Chevy Volt Sales Hit Record High, Nissan LEAF Slumps in March

By · April 03, 2012

Volt LEAF Image

With March 2012 now in the history books, US sales of the two most-hyped electrified vehicles have been tallied and it's the Chevy Volt that blazed its way into the record books.

Nissan reports that sales of the all-electric LEAF checked in at 579 units in March, compared to only 478 units in February 2012. That's still below the 676 LEAFs that Nissan reported selling in January 2012, but close to twice the 298 LEAFs sold by Nissan in March 2011.

Sales of the Chevy Volt continue to follow an upward trend with General Motors reporting it sold 2,289 units in March 2012. That's a marked improvement over the 1,203 units sold in February 2012 and nearly four times the 603 Volts sold in January 2012. For the sake of comparison, General Motors sold only 608 Chevy Volts in March 2011.

In terms of 2012 year-to-date numbers, the tally for the Nissan LEAF now checks in at 1,733 units. Meanwhile, the 2012 YTD results for the Chevy Volt ring in at 3,915 units.

Critics will surely declare that plug-in vehicles continue to flop, but 2012 already shows signs of significant growth in the plug-in segment and the year is far from over. Additionally, there's reason to believe that the introduction of up to 10 additional plug-in vehicle by year's end will boost sales in the segment.

The first three months of 2012 are over. Are analysts' predictions of 100,000 plug-in vehicles sold in the US in 2012 going to prove accurate? Will a newcomer, maybe Prius Plug-in Hybrid, add a big boost to overall sales in the plug-in vehicle segment? Or is it still early to tell?


· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Good News.
Also Prius (28,711) outsold Corolla (28,289) to get #2 spot in Toyota's lineup.

· · 6 years ago

Any idea what the world-wide Leaf sales were for March?

· Francois B. (not verified) · 6 years ago

This is good news, increases in fuel price tend to motivate people to buy Volts and EVs. I personnaly took possession of mine on march 27, and I am extremely happy with how nice the car is, super fun to drive, (I tend to start fast at lights, and see fellows with my rear view mirror :-) )

I exported my car to Montreal, and here, fuel prices just hiked this morning to $1.49CDN per litre, which means a $5.80US per US gallon.

It's rather indescriptible the pleasure I get to silently roll and to pass by gas stations. So far, I did 240km on purely electric. That's very very nice.

GM limits the availability of the Volt in Canada, (they are increasing it only marginally) so it's sales numbers are rather low, while there is a high demand, especially in Quebec, where gas price is very high and electricity price is very low.

I think people will adopt EVs and EREVs as they see more and more around.


· · 6 years ago

Volt numbers are very impressive! Wow!!!

I guess reverse of anti-Volt propoganda + high gas prices did the trick.

· Nasdram (not verified) · 6 years ago

I don't get why you would limit the availability of the Volt in some markets while at the other hand shutting down production. As long as they have dealers trained for the volt why not meet demand in Canada?
Anyone able to shed some light on that?

· Anatol (not verified) · 6 years ago

EV's will change the the eco-system of the whole automotive industry. This is a nicer way to say that most of the existing companies will disappear along with the ICE. GM understands that very well (aka EV1).

· · 6 years ago

Welcome to the world without oil!
Did you register your car in Canada? A few years ago, I heard there was some sort of bias against EVs in Canada, caused by an assumption that they were all limited like golf carts.
I'm hoping the Leaf and Volt have changed this assumption.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Considering that it takes about two months from order to sale of a Nissan Leaf where I am, and that they are not available on lots where I am, I believe that the March sales figures actually reflect consumers beginning the purchase process in January. If this is the case, the dip for them in March is consistent with the dip for Volt in January. I believe that there will be a sharp up-tick in Leaf sales in May that will reflect the interest generated in March. (I ordered mine in March, delivery in May). If you review the data, there were 25 days inventory of Leafs at end of February, and 154 days of inventory on lots of Volts. Sixty days of inventory is "healthy", so for Leafs supply cannot (intentionally, I think) meet demand. While Volt increased sales in March, they still had a lot of inventory to go through. I think Nissan is being very conservative with their supply of Leafs. They did open up sales to the remaining U.S. as of March 1st, so you will see an increase in May sales to reflect this market expansion. Nissan only expresses optimism regarding Leaf. I wish the auto industry would shut-up with the "disappointing sales" talk, I'm pretty sure Nissan is looking at its orders from March with a smile on its face. They have done this extremely well.

