Insideevs has been tracking sales of plug-in electric vehicles for longer than its non-existent menu system reveals. For a long time, tracking the anemic sales of battery-operated conveyances took neither much effort, nor many digits. Suddenly, and contradicting conventional wisdom, EV sales reach record levels. As a victim of EV success, Tesla ends up between the big wheels of global automakers, as hard data, unearthed by the Daily Kanban, show.
|Plug-in sales by model|
|Insideevs, Jan-Nov U.S.|
|Toyota Prius PHV||12,772|
|Tesla Model S (est)||13,800|
|Ford Fusion Energi||10,009|
|Ford C Max Energi||7,130|
|Ford Focus Electric||1,720|
|Total plug-ins U.S.||104,997|
|Total plug-ins worldwide||256,377|
“In updating our monthly EV sales chart with the latest data for November 2014,” reports an enthusiastic Insideevs, “we noticed a 6-digit number that we’d never before seen in a single calendar year. That number, 100,000, represents a first for the U.S.”
Indeed, EV sales are on a sudden tear in the U.S., contradicting conventional wisdom that lower gasoline prices will kill the electric car, yet again.
Individual model stats are likewise taxing public perception. Sales of the ballyhooed Tesla Model S are dawdling in third place, and because they are estimated, they could even be eclipsed by the plug-in version of Toyota’s Prius, especially if Toyota would deliver the darned thing in the quantities demanded by its dealers. The numbers could also be grossly overstated, if a respected data company is right. We will get to that in a minute.
In number two of Insideev’s list, we find the much maligned Chevrolet Volt. Chevy’s range extender is not doing well. “The Volt will be the first electric vehicle to post two consecutive years of falling sales in America,” Insideevs says. Ailing as the Volt may be, Chevy moved 25 percent more than Musk’s second coming of the Model T, a.k.a. the Model S.
The top spot of Insideev’s tally is taken by an unassailable Nissan Leaf, which has outsold Tesla’s Model S by two to one. The chart counts 27,098 Leafs sold, vs. Tesla’s 13,800 estimated Model S. For the 22nd consecutive time, Nissan LEAF set a monthly sales record. Despite the hard data, public perception is that Teslas are the only EVs that are sold in quantity. Musk is rightly frightened that virtual reality will kill us all, virtual reality has already infected our brains.
Cars are a global business, and a sure way to confuse ourselves is to look at the market through American eyes only. Global data are harder to come by, but they are available. A good source for global auto data is JATO, a UK company that feeds the planning departments of many global automakers. JATO wants money for its quality data, but they are worth the expense, if your investments depend on facts. (If you see big differences to sales numbers stated by OEMs: They usually announce deliveries to dealers. As much as possible, JATO tries to report actual registrations. Tesla is make-to-order, and Musk said: “We have no inventory.”)
The Daily Kanban obtained global JATO data for EVs and PHVs for the months from January through September 2014. Another month should be available shortly, it won’t change the picture much.
|Plug-in sales by model|
|Global, Jan-Sept 2014|
|3||Tesla MODEL S,EV||17,815|
|16||Renault KANGOO EXPRESS,EV LCV||2,398|
|26||Nissan NV200,EV LCV||896|
|30||Mitsubishi MINICAB (Van),EV LCV||639|
|32||Zotye ZHIDOU E20,EV||584|
|34||Renault KANGOO,EV LCV||460|
|36||JAC HEYUE IEV,EV||412|
|46||Citroën BERLINGO,EV LCV||162|
|49||Peugeot PARTNER,EV LCV||147|
|52||Mitsubishi MINICAB (Truck),EV LCV||115|
|55||Peugeot ION,EV LCV||79|
|56||Piaggio PORTER,EV LCV||66|
|59||Mia electric MIA,EV||42|
|62||BAIC SENOVA D70,EV||31|
|63||Alkè XT,EV LCV||20|
|68||Ford TRANSIT CONNECT,EV LCV||7|
|71||Peugeot PARTNER ORIGIN,EV LCV||4|
|74||Renault Trucks MAXITY,EV LCV||3|
|75||Brandt Motors CITELEC,EV LCV||3|
|76||Mitsubishi I,EV LCV||3|
|82||Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG,EV||1|
|85||Lifan LIFAN 620,EV||1|
|86||Muses MOOVILLE,EV LCV||1|
Globally, JATO counted a little over 200,000 plug-ins as registered through September 2014. Insideevs figures some 256,000 through November, which is in the ballpark, if a little optimistic.
