Plug-in vehicle sales could hit one percent market share this quarter

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Plug-in vehicle advocacy. Where one percent is a success and 52 percent is failure. It's all relative.

Yes, US plug-in vehicle sales may reach one percent of total new-car sales as early as this quarter, indicating that people aren't that rapidly moving to gas guzzlers from advanced-powertrain vehicles as gas prices continue to fall, car resale firm Carlypso says. In fact, with data from more than 28 million used-car sales, Carlypso found that the Tesla Model S, Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and other plug-in vehicles accounted for 0.86 percent of US new-car sales last year, and continue to be gaining market share.

Last year's US plug-in vehicle sales, not counting Tesla (which breaks out neither monthly sales totals nor US sales), rose 28 percent to almost 100,000 units, though that growth slowed from the 55-percent jump in plug-in vehicle sales in 2013.

Whether that growth slows further is anyone's guess, but gas prices continue to fall, which would appear to be a headwind against advanced-powertrain vehicle sales. According to AAA, gas prices average about $2.05 a gallon, down from $2.43 a month ago and from $3.28 a year ago, according to AAA. Meanwhile, pickup trucks continue to account for about 52 percent of new-vehicle sales in the US, and that number hasn't budged much since gas prices began plunging. Check out Carlypso's press release below.
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Time to reconsider the Nissan Leaf for the Escalade? Not so Fast.

Carlypso Analysis Shows Plummeting Gas Prices Are Not Immediately Impacting New/Used Electric Car Sales

San Carlos, CA – January 20, 2015 – Carlypso, the first technology company to help owners sell used cars completely hassle-free for more money than a trade in, announced today a new study on the impact of low gas prices on electric car sales.

As part of Carlypso's sales process, the company analyzes millions of transactions each month to get an idea of "true" prices. While Kelly Blue Book and NADA guides have helped users for decades in establishing pricing guidelines, Carlypso's rigorous price algorithms go a level deeper – predicting the selling price and selling time of any make, model or trim.

This analysis on gas prices and electric car sales was based on 28,074,658 used cars sales, of which 217,217 electric vehicles, from January 2013 to December 2014.

In late 2008 with gas prices at or above $5/gallon an electric vehicle buyer could expect to save about $4,000 per year on gas compared to driving a medium sized SUV[1]. Now those savings are less than half. Experts themselves feared that electrical vehicle sales could take a hit when oil prices fell from around $110 per barrel to $59 per barrel, the lowest level since the financial crises in 2008 / 2009 (see ices-kill-the-electric-car).

While one would expect electric car sales to take a tumble with gas prices at an all-time low, that is not, in fact, what Carlypso's data shows.

Carlypso examined 28,074,658 car sales from January 2013 to December 2014 and found that electric vehicles are slowly gaining market share. By the end of the first quarter in 2015, more than 1% of all new vehicles purchased will likely be electric vehicles. In December 2014, already 0.86% of new vehicles purchased were electric vehicles with Tesla's 3,500 units of the Model S, Nissan's 3,102 units of the Leaf Chevrolet's 1,490 units of the Volt and BMW's 1,013 unit of the i3 representing more than 70% of electric vehicles sales.

Commensurately, the demand for trucks hasn't dramatically shifted upwards either in the short term. Despite oil prices falling precipitously, demand has remained relatively consistent between 51-53% of seasonally adjusted sales. Most of the increased demand in light-truck (domestic and foreign) occurred as gas prices stabilized over 2013. This study looked across all categories of light-trucks representing 16.63M retailed units from January 2013 to December 2014.[2]

"The data is a bit surprising; the fact is no one is really changing behavior when it comes time to buying a car despite the savings at the pump. Consumers still want what they want when it comes to features and choosing certain brands and models," said Nicholas Hinrichsen, Co-Founder of Carlyspo. "We tell our customers to buy exactly what they want, and let the investors worry about the oil prices. Your vehicle's value and demand is unlikely to change despite the oil market – even though your charges at the pump may change."

[1] Calculated based on 15,000 miles per year driven, $5.00/gallon gasoline and 17 mpg blended city/highway MPG. Electric vehicle consumption based on 0.025 cents/mile charge.

2 Bureau of Economic Analysis, Light Vehicle Sales

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