· Kp (not verified) · 6 years ago

Let's hope you are correct and that April and may bring bigger sales of Leaf!

· · 6 years ago

So, can we now declare Volt victory over LEAF?

· · 6 years ago

I do not want to provide to a competitive website but info is out there: Volt outsold Prius Plug-in!!!

Other March sales:
Toyota Prius Plug-in : 891 !!!! (still a very great number!)
Mitsubishi i: 56
Ford Focus Electric: 0 (really slow roll-out :)

· Londo Bell (not verified) · 6 years ago

@ Yegor,

You've missed a significant point:

Volt sales soared AFTER GM has put in tons of incentives to it. Special lease deal (lower payment than the original incentives). Quad $0 deal. 0% financing. Dealers have several thousands off MSRP.

As for LEAF and PiP, no special deal, other than the one and only Nissan LEAF leasing special. Some LEAF's dealers have some discount ($1K or 5% off MSRP).

Fire sales sell cars. Detroit 3 had done it in 07. Sold tons of cars. All vowed that was a big mistake and would never to it again - even though they did it again in a smaller fashion. It's a catch-22. The fire sales PROVED to GM that Volt is over-priced. The question will now be - does GM still want to sell the Volt with significant incentives? If not, then don't be surprised that GM will use the same excuse to kill off the Volt. "Customers have told us that Volt technology is too expensive to be sold as a product in the market. Thus, we've come up with a cheaper alternative - the Malibu Eco hybrid."

Thus, cherish your moment for the second, because once those Volt's special is gone, it's deja vu.

· · 6 years ago

Londo: On the bright side though, if all the car needs is a price drop to sell, then this is evidence of that. It's better than a car that doesn't sell any better with a price drop.

Anonymous: You don't need to wait 2 months to get a Leaf, they've got them on the lot. Well, if you're near Fremont, California:

Granted, they might think about some meaningful incentives on the 2011 Leaf at this point with 2013 coming.

· Londo Bell (not verified) · 6 years ago

"if all the car needs is a price drop to sell, then this is evidence of that."

I utterly agree with that - and that's what I said too in my 1st post.

The pandora box here is whether GM will continue to suffer several thousand $$$ loss on each Volt sold continually, because, up until now, there's no plan for any significant change in Volt's design, and confirmed no change until sometime in 2015. This means Volt's cost will stay roughly the same - and probably more expensive due to materials and labor costs, as well as the low volume production it's in.

You can only take out so much to lower the MSRP. GM did it once with the Nav system for ~ $1K. What else can they do? Leather seats? Sound system? Those are pennies in comparison to the cost on R&D and production. Besides, think down the chain - will dealer and its sales happy to sell a, say, $35K vehicle with little to no profit margin, compared to a, say, fully loaded Cruze or nicely equipped Malibu with around $5K profit (dealer's level) or so?

GM gave out heck lot of incentives to "move" inventories on the Volt. Mind you, there's a difference to "move" inventories then incentives to help sell a new product. It might look great in terms of sales # and whatnot now; but don't be surprised that this will come back and bit the green movement's butt a few months down the road.

· · 6 years ago

@ Londo,

It was in the news few months ago - GM announced that they found a way to significantly drop the Volt price by summer.
I think "Significantly" means by at least couple of thousands.

· · 6 years ago

@ Londo Bell,

Actually there is a lot GM is doing to remove the cost out of the Volt. Also it was reported when the Volt came out in 2010 that GM was making a profit (maybe small), but a profit.

