We don’t have to wait until the last cars are sold in 2015. The best-selling electric vehicle of the year is the Tesla Model S, and it won’t be close. While the competition has been unable to match its totals from the year before, Tesla blew through its own record in October on its way to the 2015 sales title.
According to the InsideEVs scorecard from November, Tesla had opened up a lead of nearly 6,200 sales over the Nissan Leaf, which had moved 15,922 units through the end of the month. If the Model S sells at the same pace in December as it did in November, Tesla should crack 25,000 sales for the year. The Leaf and third-place Chevy Volt would need to post volumes that have never been seen before in the EV segment to match that, so the lead is safe enough to project a win for the Model S.
As an accomplishment for the Fremont-based automaker, Tesla’s total would represent a major gain over 2014, possibly as high as 50%. However, the record for EV sales in the U.S. will remain with Nissan, which sold 30,200 Leafs in its banner 2014. Matching that number was difficult for Nissan as the automaker introduced an upgraded model with more range late in 2015. Consumers looking for the updated Leaf backed off from the EV late in the summer.
Expectation of a redesigned model also hurt Chevy Volt sales in 2015. Even with a late surge for the second-gen Volt in the fall, Chevy will end up short of its 2014 totals.
Looking ahead to 2016, the top three automakers in the plug-in EV segment have favorable winds at their backs. Tesla has begun producing both the Model X and Model S in equal amounts in its California plant. There will be no more slowdowns to accommodate for production of the new electric SUV.
As for the redesigned Volt, consumers in all 50 states will be able to buy the 2017 model by spring. In the meantime, brisk sales in the CARB states should be enough for Chevy to keep pace with its rivals. The 2016 Leaf, now featuring 107 miles of range, should also have a much larger inventory for dealers to work with in the new year.
With these conditions in mind, it is easy to imagine 2016 being the best year yet for EV sales in America. These three segment leaders, along with new plug-in hybrids from Audi and BMW, should push electric models above the previous high of 123,049 set in 2014.
Until then, Tesla will have the title of best-selling electric carmaker in America.