Sales trend?

Being an ex-manufacturing engineer, I have a need to quantify things in my life, to analyze them. I did this before I leased my first Chevy Volt, because no one could tell me what percentage of my driving would be electric, I built a spreadsheet to make a guesstimate. As I recall, my estimate was that I’d be 75% electric, after my first full year of driving. I think I ended up at 74 point something percent. I made another spreadsheet, to track the actual performance of each drive and faithfully entered data after each drive. Later, I realized my Blink charger was collecting detailed charging data, so I didn’t need to compile the data manually.

I started examining my vehicle sales at Classic Chevrolet. This morning, I was updating my sales data and noticed that my Volt sales this year have already equalled my entire Volt sales volume for the previous year!Sales By VehicleThere is one obvious reason for this: the pent-up demand, caused by the 2016 Volt not being available in Texas. Just like when a new iPhone is about to debut, many Volt buyers came in to learn about the Volt, but decided to wait for the improved 2nd generation. That being said, I am still pretty shocked that an entire year of sales has happened in 4-1/2 months. Another surprise is that my Volt sales have almost caught up with my sales of the most popular item in our inventory, the Chevy Silverado 1500 pickup. I mean, this is Texas, after all. Pickups are king here.

April 2016 Sales Numbers

In April 2016, the plug-in sales results were mixed. Here are the April sales figures, compared to the previous month:

  • Chevy Volt: UP 6% (1,983 vs. 1,865)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 37% (787 vs. 1,246)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 43% (4 vs. 7)
  • Cadillac ELR: DOWN 8% (95 vs. 104)
  • BMW i3: UP 145% (814 vs. 332)
  • BMW i8: UP 46% (130 vs. 89)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 8% (1,331 vs. 1,238)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: DOWN 1/2% (607 vs. 610)

In April, the averaged price of gasoline jumped up to $2.12 per gallon, in the U.S. The trend all month long was up, with minor hesitations along the way.

These sales figure bring up a question: The ELR is being discontinued and the Plug-in Prius has sold 10 units or less per month, for the last four months. Ditch them both from the charts? Just ditch the ELR, since we know it’s going away but the Prius might come back? What about the i8? The i8 has only had monthly sales over 217 once, in The ELR is almost selling as well. What are your thoughts? (comment section below)

The Chevy Volt had another pretty good month, posting 1,983 units sold. The Volt has overtaken the Nissan Leaf, in overall adoption, since inception and now leads by 1,139 units sold. I have been expecting this, for a while, as the Leaf model is due for a refresh, and the Volt is a new model with many improvements. I also wonder if the Tesla Model 3 / Chevy Bolt news about 200 mile EVs has slowed the Leaf’s sales…
April 2016 EV Sales Numbers

April traffic at my dealership was spotty, over March (which had been a big jump up, over February). However, there were some days I was so busy, I never got to take a lunch break. My Volt sales and test drives are as robust as I’ve ever experienced, with March tying my best Volt month ever, and April missing that mark by one unit, because a couple, who ordered a Volt, didn’t pick it up, until a week after it arrived.

When looking at my own sales, by vehicle, my Volt sales are catching up with the most common item I sell, the Silverado 1500 pickup. I am in Texas, after all... My total Volt sales are now at 35, while my Silverado 1500 sales are at 39! The joke, at the dealership, is that a customer walks up to me and says, “I’d like to look at a Suburban.” My response is, “Yes, the Suburban is a great SUV, but have you heard of the Volt?” I’m not quite that bad, but any time a client mentions they’re needs include safety, fuel economy, low maintenance costs or sportiness…

Plug-in sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were mixed, with four up and four down. The BMW i3 is up, in a big way, compared to a year ago although the i8 still languishes, below its average monthly sales mark.

  • Chevy Volt: UP 119% (1,983 vs. 905)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 49% (787 vs. 1,553)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 99% (4 vs. 428)
  • Cadillac ELR: DOWN 9% (95 vs. 104)
  • BMW i3: UP 100% (814 vs. 406)
  • BMW i8: DOWN 6% (130 vs. 138)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 87% (1,331 vs. 711)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 10% (607 vs. 553)

Tesla Model 3 event: What gripes me

A while back, I mentioned the similarities between the late Steve Jobs of Apple and Elon Musk of Tesla Motors. That really came to the forefront of my thoughts, while watching the Tesla Model 3 event.

