It's been a big year for electric cars with both the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt leading the pack of modern, mass-market plug-in vehicles. While attention for the technology-laden and futuristic cars was incredibly high to start with, that fervor now seems to have waned, slowly being replaced by an everyday acceptance of them as a permanent part of our future.
Yet, with the continued rollout of those two vehicles to ever-expanding regions and the looming introduction of electric cars from other manufacturers-including the Mitsubishi i and Ford Focus Electric-the EV's story is really only beginning.
To this point Nissan has sold more than 7,000 Leaf units in the U.S. alone and is on track to meet sales goals for the year. "The initial demand that had built up because the Leaf wasn't yet available has somewhat waned, but there is still a great deal of enthusiasm for it," said Brendan Jones, Director of Nissan Leaf Marketing and Sales Strategy, in an interview with AutoTrader.com.
"We still have backorders to fill and new orders are still being taken on a build-to-order basis," he said. "It's important to note that those 7,000 Leaf sales are just from the seven initial launch states. We have yet to fill orders in the additional eight states we're launching in now and we're on track to make the Leaf available nationwide by early next year-clearly our rollout is not yet complete."
Chevrolet is seeing a similar story with the Volt. "Our Detroit-Hamtramck facility is cranking out approximately 150 Volts per day, four days per week," Rob Peterson, Manager of Chevrolet Volt Communications, told AutoTrader.com. "We remain on target to produce 16,000 units this year, 10,000 of which will be delivered to U.S. dealers for consumer sales."
In order to prepare dealers to better demonstrate what the Volt can do, Chevrolet has committed more than 2,500 of this year's production of Volts for dealer demo units. "It's the right strategy, but it creates growing pains within the system," said Peterson. "Each demo unit shipped is one less available for retail sale." Even so, by the end of the year Chevrolet will have the Volt for sale at 2,600 dealers in all 50 states.
In particular, Nissan sees the nationwide rollout as the point at which electric car sales numbers start becoming a truly meaningful measure of demand. The company is also looking forward to having more market competition, with the impending introduction of both the Mitsubishi i and Ford Focus Electric by early next year, and, if startup EV manufacturer Tesla can pull it off, the introduction of the Model S sometime mid-year.
"Competition is a good thing," said Jones. "The more and more manufacturers that come out with electric vehicles the more it legitimizes them."
As for the new competition potentially stealing sales, Jones said he's not worried. "In terms of range, price and functionality, we still have the complete package," he said. "We're happy to have the other manufacturers join in the fray to raise awareness, but we're also happy to increase our sales at the same time."