Year-end sales figures for 2014 are in, for the most part, and even if some changes are made to a few of the electric and plug-in car makers in the market, it's very clear that Nissan's LEAF has far outsold everyone else and that most, if not all, others have shown sales losses year-on-year compared to 2013 whereas the LEAF continues to show strong growth.
Nissan's sales figures show that the LEAF sold a little over 30,000 units for 2014, up from about 22,500 in 2013. For perspective, thirty thousand units is equivalent to many mainstream models on the road. For 2014, as an example, Nissan sold more LEAF electric cars than it did Titan pickup trucks and Xterra sport utilities combined. Nissan sold about three times as many electric LEAF cars as it did Quest minivans. This solidly places the all-electric LEAF as a mainstream vehicle.
Jumping to other plug-in sales, Inside EVs reports that 2014 year-end sales totals for the LEAF were more than sixty percent higher than the next-best-seller, the Chevrolet Volt. Estimated Tesla Model S numbers were below that, with the LEAF beating it by about 70 percent. The LEAF more than doubled all others, including the Prius PHV, Fusion Energi, C-Max Energi, etc. The BMW i3 was introduced in 2014 and saw good sales figures, but seems to be holding steady at around 1,000 units per month. Compare that to the Tesla Model S which has held at around 1,300 units per month, on average, even when factoring in spikes from September and December.
For all of the electric vehicle sales in the United States in 2014, the Nissan LEAF makes up about 26 percent of the total.
Why is all of this significant? Is it just ballyhoo for Nissan? No, it's more than that. It's proof that a mainstream automaker can build a mainstream electric vehicle and thrive with it.
The LEAF cars sold in the United States are manufactured, almost entirely, right here in the U.S. with components largely sourced from North America. Tesla fans in particular should note that Nissan has proven that a marketable, mainstream, low-cost electric car can be a sustainable market proposition and that in-house manufacture of major components, including batteries, is also a workable model.
The difference? Tesla is mainstream in marketing hype only. They have a long way to go before they are mainstream in actual market figures. This is not discouragement. Tesla fans should be proud that their little startup has become capable of making third place in total U.S. EV sales figures for two years running. Electric vehicle fans should rejoice in knowing that at least one EV model from a major manufacturer is now firmly "mainstream" in market acceptance. Although the numbers are still quite small compared to the full automotive market, they are growing continually and, at least for the LEAF, at a pace that is faster than the overall market's growth.
Sales numbers from individual manufacturers and InsideEVs.com.