Last fall GM started building the 4 cylinder ICE for the Volt in Flint Michigan. Previously it was imported from Austria.

Second the cells are made in South Korea. Mid 2012 the cell will be build in Holland, MI. So those two things alone take out a significant amount of cost and time in the Volts manufacturing.

Third, the plant the Volt is in also will start building the 2013 Chevy Malibu. Currently the plant only builds the Volt, so the Volt going down a flexible line will reduce cost. It will stop things like the 3 week plant shutdown, because in those cases you could still continue building Malibu's and have a Volt come down every 20th car for example. And I'm sure like any automotive manufacture they are working with suppliers to reduce each part cost by a few pennies here and there.

In the end if GM can knock $2.5k off the price of the Volt and get it's after tax price under $30k, then I think it can be a big success. Already for a $40k car it's selling pretty good. If they can 15k-20k in the US and 10k in Europe that very good. I'm sure Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and Audi would be looking over their shoulders wondering how GM sold 25k-30k, $40k cars.

· Londo Bell (not verified) · 6 years ago

@ Yegor,

The news that you are referring to - if I'm not mistaken - was about producing 60K+ Volt in order to achieve significant cost reduction, no?

Other than that, I didn't see any news about significant cost reduction. It will also be strange for a vehicle that see limited production too.

@ theflew,

I think that you've drunken the GM PR kool aid for too long. J/K there, but there's always a cause-action item, and you seem to be ignoring the cause part in your explanation.

- When GM started building the engine in the US, there's no reduction in any cost, except for shipping. In fact, the initial cost may even be higher, because the factory needs to retool all its machineries for the new engines, something that the Austrian plant didn't have to do. This cost can only be washed down by mass production, correct?

- As far as cells made in MI, same as the engine. New machines. New (or re-model) the factory. New staff. New training. In fact, those add significant cost (minus shipping). There's a reason for out-sourcing, and that's why it's cheaper to outsource battery production than to do it yourself, in terms of cost reduction.

- As far as the plant going to build Malibu. That has nothing to do with reducing cost on Volt. Everything has already been set up. All it does will be reduction in operation cost, which is similar to production stop. Remember, operation cost is not really that much nowadays, as most vehicles are built by robots these days, with minimal human interactions. Your suggestion, however, would be true some 30-40 years ago.

- Finally, I don't know why you would think that the luxury makers will turn to GM to learn about this. None of those ran into bankruptcy, and all of them have been extremely profitable in building vehicles. In fact, it is GM who learns from those on how to operate a successful car business.

Frankly, Volt as the way it is, there's very limited way to minimize cost, and that's why GM has been saying repeatedly, like 50 - 60 times now, that the way to minimize cost is to mass produce it, and that's not happening. Having said that, GM has NEVER said anything about decreasing MSRP so far. Most importantly, the only thing GM has done to "decrease" MSRP is through minor content reduction, and that's really not good, because that Nav system sells for $1K when in fact, cost GM only $100 or so to put it in a Volt.

· · 6 years ago

@Londo Bell,

If you're suggesting shipping cells and engines from South Korea and Austria vs building them in the US will not save money then you're crazy. The fact that you can have just in time manufacturing with these products will reduce cost. Currently they would place an order and a couple weeks later they show up whether you need them now/still or not.

Also plants have quite a few people working in them. Not in the stamping and welding, but in the end of the line work putting the pieces together and the sub assembles. You can call the 1,350 that work there robots, but they might not like it.

But since you know everything about cost reduction on the Volt I guess GM should just give up now, since there is nothing they can do.

· Londo Bell (not verified) · 6 years ago

"you know everything about cost reduction on the Volt"

I guess the same can be said to you too, don't you think?

"If you're suggesting shipping cells and engines from South Korea and Austria vs building them in the US will not save money then you're crazy."

Read carefully. I said that the only immediate saving is the shipping part. But there's also an immediate cost on setting up the infrastructure. The only reduction is through mass production.

