Some Facts Behind Electric Car Sales Spin

John Goreham brings a pinch of reality to the headlines on electric cars sales in October.

Published: 07-Nov-2012

Each quarter the US automakers announce their sales figures in press releases. These make their way through the automotive media and then onto the mainstream media. By the time the news arrives on the TV news, it has been distorted and spun in ways that make the niche sellers seem like big movers, and the actual heavy movers are rarely mentioned. Here are some observations. We will present the factual sales numbers as reported in financial releases, and then comment on why this is unusual. Unless otherwise noted these numbers are US sales. When you read these numbers keep in mind that in a typical year about 12 million cars and light trucks are sold in the US.

The Original Green Machines
Listening to the TV news, scanning the headlines of a national newspaper (other than the WSJ), gives one the impression that electric cars and hybrids are all the rage. Lets’ take a look and see if that is actually the case. Honda brought the US its first hybrid, the Insight. Honda has always offered hybrids since then, and is offering hybrid Civics and other models besides Insight. What percentage of Honda’s US sales are hybrid vehicles? If you guessed 1.5% you are right. We threw the hydrogen fuel cell and electric Hondas into the mix as well. Only 54 total of those so far in 2012.

Ford C-Max Outsells Prius V vs Prius Outsells All Ford Hybrids 3 to 1
Toyota (Toyota Motor Sales) sells over 15 percent of its total vehicles as hybrids. The headlines we read though are that the new Ford C-Max hybrid, which TN has reviewed and written about favorably, has “outsold the Prius V in its first month of sales.” Hmmm. Ford reports it sold 3,182 of the new C-Max vehicles in October and that the Prius V sold about 2,000 units. Hard to dispute that fact, but the Prius is a 3-car family and the “V” is the largest. Here is another fact, the Prius 3-car family sold 16,774 units in October and is on track to sell about 250,000 units in 2012. In October all of Ford’s hybrid vehicle sales were 4,162 units. Toyota crushes Ford in hybrid sales, yet the headline is “Ford C-Max hybrid outsells Prius V.” Toyota is the only automaker operating in America that walks the walk when it comes to selling green cars.


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