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Trying To Understand The January EV Sales Winner

Figures don’t lie but carmaker can figure almost anything from numbers. Last month’s alternative energy vehicle sales were good but doesn’t paint an accurate vision.

It’s funny reading automotive news, especially when it comes to bottom line numbers. Some news outlets are just downright pessimistic while others are overly optimistic when it comes to electric vehicles, EV. Yesterday’s article describes how Fox Business feels EVs are going nowhere but hydrogen does. See; Fox Business Continues to Bash Electric Vehicles, Hails Hydrogen. Depending on where you go to make sense of last month’s numbers, it will either be good or the end of the world.

Some Like It Hot, Some Don’t. It sounds as if Tesla is the EV sales winner for the month of January. Why is that? It’s simple deduction really. There are no official sales source, no serious ways to check and everything is hearsay, which requires a bit of math to guestimate. Yet Tesla’s win isn’t a clear one, since it won by default. As far as Nissan, the problem rests on its inventory woes. As to Ford’s Focus Electric, a car the company hasn’t pushed as much as its C-MAX and Fusion Hybrid and Energi (Plug-in hybrid, PHEV) versions, the sales numbers are only as disappointing as the amount of energy you put into selling it. Ford has not pushed the Focus Electric very much.

EV, HEV & PHEV Numbers. It’s hard to get a good picture of the state of alternative energy vehicles when the numbers mash together hybrids, plug-in hybrids (PHEV) and EVs together. All around, January's sales numbers of alt-fuel vehicle jumped at about 57 percent from 2012 numbers. We can attribute this healthy jump to a continuous and strong demand for the Toyota Prius and the Ford's C-MAX and Fusion hybrids and plug-in hybrid. 42,000 advanced powertrain vehicles were bought in January, up from 26,000 vehicles in 2012.

Depending on where you go, EV sold either well or not this past month. But this also highlights another psychosis with the news, that of focusing only on bottom line numbers. Unfortunately, bottom line numbers don’t mean much. We’ve seen the disastrous it had when GM focused on increasing market shares, as well as Toyota’s worrisome and continuous recalls. Bottom line numbers don’t reflect much, especially when carmakers have different production numbers and market shares.

Does this mean yesterday’s poster children, the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf are out of the picture and Tesla is the de facto winner? A wider angle will show us that it is only one month’s worth of numbers, which include all alternative energy vehicles, from the well accepted hybrids to the budding PHEVs and not so well understood EVs. In the end, bottom line numbers make for catchy headline title but are only part of the puzzle for carmakers to sell more alternative energy vehicles.