PiPrius and the Leaf which really are on the bubble. Winning that competition is a huge bonus, because its a simple fact that fuel efficiency is at or near the top of consumer concerns.

    Volt’s success is positioning GM as being the tech leader amongst automakers, which provides even more halo value for GM, over and above what is gained from the car just existing.

    Another benefit is market access. Volt is most popular in California, which is a huge market that GM has nearly lost over the decades. GM market share in California is only ~9%, which is far below its national average, and its been stuck there precisely because of the green cred of Toyota and Honda.

    Chevy Cruz is outselling Volt in California by less than 2-1 despite costing half as much. And Volt owners LOVE their cars, which is providing real word of mouth buzz for GM that will resonate for years in California. Bringing GM marketshare in California up to just the national average would add more than a point to national market share, which would justify Volt all by itself.

    And finally, your analysis completely ignores the fact that U.S. sales are only a portion of the Volt Market. Volt/Ampera is selling much better in Europe already, and there are still plenty of market opportunities across the rest of the globe.

  • Modern Marvel Fan

    Volt is certainly doing great. Here is the reason why:
    1. It sold more than the Prius did in its infancy.
    2. It sold better than 80% of the hybrids out there.
    3. It sold relatively well for an expensive $40k Hybrid. Compare that to any other Hybrids at $40k, you will see why. It is the leading EV out there. (Yes, I mixed the EV/Hybrids for the Volt b/c it is neither, both and more)…
    4. @ 15,000 units per year, that is revenue of over $600million. Not a small number for any company…

    CA HOV sticker came after Feb. That is why the sales have been steady since the CA HOV stickers. May saw a dip b/c the severe shortage of CA HOV eligible Volt in California. Since GM shut down the plant, many buyers had to wait for their Volt for couple months.

    I waited 2 months for mine. SF Bay Area Chevy dealer has 8 day supplies of Chevy Volt.

  • Capt. Concernicus

    @ Modern Marvel Fan ,

    Wanna compare apples to oranges? Then you should know that the Prius has as of April 2012 sold over 4,000,000 units. In the U.S. the Prius sells about 150,000 units a year or about $3.75 billion a year. The Volt is NO WHERE near either number. Never will be. Let me know when you want to compare apples to apples.

  • Modern Marvel Fan

    Comparing Prius to the Volt is like comparing a Orange to Mango…

    Prius is about half the price of the Volt.
    Prius is slow and driving experience is terrible.

    Maybe you should get yourself informed and compare the Volt to the Prius Plug-in. The Volt has outsold the Prius Plug-in (more an apple to apple comparison) by a factor of two.

    Also, the Prius is an established brand. The Volt has sold more in its first year and second year than Prius did in its first and second model year while its price point is much higher.

    Also, Volt is an EV with extended range where the Prius is NOT. I only used 1.9 gallon of gas in the last 1,000 miles. See if any Prius can do that.

  • Modern Marvel Fan

    @Capt. Concernicus

    Maybe you should get some real information before you bash the Volt.

    1. Comparing Prius to the Volt is like comparing a Potato to a Tomato.
    2. Pirus is slower and have worse driving dynamic than the Volt.
    3. Prius is selling well with over 4 different body styles and over 10 years of estabilshed brand name.
    4. Volt sold better in 2011 and 2012 than Prius “did” in its first two model years (Prius had better tax credits and less political baggage).

    5. If you really want to compare to the Volt, then Prius Plug in is a better comparison. Volt outsold the Prius Plugin by a factor of 2.

    6. Volt is really an EV with range extension capability. In the last 800 miles, I used ZERO gallon of gas. My Volt only has a little over 1,000 miles and I have only used 1.9 gallon of gas in total.

    7. Volt outsold 80% of the all the hybrid models out there.

  • StewartIII

    NewsBusters| Media Fail: Chevy Volt Makes NO Money, Costs Taxpayers Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars Per Car

  • momoc

    you cant compare a $24k car (prius) to a $40k car. also the two cars are in different tech. arenas

  • Bobdavisnpf

    I got the 1st US prius its first year and loved it. Got 2 of the gen 2 prius in 2005-2006 and love those too. Volt is by far the best car I’ve ever owned: its driving experience is indeed in another league from any Prius.

    From a cost standpoint, the 2006 Prius and 2012 Volt are both fully loaded and the Volt is more expensive by about $7K. At 260mpg the Volt is only saving me $1K/yr in fuel, so I’ve got a 7-year breakeven on TCO.

    But I was sort of ready to step up to a much nicer ride anyway. Even if the Volt never broke even for me, it’s worth whatever extra: to buy American, to invest in USA’s world-leading car tech, and to enjoy a much better drive.

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