At the top of the model list, there is a familiar picture. The Nissan LEAF leads worldwide by a wide margin with nearly 45,000 put on the world’s streets through September 2014. In number 2, a surprise: AWOL stateside, the Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid SUV has been a hot seller in markets like Japan, the Netherlands, and the UK. Most of the following top ranks are familiar to the U.S. viewer, except for the Renault Zoe. The Leaf’s French cousin is not available in the U.S., but it is already on place 9 in the global ranking.
|Plug-in sales by group|
|Global, Jan-Sept 2014|
|2||Mitsubishi Motors Corporation||26,192|
|3||Ford Motor Company||19,820|
|4||General Motors Company||18,504|
|5||Tesla Motors, Inc.||17,819|
|6||Toyota Motor Corporation||16,235|
|7||Bayerische Motoren Werke AG||11,289|
|9||Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A.||4,705|
|11||Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.||4,114|
|12||BYD Auto Co., Ltd.||3,531|
|13||Kandi Technologies Group, Inc.||2,398|
|15||Hyundai Motor Company||1,253|
|17||Honda Motor Co., Ltd.||770|
|18||Chery Automobile Co., Ltd.||734|
|19||Zotye International Automobile||586|
|20||Anhui Jianghuai Automobile||412|
|21||SAIC Motor Corporation Limited||354|
|22||Beijing Automotive Industry Holding||256|
|23||Chang’an Automobile (Group) Co.||103|
|24||Piaggio & C. SpA||66|
|25||Fisker Automotive, Inc.||53|
|27||Dongfeng Motor Corporation||27|
|35||Lifan Industry (Group) Co., Ltd.||1|
Once we look at PHV sales through the eyes of global auto groups, we see a picture that rudely disrupts the fantasy of Tesla disrupting the auto business. The top four places are already taken by some of the world’s largest automakers, and with the exception of Renault/Nissan, they barely have started cranking up the segment. Renault/Nissan has been at it as long as Tesla, and it is way ahead. Tesla does not have the depth, expertise, and capital to ever catch up with the electrified Alliance.
|Pure EV sales by model|
|Global, Jan-Sept 2014|
|2||Tesla MODEL S,EV||17,815|
|8||Renault KANGOO EXPRESS,EV LCV||2,398|
|16||Nissan NV200,EV LCV||896|
|21||Zotye ZHIDOU E20,EV||584|
|23||Renault KANGOO,EV LCV||460|
|24||JAC HEYUE IEV,EV||412|
|29||Citroën BERLINGO,EV LCV||162|
|32||Peugeot PARTNER,EV LCV||147|
|35||Mitsubishi MINICAB (Truck),EV LCV||115|
|36||Peugeot ION,EV LCV||79|
|37||Piaggio PORTER,EV LCV||66|
|38||Mia electric MIA,EV||42|
|40||BAIC SENOVA D70,EV||31|
|41||Alkè XT,EV LCV||20|
|45||Ford TRANSIT CONNECT,EV LCV||7|
|47||Peugeot PARTNER ORIGIN,EV LCV||4|
|49||Renault Trucks MAXITY,EV LCV||3|
|50||Brandt Motors CITELEC,EV LCV||3|
|55||Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG,EV||1|
|58||Lifan LIFAN 620,EV||1|
|59||Muses MOOVILLE,EV LCV||1|
For battery purists, we have broken out global pure EV sales through September. Globally, sales of pure EVs by the Renault/Nissan Alliance are more than three times those of perceived EV leader Tesla. More worrisome for people who bet on Tesla’s future: The Alliance’s pure EV sales grow faster than those of Tesla.
|Pure EV sales by Group|
|Global, Jan-Sept 2014|
|2||Tesla Motors, Inc.||17,819|
|4||Bayerische Motoren Werke AG||5,142|
|5||Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A.||4,705|
|7||Kandi Technologies Group, Inc.||2,398|
|8||Ford Motor Company||1,938|
|9||Mitsubishi Motors Corporation||1,642|
|11||Hyundai Motor Company||1,252|
|12||Toyota Motor Corporation||967|
|13||General Motors Company||937|
|15||BYD Auto Co., Ltd.||809|
|16||Chery Automobile Co., Ltd.||734|
|17||Zotye International Automobile||586|
|18||Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co.||412|
|19||Honda Motor Co., Ltd.||363|
|20||Beijing Automotive Industry Holding||256|
|21||SAIC Motor Corporation Limited||158|
|22||Piaggio & C. SpA||66|
|24||Dongfeng Motor Corporation||27|
|30||Chang’an Automobile (Group)||2|
|32||Hyundai Motor Company||1|
|33||Lifan Industry (Group) Co., Ltd.||1|
Even more disconcerting for Tesla: Global giants are no longer asleep at the EV wheel. The world’s second largest automaker Volkswagen already is in place three behind Tesla, and it just has started after having been an unrepentant EV-skeptic for many years. China’s largest automaker Volkswagen said last month it would launch more than 20 models of battery-driven cars in China over the next few years. At home in Europe, it plans a range of compact electric cars that will go 300 km [186 miles] by 2015-17, and which will have a range of around 500-600 km [310-372 miles] by the end of the decade. VW plans investments of $130+ billion for the next 5 years.
