2011 Electric Car Sales: Flop or Success?

There is a concerted effort to create a perceived reality about the sale of electric vehicles that paints them as a flop, but there is another reality out there, writes David Herron.

Published: 09-Jan-2012

Are the electric cars from Nissan, GM and Tesla a flop or a success? With the first year of sales figures from Nissan and GM in our hands we have more data with which to ponder what this means for the future of transportation. Viewing this experiment as a success or failure depends on ones point of view, your expectations, and perhaps whether you own millions of dollars in oil company stocks.

The last part of 2011 showed strong sales growth for the Chevy Volt (723 in September, 1,108 in October, 1,139 in November and 1,529 in December), while Nissan Leaf sales were lackluster (1,031 in September, 849 in October, 672 in November, and 954 in December). For the year the GM sold 7,671 Chevy Volt's to the 9,674 Leaf's sold by Nissan. This makes a total of 17,354 electric cars sold by Nissan and GM, in the U.S.A., in 2011, with other automakers such as Tesla selling several hundred more electric cars.

For comparison, MotorTrend reports GM's total sales for 2011 were 2,503,820 vehicles. There were 415,130 Silverado pickup trucks sold in 2011, and 231,732 Chevy Cruze cars sold in 2011, and the list of vehicles sold by GM goes on and on. Compare these numbers to the 18,000 or so total electric car sales in 2011, or the Chevy Cruze, with 16,675 sales in December alone, you could rightfully think electric cars are a flop, kill the program, and lets move on to something more attractive. Indeed, you can find reports quoting many people making this exact argument. Electric car sales are a drop in the bucket, they're not making any impact, we're wasting our money on this stuff, on and on.

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