Tesla is the new Apple. I should know. I’ve been an Apple fanboy since 1980, when I got my first computer, an Apple II+. I worked for Apple for three years, during the tenure of Mr. Jobs. For a decade, I ate, drank, slept, dreamed Apple. I got my first iPhone (the original) on Launch Day at an Apple Store, in Boulder, Colorado, while I was on vacation. I got my first iPad (the original) on Launch Day, even though I had no interest in it, until I held it in my hands.

Although Apple Stores can still have lines of customers, on a product launch day, they’re not what they used to be. Although an Apple Keynote or new product announcement can still bring the Internet to its knees and the live audience to its feet in cheers, they aren’t the only show in town anymore.

The Tesla Model 3 Event was so Apple-like, it bugged me, deep down. As I became aware of my annoyance, I stepped back to consider why. I mean, I like the looks of the Model 3 (except for the “fish lips” where a grill would go on a traditional ICE vehicle…). I like the performance. But all I could think was, “You’re all cheering for a car that won’t be available for another 20 months or longer, when there’s another EV with a 200 mile range, priced in the mid-30’s that will go into production this October!

It’s called the Chevy Bolt.

Chevy Bolt and BuzzI understand the importance of the announcement. When you cannot be first to market with a new product category (in this case 200 mile range, around $30K), it is important to delay the market acceptance of the competitor’s new product, by announcing your new product meant to compete with it. This has been going on in the electronics business for decades and it’s no surprise the EV market is following gadget marketing principles.

However, it seems to run counter to Elon Musk’s stated desire to move the world into a new transportation paradigm. He gave away access to Tesla’s patents for that reason. He always says he likes strong competitors rising to compete with Tesla, because it helps adoption (and eventual dominance) of EVs. But this announcement gives me indigestion for more than the obvious reason that I’ve become a General Motors EV salesperson. I don’t want anything delaying adoption of ANY plug-in vehicles, currently available. I want to see EVs succeed as well, but like Mr Musk, I have a vested interest in a particular manufacturer, namely General Motor and their Chevy EVs/hybrids.

By announcing the Model 3 so far in advance, Tesla has scooped up deposits from 300K+ EV buyers, which removes them from the list of potential buyers of current EV models and delays their joining the world of EV ownership. In addition to this, it amazes me that no one seems to be talking about what that many orders means, to the Tesla customers, namely that a great number of them won’t qualify for the full $7,500 Federal Income Tax Credit. That’s because, once a manufacturer has sold 200,000 plug-in vehicles, the credit starts to phase out. According to Inside EVs, Tesla Motors has already sold over 68,000 Model S’s in the U.S. At the rate they’re selling now, (about 2,000 per month), 20 months from now, they’ll have sold over 100,000 in the U.S., leaving only 100,000 Model 3’s (of the 300,000 pre-ordered) with eligibility for the full tax credit. That means the Model 3 will likely cost much more than consumers realize.


Dr. Strangelove

“The whole point of having a Doomsday Machine is lost if you keep it a secret. Why didn’t you tell the world, eh?” – Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I speak with a car buyer who has never heard of the Volt, or is surprised they still make them, or who believe electric cars spontaneously combust. Rarely have I ever met anyone who has heard of the Bolt. General Motors has a technological lead, right now, that I am afraid they’re squandering.

In my manufacturing career, I was told, over and over, the importance of being first to market with a new product/category.

You just can’t keep the new product a secret…

March 2016 Sales Numbers

March 2016 was a big month, in car sales, for me. I had my best month ever and oddly enough, my previous best month was last March. What’s up with that? Are tax refund checks burning a hole in everyone’s pockets?

