Navigant Research Blog

When September Comes, EV Makers Gain Hope

Scott Shepard — September 6, 2012

Besides the beginning of football season and much needed cooler temperatures, September brings a chance for the plug-in electric vehicle industry to shake off some dismal past months and provide some more encouraging results.  Negative performance metrics and bad news have pervaded media outlets.  Below is a short summary of each item and what each company has to look forward to in September and beyond:


Sales of the Nissan Leaf have floated around 500 vehicles per month for the 2012 calendar year, which means that, as of July, slightly over 3,500 Leafs have been sold.  Nissan still insists it will sell 20,000 in 2012 (Fiscal Year 2012), and that the first signs of a surge will come in September, once production of the vehicle and its batteries begins in Smyrna, Tennessee.


The company boasts an impressive list of reservations for both its Model S and Model X, but Tesla’s ability to make its announced production schedule is in serious question.  After starting deliveries of its Model S in June, the company announced it had produced 100 of the vehicles by mid-August, which puts the current production rate at an estimated two vehicles per day.  To meet its goals Tesla will have to produce at least 10 vehicles per day through the end of September, and then 50 per day until the end of the year.  Tesla’s announcements on vehicle production should be telling in coming weeks.


Possibly in the best position of any major OEM to meet its 2012 sales goals, Chevrolet is shutting down production of the Volt for four weeks.  Like the earlier shut down in April, this suspension is aimed at matching production with demand.  Chevy has an 84 day supply of Volts, 24 days over the industry average.  The biggest day in September for the company will be its August Volt sales announcement next week, which will be over 2,500, according to GM spokeswoman Michelle Malko.


If it’s not the battery, it’s the cooling fan.  If it’s neither, it’s the money.  Fisker is now suffering its first recall after its second vehicle fire, and further, it appears to be suffering some financial difficulties.  In September there is not much to look forward to except that the recall will hopefully solve the problem, and perhaps, as with its battery supplier A123, a Chinese investor will come to the rescue.


In no better straits than Fisker, Coda, who has been silent on all monthly sales numbers, had its sales numbers announced  by the NHTSA,  which initiated a recall of the vehicles for side curtain airbags that were improperly installed.  The good news is that Coda has made some sales; the bad news is that they have sold at most 78 vehicles since the first cars rolled out of their production facility in March.  The only expectation any one has of Coda in coming months is that it will continue to stay silent – which is probably its best option.

Despite the dark clouds that still loom over the industry, it should also be noted that August marked a milestone: over 20,000 plug-in vehicles have been delivered in the United States in 2012.  This number is far less than what was expected, but it’s over a 62% improvement from last year, when just over 7,600 had sold by August.  Perhaps September will continue this encouraging trend.

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