We also see EV makers making the upper ranks of the list that are hardly known. Ever heard of Kandi (bigger than Ford) or Bolloré (right behind GM)? Apparently, Tesla is not alone with the urge to disrupt the global auto market.
Who cares about Kandi, you say? Tesla should, for instance. Unknown Kandi single-handedly sold 2,398 pure (and rather obscure) EVs in China January through September of 2014, compared to 439 Tesla Model S. How do we know this, with Tesla famously refusing to break out sales by region and month? Again, JATO’s numbers come in very handy. Craving those numbers by region Musk does not want to provide because they might confuse us? JATO has them.
|Model S Sales by country|
The attentive reader will notice that the Chinese numbers differ greatly from what has been reported. Insideevs says that “in September, an estimated 500 Model S EVs were sold in China.” JATO has less than that for the whole year. It is widely reported that Tesla sold 2,800 Model S in China January through September. JATO only found 439. JATO is generous, China-focused equity firm JLWarren Capital counted 432 through September. We don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong. All we know is that Elon Musk answers “Um, no, sorry,” when asked for detailed numbers. In absence of those, we recommend to do what major automakers do, and to use JATO’s numbers.
(According to Hybridcars, Tesla explained the huge discrepancy with bad data “and/or scalpers buying up new Model S sedans and stockpiling them to resell.” Ah, o.k. Then there are these reports of massive grey imports, a matter so pressing that Tesla denied warranty coverage on rogue Model S brought to China. With those registered, we did expect more on the streets than Tesla’s official numbers.)
(The very attentive reader may note a discrepancy between 17,819 Tesla EVs sold globally, and 17,815 Model S. There were all of 4 Tesla Roadsters sold in the year so far.)
|Tesla global quarterly sales|
|Source: Tesla, JATO|
Speaking of missing cars: Summing up Tesla’s officially released global deliveries of the Model S, we get 21,821 Jan-Sept. JATO only found 17,819 on the world’s streets. Did someone say that Tesla could be sitting on 3,000 unsold cars? The difference between Tesla’s and JATO’s Jan-Sept numbers is 4,002.
Discrepancies aside (which could and should be cured with dependable data from Tesla), fact is that the EV market is finally waking up, and that Tesla is underperforming the nascent market. Usually, a rising tide lifts all ships, but in the case of EV champion Tesla, it could mean a drowning. The EV market is approaching levels where it is taken seriously by global automakers. Until now, many made those cars for propaganda purposes, only to get green creds, carbon credits, or to fill government quotas. With industry levels seen reaching half a million EVs and PHVs in a few years, global automakers are getting their hands around a market size where they can bring their massive scale of efficient production and marketing to bear.
Sadly for stock portfolios, the complexities of the car industry are widely misunderstood, also , and especially on Wall Street. There are no secrets to developing an EV. It is less complex than a conventional car with its many moving mechanical parts. The hard part, especially for a neophyte, is to produce a car in large quantities, efficiently, and with a repeatable high quality.
“People don’t quite appreciate how hard it is to manufacture something. It is really hard,” Musk lamented recently, and he is yet to find out how truly hard it is once that something is made in true volumes. This is where global automakers excel, some of them had a hundred years to learn it.
Wikipedia’s list of defunct automobile manufacturers of the United States counts more than 1,600 automakers who had big hopes, who tried and failed. The list probably missed a few.
Tesla does not hold the keys to disruptive technology. Tesla is a small scale traditional maker of high-end cars with a market limited by its choice of powertrains. This market is about to see appreciable volumes, and the global colossuses will roll over Tesla once the numbers make sense. They slowly are beginning to make sense. Of course, there are skeptics who claim that the market for EV’s won’t go above a fraction of a percent of global car sales. Either way, in the long term, the way Tesla is heading is that list on Wikipedia.