So who is actually leading the EV sales race – the Leaf or the Model S?

Tesla Model S vs. Nissan LeafIf you had read “This Week’s Top 10” a week ago in Green Auto Market, you might have assumed that the Nissan Leaf took top spot in US electric vehicle (EV) sales during December. It’s possible that the Leaf didn’t take the No. 1 sales spot – it may have been the Tesla Model S. It depends on who you ask.

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk did not want to give out the December sales number for the Model S while in Detroit to speak at the auto show – though the company had given out that number a year ago at the Detroit Auto Show.

Tesla Motors doesn’t provide monthly sales figures like all the rest of the automakers do. Those sales numbers come through its quarterly earnings reports; its fourth quarter 2014 numbers will be released in early February; and will be for the quarter without monthly numbers. However, as mentioned in a few articles last week, Tesla may have beat Nissan – and those figures come from the Inside EVs publication and its monthly reporting. Stock market analyst service MarketWatch reported that the Model S became the best-selling electric car in the US during December 2014, beating the Leaf for the first time. Selling 3,500 units last month beat out the Leaf sales figure of 3,102 units.

When you look at the Inside EVs chart for December, the footnote on the Tesla number reads, ”Estimated Tesla NA Sales Numbers – Reconciled on Quarterly Totals from Earnings Report (Q1 Sales reported @ 6,457-3,000 Intl Delivers, Q2 7,579 total-approx reported International registrations, Q3 7,785 total deliveries ~ 3,900 US).” Where is that fourth quarter estimate coming from? Who knows. Maybe the publication gets some of that information from Tesla – or they know a stock market analyst who does.

There’s another figure much lower than that reported by Inside EVsHybridCars.com and its sales reporting partner Baum & Associates said that the Leaf sold 3,102 units in the US and that there were 1,900 of the Model S units delivered. That’s a very wide gap from the 3,500 reported by Inside EVs.

Green Auto Market – Extended Edition, the monthly subscription-based version of this newsletter, uses the HybridCars.com and Baum and Associates figures. Those figures have been reported longer than any other sales data, and Baum & Associates is respected in the industry for its expertise on alternative/clean vehicle reporting; HybridCars.com has done a very good job reporting on hybrids and EVs for several years.

In the end, HybridCars.com, Baum & Associates, Inside EVs, and other sources have different numbers on sales of the Tesla Model S. One thing is for sure: whether the Leaf or Model S came in first place, battery electric vehicles are beating extended range/plug-in hybrid vehicles in monthly US sales. Why might that be? Here are a few of my thoughts on that question:

  • Very impressive product. If you’ve ever driven a Leaf or Model S, you’re likely to have been impressed by their performance and handling.
  • The range is enough for now. You can go about 84 miles on the Leaf after a full charge, and up to 300 miles on the Model S (depending on which version of the Model S you’re driving). Most drivers are using these cars for daily commutes and short trips and know how to charge them everywhere – and usually do so. Range anxiety isn’t as much of an issue for them as it is for plug-in hybrid drivers, and for consumers and fleets just thinking about getting an EV.
  • Leasing makes EVs more affordable. Leasing has made EVs more attractive for car shoppers. Tesla has created its own “guaranteed buy back” program and Nissan, Chevrolet, BMW, and other automakers are offering their own competitive lease packages. That’s helping get first-time EV buyers into EVs of all types.

One thought on “So who is actually leading the EV sales race – the Leaf or the Model S?

  1. The LEAF is very good. Tesla leads in range EVeryone can use, software updates over the air, Super Chargers growing very fast all over the USA and World. Best looks, best safety , best areo dynamics, most room with trunk, frunk, seating space for up to 7 with jump seats and that’s just the model S.
    The X covers bigger more room AWD segment. The GEN III will fit my needs.
    I really like the smaller LEAF but Tesla is working their way there . Until then my Focus EV is as close as I can get.

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