Do you hear that? It’s the sound of silence coming from right-wing pundits and politicians who became very vocal critics of the Chevrolet Volt in the past year. What has them shutting their collective yappers? Sales of the Chevy Volt have consistently risen every month this year, with over 1,800 sold last month, and over 10,000 sold so far in 2012. It seems that despite the vitriol directed its way, customers are finding their way to the Volt.
The Nissan Leaf is a different story however, with sales falling off of a cliff. What exactly is happening here?
Volt Rising, Leaf Falling
Several factors are at work here, but first let’s break down the numbers. GM sold 1,849 Volts in July, 125 more than it sold in July of 2011. GM says it has sold 10,666 Volt’s in the first seven months of 2012, and has so far produced 30,000 Volt/Ampera models. At the current pace of sales, GM should break 20,000 Volts sold this year. A far cry from its original estimations of between 40,000 and 60,000 vehicles to be sure, but the sale numbers are pretty solid for a $40,000 sedan that has been politicized unlike any other vehicle on the market.
In fact, the Chevy Volt is outselling all of its rivals, including the Toyota Prius Plug-In (though the standard Prius continues to dominate the hybrid market). The Prius Plug-In sold 688 units in July, putting it over 5,000 sold for the year. And what about the only pure-electric car sold in all 50 states, the Nissan Leaf?
Well, the Leaf sold just 395 units in July, less than half the number of EV’s Nissan sold in July of 2011. Leaf sales have been on a steady decline for months, as most early adopters have already found their way to a Nissan dealership. Then again, one could say the same about the Chevy Volt, but the key difference may be not in retail, but fleet sales.
Early Adoption Is Over, Make Way For Fleet Sales
The Chevy Volt has at least one major fleet customer, that being GE, which has pledged to buy thousands of electric and hybrid vehicles to make its fleet more fuel efficient. While the Nissan Leaf has found a few small fleet buyers here and there, no major fleet deal has been announced.
More like than not this is because of the Leaf’s extremely limited range. Whereas the Volt just needs to be topped off in a few minutes time, a depleted Leaf could be down for most of the day. That’s just bad for business, and could explain why so far this year, only about 3,500 Leafs have left dealer lots.
GM is wisely keeping their lips closed regarding strong (but not even close to estimated) sales of the Volt. Nissan is also mum on slipping Leaf sales, leading me to wonder if there isn’t a bit of an internal scramble to pump up sales in the U.S., as American consumers are cutting back on luxury goods. If Nissan can’t make up that retail volume with fleet sales, the Leaf might have bigger problems down the road.
Meanwhile, the Volt seems content to keep quietly gaining steam. As unlikely as it seems, the Chevy Volt may come out ahead as the alt-fuel leader when all is said and done.
Source: Autoblog Green