May US EV Sales Trends: YOY Up 11.7%, But Down 22% Excluding Tesla

Sales of electric vehicles in the US for January through May 2019 are up 11.7% over the same period in 2018. So far this is in line with our growth expectations for all of 2019.

US EV Sales Jan-May 2019 up 11.7% vs 2018

Despite new models becoming available in the US in recent months including the Hyundai Kona BEV, Kia Niro BEV, Jaguar I-Pace, and Audi e-tron SUV – sales of electric vehicles are actually down YOY when Tesla sales are not included.

US EV Sales YTD YOY 2019 vs 2018 BEV vs PHEV W-Wout Tesla

In fact if Tesla models are not included in the sales numbers, electric vehicle sales would be down 22% versus the January-May period in 2018. Unlike many other markets around the world, the US market is driven primarily by specific markets and models, in the US this is California buyers and the Tesla Model 3.

Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are down an even worse 26.3% through May. As the following data on the top models show there is clearly a shift to more sales of BEVs in the US, especially the Model 3 of course.

US Top 12 Selling EVs Jan-May 2019 vs 2018

Looking at the top 12 selling EVs, only the Tesla Model 3 and Honda Clarity PHEV saw an increase in YOY sales. Several previous strong sellers were down pretty significantly, including the Chevrolet Volt (-48.5% – the Volt has been discontinued), Toyota Prius Prime (-47.9%), BMW i3 (-40.7%), and Tesla Model S (-32.2%).

The Tesla Model 3 was up 158.9% YOY, but in early 2018 Tesla was still ramping up production and deliveries. The real key for 2019 will be how strong Model 3 deliveries are in the second half of 2019. The Honda Clarity PHEV which was a surprise strong seller in 2018, is not off to a great start in 2019. It might simply be a result of the lower-priced Model 3 models coming to market and especially stealing share in California.

In January I predicted that EV sales in 2019 would increase 12% over 2018. At 11.7% to date, the US is right on track with my prediction. A lot can happen in the remaining 7 months in 2019, but the year in EVs is all about how the Model 3 does in the second half.

If EV sales are to increase versus 2018 or even come close to my 12% YOY growth forecast, then sales of the Model 3 must not just match but increase over 2018. Just to reach the same level as 2018, Tesla needs to deliver an average of more than 13,300 units per month from June through December. Sales of the Model 3 Short Range Plus will be key to whether the US sees growth in 2019.

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Loren McDonald


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