Every single plug-in I track, had sales volume increase over the previous month (although, for one of those, there aren’t any bragging rights…). Here’s the March sales figures, compared to the previous month:

  • Chevy Volt: UP 66% (1,865 vs. 1,126)
  • Nissan Leaf: UP 34% (1,246 vs. 930)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: UP 17% (7 vs. 6) **but only one additional car sale
  • Cadillac ELR: UP 14% (104 vs. 91)
  • BMW i3: UP 34% (332 vs. 248)
  • BMW i8: UP 65% (89 vs. 54)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 33% (1,238 vs. 932)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: UP 24% (610 vs. 490)

In March, the averaged price of gasoline $2.00 per gallon, in the U.S. This is a significant increase

The Chevy Volt had pretty good month, posting 1,865 units sold, as the new 2017 model year began arriving nationwide. Now, the Volt has closed on the lead built up by the Nissan Leaf, over the last ten months, to only than 57 units. My expectation is that next month, it will reclaim the top spot for the vehicles I track.
March 2016 Sales Numbers

March traffic at my dealership was significantly improved, over February (which had been a big jump up, over January).

Sales, compared to the same month a year ago, were almost the same as last month, with the exception that the ELR showed an increase instead of a decrease. The BMW i3 & i8 had substantial decreases again, compared to a year ago. This is still a mystery to me.

I mentioned this last month:

One odd numbers thing: The sales volume, compared to the same month one year ago, has the exact same vehicles showing an increase (or decrease) as the previous month. Once again, the only two showing an increase were the Volt and Fusion Energy. Go figure…”

Are we seeing a trend now that it has gone on for a few months? I’ve long believed the Prius Plug-in and Cadillac ELR were doomed by poor sales performance. This blip in ELR sales will not matter. The Prius is another matter. Another blogger in the EV space made the case to me that the next generation plug-in Prius will be the “tipping point” plug-in, due to the famed Prius badge. Toyota has also already stated that the new Prius can reach speeds of up to 84 MPH on electricity alone.

(The Volt and ELR, for the uninitiated, can reach their top speed of 101 MPH on electricity alone.)

I disagree with the inevitability of Prius success, because I feel that, unless the all-electric range is at least 40 miles, consumers are starting to consider it a poor alternative to a pure EV or the Volt/ELR. Legendary status of the original Prius will not save the next generation Prius, unless they start to step up their electric range.

  • Chevy Volt: UP 192% (1,865 vs. 639)
  • Nissan Leaf: DOWN 31% (1,246 vs. 1,817)
  • Plug-in Toyota Prius: DOWN 99% (7 vs. 473)
  • Cadillac ELR: UP 13% (104 vs. 92)
  • BMW i3: DOWN 64% (332 vs. 922)
  • BMW i8: DOWN 38% (89 vs. 143)
  • Ford Fusion Energi: UP 48% (1,238 vs. 837)
  • Ford C-Max Energi: DOWN 15% (610 vs. 715)

Get ready to divest your oil holdings…


Perhaps we should order one of these for…one of these…

Two countries have announced their wish to have only electric vehicles on their roads, in a relatively short timeframe. Those two countries are India and the Netherlands.

A little perspective is needed. These are not the top two countries in vehicle ownership. Believe it or not, San Marino is #1 in vehicles per 1,000 people, at a whopping 1,263 (more than one vehicle per person!). The United States comes in 4th at 809 vehicles per 1,000 people. The Netherlands is #28 at 528 per 1,000 people and India is 160th at only 18 vehicles per 1,000 people . That makes this announcement seem a bit less impressive, but India’s population is over 1.25 BILLION souls, meaning that this decision will impact over 22 MILLION vehicles, although with over 318 million people in the U.S. and its higher percentage of vehicles, that 22 million is only about 9% of the number of vehicles here.

I do not mean to denigrate the efforts of these two nations. I believe their goal is admirable and shows real foresight, although I expect the tipping point to come, on its own.

buggy adIt reminds me of a comment I saw on Facebook recently. I’m sorry to say I do not remember who posted it:

I would not want to be the last horse-and-buggy salesperson, holding out against the rise of automobiles.

What about owners of gasoline-powered cars, in those countries? Will they see their resale value plummet (possibly to zero) as the trend becomes obvious? Will gas stations become more rare, as their customer base declines, making it harder to refuel? Will gas prices rise, due to fewer sales outlets wanting to carry it, or drop precipitously, due to reduced demand? Are these governments going to do anything to alleviate these financial issues or do they believe giving such advanced notice absolves them of responsibility? Will consumers move more quickly into emission-free vehicles, now that the path forward has been declared?

