Electric car sales plummet in January

Rick Moran
You may recall that President Obama promised that by 2015, one million electric cars would be on the streets of America.

Sorry, Barry. Not even close:

The U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday eased off President Barack Obama's stated goal of putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, and laid out what experts called a more realistic strategy of promoting advanced-drive vehicles and lowering their cost over the next nine years.

Since Obama announced the goal in his 2011 State of the Union speech, auto analysts and executives have doubted American consumers would buy a million electric vehicles by 2015.

"Whether we meet that goal in 2015 or 2016, that's less important than that we're on the right path to get many millions of these vehicles on the road," an Energy Department official said, in advance of remarks by Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a speech at the Washington D.C. auto show.

The proposal to lower electric vehicle costs represents the first look at how U.S. auto policy may take shape during Obama's next four years. His first term saw a flurry of initiatives related to the auto industry, beginning with government rescues of General Motors Co and Chrysler Group LLC.

Chu told reporters after his speech that he was excited by the advances in vehicle technology.

Asked about the 1 million electric vehicles goal, Chu said: "It's ambitious, but we'll see what happens."

If January sales are any indication, I'd revise that goal too:

U.S. plug-in electric cars started 2013 slowly, as sales of the Chevrolet Volt, the Toyota Prius Plug-In and Nissan Leaf each had deep dropoffs in January from December.

Volt sales fell 57 percent in January from December, Leaf sales fell 56 percent and Prius Plug-In sales were down 36 percent. Industrywide, U.S. auto sales fell 23 percent from December, and rose 14.2 percent from last January.

Even after accounting for the fact that January is one of the slowest months of the year for auto sales, the dropoff for plug-in electric cars was considerable, said Michelle Krebs, analyst with Edmunds.com.

Krebs said U.S. consumers who want an alternative to fully gasoline-powered cars are opting for less-expensive standard hybrids, rather than plug-in electric cars. The automakers themselves cited other factors such as limited inventories and production that has yet to gear up fully.

The Volt and the Prius Plug-In are both gasoline-electric plug-in hybrids while the Leaf runs fully on electric power.

Automakers reported increased U.S. and Canadian January sales on Friday.

Toyota and Nissan officials each said sales for their plug-in electric vehicles were down because of model year changeovers that cut the number of available cars on dealer lots.

Also, said Nissan brand North American sales chief Al Castignetti, production of the Leaf cars for the U.S. market was down because production at a plant in Tennessee which began recently is not yet at full capacity. Production of the Leaf recently switched from a plant in Japan.

General Motors Co officials said January sales were down for the Chevy Volt due to a spike in December sales related to buyers who bought before the end of the year to gain 2012 tax benefits.

CBS News did some figuring last June and found that at current sales levels, there may be as many as 310,000 electric cars on the road in 2015.

By the way, Obama is asking for another $5 billion in subsidies for electric cars.


You may recall that President Obama promised that by 2015, one million electric cars would be on the streets of America.

Sorry, Barry. Not even close:

The U.S. Department of Energy on Thursday eased off President Barack Obama's stated goal of putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2015, and laid out what experts called a more realistic strategy of promoting advanced-drive vehicles and lowering their cost over the next nine years.

Since Obama announced the goal in his 2011 State of the Union speech, auto analysts and executives have doubted American consumers would buy a million electric vehicles by 2015.

"Whether we meet that goal in 2015 or 2016, that's less important than that we're on the right path to get many millions of these vehicles on the road," an Energy Department official said, in advance of remarks by Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a speech at the Washington D.C. auto show.

The proposal to lower electric vehicle costs represents the first look at how U.S. auto policy may take shape during Obama's next four years. His first term saw a flurry of initiatives related to the auto industry, beginning with government rescues of General Motors Co and Chrysler Group LLC.

Chu told reporters after his speech that he was excited by the advances in vehicle technology.

Asked about the 1 million electric vehicles goal, Chu said: "It's ambitious, but we'll see what happens."

If January sales are any indication, I'd revise that goal too:

U.S. plug-in electric cars started 2013 slowly, as sales of the Chevrolet Volt, the Toyota Prius Plug-In and Nissan Leaf each had deep dropoffs in January from December.

Volt sales fell 57 percent in January from December, Leaf sales fell 56 percent and Prius Plug-In sales were down 36 percent. Industrywide, U.S. auto sales fell 23 percent from December, and rose 14.2 percent from last January.

Even after accounting for the fact that January is one of the slowest months of the year for auto sales, the dropoff for plug-in electric cars was considerable, said Michelle Krebs, analyst with Edmunds.com.

Krebs said U.S. consumers who want an alternative to fully gasoline-powered cars are opting for less-expensive standard hybrids, rather than plug-in electric cars. The automakers themselves cited other factors such as limited inventories and production that has yet to gear up fully.

The Volt and the Prius Plug-In are both gasoline-electric plug-in hybrids while the Leaf runs fully on electric power.

Automakers reported increased U.S. and Canadian January sales on Friday.

Toyota and Nissan officials each said sales for their plug-in electric vehicles were down because of model year changeovers that cut the number of available cars on dealer lots.

Also, said Nissan brand North American sales chief Al Castignetti, production of the Leaf cars for the U.S. market was down because production at a plant in Tennessee which began recently is not yet at full capacity. Production of the Leaf recently switched from a plant in Japan.

General Motors Co officials said January sales were down for the Chevy Volt due to a spike in December sales related to buyers who bought before the end of the year to gain 2012 tax benefits.

CBS News did some figuring last June and found that at current sales levels, there may be as many as 310,000 electric cars on the road in 2015.

By the way, Obama is asking for another $5 billion in subsidies for electric cars.