If what you said is true, then off shoring or out sourcing should have NEVER occurred in the US, or Europe, right? Am I the crazy one, or are you?

theflew, you are a GM fan. Nothing wrong with that. But I strongly urge you to listen to what Carlos Ghosn has said today about EV, which in a way, can apply to a PHEV like the Volt. The most crucial part of the cost is tied with the battery. Let's put it this way. GM knows a year ago that Volt's price too high for mass acceptance. That's why it decontented the Volt. Why didn't it do more, like, cloth seat, or whatever, then? I'm not here to convince you at all, but just point out that the March sales number can actually be a bad omen in the view of GM management...unless, of course, you are part of the GM management that knows it all. Who knows?

· · 6 years ago

@Londo Bell,

The ICE used in the Volt is just a variation of the ICE used in the Sonic, and Cruze and it is now made in the same plant. So the tooling cost is spread amongst 200k+ engines. It just has different timings, software control and accessories mounted. So the volume is there with the engine. They didn't have the plant ready to produce the Volt engine initially since the Volt came out before the Cruze and Sonic.

Also, the base Volt does have cloth seats, no navigation, etc...

· Londo Bell (not verified) · 6 years ago

So how will producing 10K engine out of that 200K going to lower cost?

Read my words again. MASS PRODUCTION.

Ironically, that's sthg both GM and Nissan has said repeatedly to drive cost down on PHEV and EV, respectively.

· Former caddy owner (not verified) · 6 years ago

Hey Londo. Gas prices will sell more Volts than fire sales. The Ampera has 7,000 + customer sales/orders in a little over a month. People are starting to get it also. This is a quote from Fox News, of all people.

"GM Europe already has 7,000 reservations for the cars, which are exported to there from the United States, and the pair was jointly named 2012 European Car of the Year. The Ampera also won the 2012 Monte Carlo Rally for alternative fuel vehicles, where it beat over 100 vehicles in a fuel economy competition that took place over four days on a course covering several hundred miles".

Even people who tout other alternative fuels will have to start giving the Volt it's credit due. Gas in Europe is over $8. $5 a gallon is predicted for the U.S. this summer. Even Volt haters will have to bite their lip ... real hard!

ps I got an email from the Volt team with a link to a video of a Fox News report on the Volt. They now love it! Search YouTube for "Fox News Now Loves The Volt". Kind of surreal.

· · 6 years ago

It's the same though the difference is not so great. There's more customers for the plug-in hybrid. The Volt's ability to make long trip is preferred. I guess Americans should be happy: the American car is more successful than the Japanese one.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Londo seems like the kind of guy who could suck the life out of any party. While he is entitled to his negative rant, this is an American success story: Chevy beats Nissan 2,289 to 579 despite higher prices and the congressional witch-hunt.

There is no 'fire sale' on the Volt, no customer cash and no dealer cash to 'move' these vehicles. Nothing like the $7k off MSRP my wife got on her Infiniti - now THAT was an incentive! The current lease offer is about $50/month less than the last lease offer - hardly an incentive to the average Volt buyer making $175,000/yr. Is it any surprise Cadillac wants to build the ELR after seeing this demographic flock to the Volt?

The Volt is a 'halo' vehicle (e.g. ZR1 Corvette) attracting buyers who have never set foot in a Chevrolet dealership. Well qualified buyers are taking delivery of Volts, the others are taking delivery of Cruzes, Sonics and Malibu Ecos. The economic reality is not everyone gets to own the car of their dreams; especially an emerging technology.

As long as the Volt appeals to owners making $175,000/yr and Chevy builds to demand, don't expect an MSRP drop any time soon. In order to see Prius level pricing, we will have to wait for GM to build a Chevyish-Volt instead of a Cadillacish-Volt. Maybe that will happen in 2015....

· steve poppitz (not verified) · 6 years ago

I love the news, but when do we get the new "cheaper" batteries included in the deal?

· Francois B. (not verified) · 6 years ago

@ ex-EV1: Yes, my Volt is registered in Canada, in Quebec more precisely.