What are your thoughts?

Exterior comparison: Chevy Volt Gen 1 / Gen 2

Here are some side-by-side images of the first generation Chevy Volt (2015 model year) and the second generation Chevy Volt (2017 model year). All photos were taken from 12 feet away, so as to make the comparison as accurate as possible. Each pair of images has been cropped to remove wasted background to the left and right, so the scale differs between views but is the same for each paired set. Click on an image to see a larger version.

Enjoy!Driver SideDriver FrontFrontPassenger FrontPassenger SidePassenger RearRearDriver Rear

2017 Volt, 1st week’s impressions **UPDATED**

The Chevy Volt at sunsetI drove my new 2017 Chevy Volt off the dealership lot a week ago today. I drove from there to Austin, Texas, to attend a meeting. So, my first week included a 400+ mile trip and my usual daily commute. Here’s what I think so far:

I absolutely love this car! (I know. surprise, surprise…)

I got both the safety packages and am quite impressed with the features they provide, such as:

  • Side Blind Zone Alert (Driver Confidence Package I): I’ve experienced this feature, on test drives of Corvettes, Silverados, Tahoes, etc, buy that’s not the same as having it in your own car. The pronounced blind spots in our Volts (this is our 5th Volt), have made us very cautious about changing lanes. It’s a tough habit to break! So far, I check everywhere before remembering I have this feature! When I have utilized it, I love the peace of mind it gives me.
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert (Driver Confidence Package I): The first time this alerted me to approaching traffic, it really impressed me! I was backing out of a charging spot at the dealership, when the alert sounded. I looked at the radio’s touchscreen and saw a red arrow, pointing to the left, and a red arrow, pointing to the right. The backup camera has a wide angle of view, so I saw that the object approaching from my left was a pickup truck, but the surprise was that the object approaching from my right was a pedestrian! I did not expect the system to warn me about pedestrians.
  • Lane Keep Assist (Driver Confidence Package II): I’ve experienced Lane Change Alert (beeping or vibrating, when you’re changing lanes a freeway speeds without your turn signal being activated). Lane Keep Assist is like Lane Change Alert on steroids. It not only warns you that you’re drifting out of your lane, it actually steers you back into the lane from which you’re drifting. The first time this happened, it freaked me out a little. The minor loss of steering control reminded me of the sensation of trying to steer, when a car is hydroplaning. I gently pulled the steering wheel in the direction I intended to go, and the Volt complied easily. Still, I might like that it beeped to let me know the feature was activating…
  • Forward Collision Alert (Driver Confidence Package II): This is a set of four red lights (located where the projector for a heads up display would be, on a Camaro or Corvette). The lights light up BRIGHTLY, if your approach velocity indicates a problem with the velocity of the vehicle (or presumably, lack of velocity, of a rock or tree) ahead of you. It does not brake to avoid a crash. Braking at freeway speeds to avoid collisions requires Adaptive Cruise Control, which I wanted, but was unavailable at the time I ordered my Volt. If you’re curious about ACC, check out my review of the Cadillac ELR, which had that feature. In Texas, if you put on your turn signal, your fellow Texans may accelerate to prevent you from changing lanes. (Drive Friendly my you-know-what!) Accelerating like that causes the Forward Collision Alert to activate. Sometimes I want to disable this feature, but it has also warned me well before I got too close to the car ahead of me, which I liked. I’m undecided on this feature.
  • Intellibeam Headlights (Driver Confidence Package II): were on the ELR as well, and they’re great. In fact, the headlights of the 2nd generation Volt are a huge improvement over the previous generation. I see much more clearly at night.
  • Low-speed Front Automatic Braking (Driver Confidence Package II): I have not experimented with this yet, but plan to test soon (but not on a live pedestrian). Stay Tuned.

I did not get the Navigation system, since I have an iPhone and access to OnStar for directions. I noticed that there was a speed warning feature I could activate. I was disappointed that it didn’t work, as I have seen in other Chevrolet vehicles, and showed the speed limit for the road on which I’m driving. Instead, I can set a static speed, at which the system beeps to show you’re exceeding that speed. This seems like a useless feature to me. Once we get a Volt in, that has navigation, I’ll have to see if the speed limit information requires the navigation option.

