August 2013 marks the first time since production began that the Chevrolet Volt exceeded 3000 units sold in a single month. In August, GM sold 3,351 Volts, bringing the total for the first 8 months of the year to 14,994 units sold. Sales are now up 24% over the same time period in 2012. It was undoubtedly a big relief to GM with July being a slow sales month, with only 1,788 units sold. This sales trend should continue with GM announcing a $5,000 cut it price on the 2014 model. It put the Volt back in the number one position vs. the Nissan Leaf, which also had a record-breaking month with 2,420 units sold. Its second biggest month was March of 2013 when Nissan sold 2,236 units. For the first eight months of the year, the Leaf has sold 14,123 units.
More important however, than the sales competition between the two vehicles, is the fact that the EV technology seems to be gaining momentum. Apparently, there is a price sensitivity that when breached, will help drive the sales of EVs. Nissan Leaf sales have been improving since Nissan cut the price by $5,000 and now the Volt cut in price of $5,000 appears to be having the same effect. If there was merely a rejection of the technology, no price cut would make a difference. It would simply have been a good concept gone wrong and a rejection of battery technology. One more point is the fact that both the Leaf and Volt are great vehicles, not just great EVs. If they weren’t, price could be ruled out since no one would want them.
On the high-end, Tesla can’t produce their cars quickly enough to satisfy demand. So when price is not an issue and when the car produced is exceptional, people will accept EV technology. GM will be introducing the high-end 2014 Cadillac ELR, based on the Volt and a less expensive EV, the Spark. While Nissan should be concerned that the Spark will eat in to its Leaf sales since it will be less expensive, given the lack of maturity in the EV market, there should be enough buyers to go around.
Of greater concern, is the fact the infrastructure to support EV technology has not been developing quickly enough. There needs to be more level 2 charges introduced around cities like New York, Chicago and Boston, that will make ownership more practical. As I tweeted last month, and in the photo attached, I was able to plug in my Volt at Longwood Gardens, have lunch and return to my fully charged vehicle. In addition, the level 2 charger afforded me the best parking spot in the lot.
The momentum for EVs appears to be building. If car makers play their cards correctly and support this technology to its logical conclusion, there will be a massive shift away from fossil fueled vehicles over the coming years, to non-emission, battery operated vehicles. That will only be a positive for this country both economically and in terms of the environment.