Around here, there is a pro-EV bias, because the electricity in the province is made from renewable hydro power. (98% of it is hydro.)
The government offers a buying incentive ($7769) and they put up green licence plates.
There is certainly a very positive welcome to EVs, and it shows up as sold out Volt inventory in almost all Quebec GM dealers. Here, if you want to purchase a Volt, put a deposit down and wait (my wife is still waiting for her Volt), Or, drive south and purchase a used one to import it back (that's what I did).

· · 6 years ago

Why is increase in deliveries compared to last month & last year a slump ?

· Former Caddy Owner (not verified) · 6 years ago

Anonymous wrote: "As long as the Volt appeals to owners making $175,000/yr and Chevy builds to demand". When the salaries of Jay Leno, Steven King, Jeff Gordon, Jimmy Johnson, Paplo Montoya, etc, gets added to the "average", it's a lot higher than most Volt owners make. Most of those people make $10 million a year and more! The rest of us are working schmucks. But, we are working schmucks who excelled in math.

After 5 years, you subtract $7500 tax credid & $10,000 in gas savings, and you now have paid less than $25,000 for the car. In five years, that $7,000 break on the msrp of your wife's Infinity will be eaten up by the gas she uses.

People who say they will wait 5 years for the price to come down forget that they are going to spend $10,000 on gas while they are waiting. So, if you get a Volt for $30,000, you still paid $40,000!

Is any of that making sense?

· Former Caddy Owner (not verified) · 6 years ago

Anonymous wrote: "As long as the Volt appeals to owners making $175,000/yr and Chevy builds to demand". When the salaries of Jay Leno, Steven King, Jeff Gordon, Jimmy Johnson, Paplo Montoya, etc, gets added to the "average", it's a lot higher than most Volt owners make. Most of those people make $10 million a year and more! The rest of us are working schmucks. But, we are working schmucks who excelled in math.

After 5 years, you subtract $7500 tax credid & $10,000 in gas savings, and you now have paid less than $25,000 for the car. In five years, that $7,000 break on the msrp of your wife's Infinity will be eaten up by the gas she uses.

People who say they will wait 5 years for the price to come down forget that they are going to spend $10,000 on gas while they are waiting. So, if you get a Volt for $30,000, you still paid $40,000!

Is any of that making sense?

· Ed (not verified) · 6 years ago

The Volt is worth every penny. I love it. I bought in March and I don't think I can go back to buy a conventional car ever again.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

@Former Caddy Owner
You are confusing economic sense with fashion sense. The wife wanted something bigger and didn't like the style of the Volt or the vulture-salesmen dealer experience at Team Chevy. Emotion still drives a lot of purchasing decisions despite the strong math argument.

The sales slump can be attributed to the NHTSA investigation announced in late November 2011 and the ensuing congressional witch-hunt that went nowhere. Once the BS cleared, all of those fence-sitters rushed to take delivery when gas spiked.

· Former Caddy Owner (not verified) · 6 years ago

I can understand how fashion can drive a purchase. People purchasing now may be the last to consider fashion sense because in about 5 years, and additional 1 - 2 billion Chinese folks will be enjoying the American dream. Few people take this into consideration. I've read predictions that range anywhere from ho hum to OMG! Who knows? I think 2 billion more gas cars in the world will drive the cost of gas up. I drove Caddys for 35 years. I love the looks of the Volt, however, different strokes!

· Former Caddy Owner (not verified) · 6 years ago

Woops ... meant Chinese folks will be driving another 1 billions cars. That is, if they achieve the American dream ... 1.5 cars per driver.

· mileater (not verified) · 5 years ago

Just got my Volt last week. It took me a few days to get used to the quiet motor, but now I can say it drives better than any car, period.
The dealer had the front seats all the way back, and it looked like there is no room. I almost did not get it because of this. When I adjusted the front seats for a normal person 5'10", there is plenty of room in the back for a comfortable ride, even on a long vacation trip.

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