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Hybrid, Battery-Car Sales Slumped in First Half of 2015

Demand shifts from small, efficient, to big and powerful.

by on Jul.02, 2015

Honda Civic Hybrid production ended last month.

At the beginning of 2014, when fuel prices seemed headed for new record highs, U.S. shoppers couldn’t drive off fast enough with small cars and alternative-power vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf.

But with fuel costs down by at least $1 a gallon across the country, manufacturers have been struggling to sell those same, high-mileage vehicles. That’s forced them to stack up new incentives on the hood and, in some cases, slash production.

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That poses a challenge for the industry as it faces new fuel economy mandates for 2016 – with even tougher targets phasing in from now until 2025. Even so, automakers show little sign of retreating from the aggressive plans they’ve put in place to introduce new battery-based vehicles and other clean alternatives.

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Nissan Becomes First to Sell 100,000 Electric Vehicles

Nissan Leaf now market’s battery best-seller.

by on Jan.21, 2014

British dentist Dr. Brett Garner bought the 100,000th Nissan Leaf at the urging of his wife.

Nissan has crossed a significant threshold becoming the first manufacturer to ever sell 100,000 plug-based vehicles.

Just over three years after launching the Nissan Leaf, the maker delivered the milestone battery sedan to a dentist in the British community of Fareham, about two hours southwest of London.

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“I have chosen my Nissan Leaf because I am very interested in its running costs,” said Dr. Brett Garner, a father of three. “The cost of ownership such as maintenance, insurance and charging also convinced my wife. She had the experience of driving 500 miles in a borrowed LEAF and the low cost was remarkable. So she was converted and insisted that we had a Leaf.”

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Hybrid and Battery Vehicle Sales Finally Gaining Momentum

But getting buyers back is a problem.

by on Apr.22, 2013

2013 Toyota Prius again dominated the hybrid and advance battery vehicle segment in 2012.

It’s Earth Day, and if you’re thinking about something more environmentally friendly when it’s next time to trade in, you’re not alone.  While sales of “green” cars are often linked to the rise and fall of fuel prices, there’s been a slow but unmistakable increase in demand, especially for hybrids and other battery vehicles which set an all-time record in 2012.

Products like the ever-popular Toyota Prius accounted for 3.1% of the overall U.S. new car market last year, reports data tracking service Experian Automotive, a 49% year-over-year jump from the 2.2% market share in 2011. The downside is that only about one in three hybrid owners buy another gas-electric model when they trade in, according to other industry reports.

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“Hybrid vehicle owners have long been perceived as environmentally conscience consumers,” said Melinda Zabritski, Experian’s director of automotive credit. “While they may have made the vehicle purchase due to caring for the environment, our research shows that hybrid owners are economically minded as well. Hybrid owners tend to have outstanding credit histories, which also has enabled them to obtain financing at lower rates than typical consumers.”

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GM Wants to Boost Plug-In Production By 20%

But soft market may be a disconnect.

by on Feb.28, 2013

GM is hoping the addition of the new Cadillac ELR will help boost demand for its plug-in models.

With its new Cadillac ELR soon to come online, with new markets opening abroad and with its Chevrolet Volt now eligible for access to California’s coveted commuter lanes, General Motors hopes to substantially increase production of its plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles this year.

But after missing its ambitious sales goals for the first two years the Volt was on the market, it’s questionable whether market forces will support this year’s goal — especially with initial indications that the overall battery-electric market, which includes plug-in hybrids and pure battery-electric vehicles – stumbled again in February.

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A report by the Bloomberg news service says GM is targeting a 20% increase in plug-in production for 2013, which would mean something on the order of 36,000 of the vehicles. “That’s close,” said one of several sources reached by TheDetroitBureau.com, especially “with the ELR coming” and other factors that could boost demand for the high-mileage technology.

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GM President: Electric Car “Not Dead”

Reuss hopes to bring down price on Chevy Volt plug-in.

by on Jan.17, 2013

GM North American President Mark Reuss during an appearance at the plant producing the Chevrolet Volt.

Despite the slow start-up of sales, “The electric car is not dead,” General Motors President Mark Reuss insists, adding that the maker “couldn’t be happier” with its Chevrolet Volt despite the plug-in hybrid missing its sales target for the second year in a row.

During an appearance at an industry conference coinciding with the North American International Auto Show, Reuss insisted the maker is hoping to take “thousands” out of the cost of the next-generation Volt when it comes to market. Key rival Nissan earlier this week announced plans to introduce a new base version of its own Leaf battery-electric vehicle that will cost $6,000 less than the original model.

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“The electric car is not dead,” proclaimed Reuss, the head of GM’s core North American operations during the Automotive News World Congress, “despite what you might hear, and despite what you might read about Americans not being ready for it, or about it being ‘under attack’ by local governments retracting incentives for it.”

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GM Temporarily Halting Production of Chevy Volt

But maker insists sales of the plug-in are increasing rapidly.

by on Aug.28, 2012

A Chevrolet Volt moves down the assembly line at the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center.

For the second time this year, General Motors will halt production of the Chevrolet Volt for several weeks — but company sources insist the move does not signal problems with the plug-in hybrid which got off to a slow start after its introduction in December 2010.

In fact, GM expects to report that demand has surged to a record for the Volt this month, more than doubling year ago levels. Depending on what happens the rest of this week, August sales could near 2,500, TheDetroitBureau.com has learned.

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“The sky is not falling,” insisted a well-placed GM source involved in the Volt program. In fact, Dealers across the country have less Volt inventory in stock than that of some other mainstream Chevrolet models.

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Tesla Delivers First Production Model-S Weeks Ahead of Schedule

But maker’s big ambitions could run afoul of slow growth in U.S. battery-car market.

by on Jun.06, 2012

The first production Tesla Model-S.

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson got an unexpected surprise this week when he was handed the keys to a new Tesla Model S – more than two weeks before the California electric vehicle maker had officially planned to begin retail deliveries of the new battery-powered sedan.

Tesla investor Jurvetson is tooling around in a maroon Model-S with the California license plate “TSLA S1.” While other buyers will have to wait until June 22, the battery-car start-up is hoping to have thousands of the new sedans on the road before year-end, with a second product, the Model-X crossover, set for launch in 2013.

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But will the market live up to expectations?  There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical, though demand for plug-in hybrids, such as the Chevrolet Volt, and battery-electric vehicles, like the Nissan Leaf, are slowly gaining momentum.

“There are now approximately 30,000 plug-in vehicles on U.S. roads, four or five times as many as there were a year ago,” writes Tesla founder Elon Musk in his personal blog, adding that “We firmly expect that the electric-car sales rate will continues (to) rise, though it will be slow.”

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Are Battery Car Sales Coming Unplugged?

Sales slide would be worse without new models.

by on May.03, 2012

Were it not for the new Prius Plug-in the battery car market might have come completely unplugged.

Is the battery car market losing its juice?  While it’s too soon to tell if the latest surge in gas prices has hit its peak buyers already seem to be rethinking the cost-benefit equation when it comes to plug-in hybrids, extended-range electric vehicles and battery-electric vehicles.

Indeed, were it not for the arrival of some new models, notably the Toyota Prius plug-in, the battery-car market might look like it was in risk of coming completely unplugged.

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Total sales came to somewhere just north of 3,600, industry analysts estimate.  The precise figure is hard to determine as Ford is not yet releasing numbers for its new Focus Electric, nor are smaller makers like Fisker Automotive and Coda providing data.

For the four makers that are providing sales numbers, the total for April came to just over 3,500, compared with 3,800 in March.  That works out to barely 0.3% of the total new vehicle market in April.

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