Headline grabbing Tesla took the top spot for electric vehicle sales in Canada during Q1 2016, with a total of 460 sold, very probably buoyed by PR generated from the long line-ups of customers eagerly signing up to pre-order Tesla’s yet-to-be-delivered Model 3 car.
In the Model 3’s first 24 hours of pre-sale availability, more than 180,000 people put down a $1,000 deposit for a $35,000 car that won’t be on the market until 2017.
But Tesla’s first-place status conceals perhaps more consistently solid numbers for the Chevrolet Volt, which sold 442 units during Q1, not even 20 units behind their much-better-publicized competition.
The second-generation Volt sold 260 units in April, an improvement over March’s 246 units, which would have eclipsed Tesla if Elon Musk’s company hadn’t received its March sales bump.
Tesla sold a more modest 88 of its more expensive Model S cars in February and 47 in January, preceding a spike of 325 Model S sales in March.
Indeed, if not for Tesla’s sales bump, it would be behind the Nissan LEAF, which sold 152 units in April, that car’s best ever month.
April was, according to DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, the best ever month for overall vehicle sales in Canadian history, at 200,327, up 6% from the previous year’s 189,072 during April 2015.
On Tuesday this week, Tesla released its Q1 report to shareholders, announcing that it was moving its target of selling 500,000 cars forward from 2020 to 2018, and that its Nevada lithium-ion battery factory, the Gigafactory, which was already slated to become the third largest building in the world, was now anticipated to be even larger than expected.
With Tesla’s charismatic front man, the Model S is currently outselling other luxury cars like the Mercedes S Class, BMW 7 Series, and Audi A8 in the United States.
The Volt’s March sales figures are too consistent with previous months to have been helped along by any PR bump resulting from the fact that the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) chose the Volt as the 2016 Canadian Green Car of the Year, announced at a press conference during the opening ceremony of the Vancouver International Auto Show.
In the United States, the Chevy Volt sold twice as many units in April 2016 as it did in April 2015, with 1,983 sales versus 905, respectively, a 119% improvement over one year ago.
Total Volt sales in the U.S. have surpassed those of the Nissan LEAF, according to Inside EVs, with the Volt’s 94,720 total just above the LEAF’s 93,309.
Part of what’s interesting, too, about the Volt’s success is the insight that its parent corporation has into the car’s likely demographic.
Speaking to Green Car Reports at the New York Auto Show in March, General Motors Marketing Product Manager for Electrified Vehicles Darin Gesse, responsible for marketing the Volt, said that “our customers don’t really watch TV,” and that the company was focusing marketing efforts on places like the Wired website, the back cover of Scientific American, and California billboards more likely to be seen by tech-industry drivers.
“These are not typical Chevy customers,” noted Gesse. “We know they may not trust dealers, and get [the bulk of] their product information elsewhere.”
The only provinces so far to offer rebates to consumers purchasing electric vehicles remain British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
So who knows what kind of uptake the industry might see if a rebate program were to be set up nationwide, concurrent with the development of a stronger network of charging station infrastructure?
There are nearly 20,000 electric cars on Canadian roads, with 8,338 of those in Quebec as of December 31, 2015, according to the Association des véhicules électriques du Québec.
Quebec’s government has set a target to have 100,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2020, helped along by a policy to make the installation of 240-volt electric vehicle charging stations in all newly built homes mandatory.
Electric vehicle sales numbers seem to indicate that Canadians are ready to embrace a new fossil-free reality.