Driver Information CenterThe displays are PHENOMONAL! Getting away from the touch-sensitive buttons on the previous Volts’ center stack was a great move, although I haven’t found a way to navigate the menus without touching the screen. In the previous Volts, I could use the tuning knob to highlight and select icons, keeping my screen fingerprint-free. I’m a little OCD about this…

Apple CarPlay is a better feature than I’d imagined. In the previous generation Volts, (all the way back to my first 2012), I could do the following, by voice command, without ever touching or looking at my iPhone:

  • place outgoing calls (duh!)
  • answer incoming calls
  • put appointments on my calendar
  • update my Facebook status
  • dictate outgoing text messages
  • select albums, songs or playlists to play on the stereo
  • ask for driving directions
  • set up geographic reminders (“remind me when I get home to…”)

I did’t know how CarPlay would be much better, other than allowing me to see Apple Maps on my car’s display. The interface to begin commanding the phone has improved with every new model year, but this is the best so far. I just press the speech button, on the left side of the steering wheel, and say “Hey, Siri.” Once I hear the Siri tone, I can give commands, such as, “Give me directions to the nearest Chevy dealer.” Bingo! Apple Maps open on my center stack display, showing my route, and Siri begins giving me directions. The iPhone has to be tethered via USB for Apple CarPlay to function. A couple things I learned about Apple’s navigation:

  • On the way to Austin, Siri came on and said there was heavy traffic ahead. She asked if I wanted to take another route to save 10 minutes. I said yes, so I was rerouted around the jam.
  • On the way back from Austin, I hit a terrible traffic jam. I was in it about an hour and a half. We would stop for several minutes, then pull forward about one car length and sit again. In this case, Siri did not warn me (possibly no better route?). I left the maps app, to call my wife, and the jam was so bad, everyone seemed to have the same idea (calling their spouses, not mine). There were no cellular connections available. When I went back to Maps, the map could not be displayed, because Apple uses cell towers to transmit data over the internet. No cell signal? No navigation!

**UPDATE** Automated Park Assist (APA): I hate to admit it, but I forgot my new Volt had this feature. The first time I tried it, it worked like a champ! It will assist (but not completely control) the Volt in parallel and back-in parking situations. I have only tried the parallel park assist so far. Here’s how it works:

When looking for a parallel parking space, large enough to accommodate the Volt, the car’s speed must be 18 MPH or less. The system will look for parking places to the right of the Volt. If you want to parallel park to the left side, just turn on the left turn signal and it will search to the left.

When a suitable space is detected the Driver Information Center will instruct the driver to come to a stop at a particular spot. If you overshoot, you can back up a little to position the Volt optimally. Once stopped the DIC instructs the driver to let go of the steering wheel (the steering wheel will vibrate, as a reminder) and to place the car in reverse.

From this point on, the car must move at 5 MPH or less, or it will terminate the APA.

When the driver’s foot releases the brake pedal, the car will start moving backwards and will turn the steering wheel to angle into the detected parking spot, then steer to be parallel to the curb. The DIC will tell the driver when to brake and shift back into drive. The Volt will then pull forward to center itself in the parking spot, notifying the driver when it’s time to step on the brake pedal. Just put it in park, and you’re parallel parking is finished!

Of course, if the parking space is tight, the Volt may have the driver move the shifter between reverse and drive multiple times, so it can squeeze into the spot, by moving back and forth.

The first time I tried this, it worked beautifully. I’ve had one attempt, where the Volt backed into the curb, but it was a low curb and the manual states this could happen, in that situation. I have enough faith in APA now, that I try to find a spot to demonstrate the feature on my test drives. Newbies experiencing this are blown away! I have even shown this to a long-time Chevy salesperson, while we were stopping for lunch downtown. Even he was in awe of the ease of parallel parking the Volt!

The Bose sound system (which we didn’t get in our first three Volts) is amazing.

It will definitely spin the tires, on takeoff, if you’re not careful.

I really like the appearance of the new Volt.

I have yet to hit the stated 53 miles of electric range, but I’m usually in Sport Mode and going about 75 MPH…