Archive for the ‘General’ Category

 

Oct 27

EVs are no longer a niche in Norway

 

Norway is an example of what can be done when unity of will is focused on a goal.

Of course its population is only around 5.1 million, so being small helps along with the relative homogeneity of purpose. But now if a critical voice says EVs aren’t ready for prime time, and wants to come up with reasons why, the case example proving their position false is Norway. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Nordic_Nissan_Leaf2
 

If anyone was ever tired of hearing about U.S. “compliance cars” by seemingly tepid automakers merely trying to appease regulators, news that EVs now comprise 15 percent of new car sales in Norway could come as a breath of fresh air.

As previously reported, the tiny country of 5.1 million people is eager to make the switch to sustainability, has the political will to do so, and is heavily subsidizing the effort on many fronts.

As the initiative to change the way Norwegians drive succeeds, talk is already being made to end incentives. In the U.S., talk of chopping incentives is also made, but this is more-often uttered by politically disgruntled commentators who think EVs are a misbegotten effort, or hate to see “the rich” recoup $7,500 federal tax credits on high-five, and six-figure cars.

By comparison, Norway is a case example of achieving a goal. It contrasts sharply given that talk is already coming to remove incentives, but this will happen after it meets the goal of 50,000 EVs or by 2017, not because it wants to abandon it as a failed attempt.

SEE ALSO: November EV Sales Approach 12-Percent In Norway

 
Despite having a population smaller than New York City, in January this year it was sixth overall in EV adoption, is still in that relative spot as of today, and accelerating its adoption rate.

The U.S. presently buys 0.5 percent all-electric cars in a vastly larger market, and is the world leader because of its bulk. Number three China is also underwriting EVs and pushing for more, and could supersede number two Japan as well.

To document things in one of its most warmly receptive markets, Nissan put together a rather clear video report on Norway, acknowledging even progress by its competitors.


 
“Tesla’s Model S is now the top-selling EV, while Volkswagen’s e-Up and eGolf are also part of Norway’s consumer charge,” wrote Nissan while also mentioning its own success, of course.

“Since sales began in 2011, Nissan Leaf has become the nation’s third best-selling car with over 15,000 on Norway’s roads,” says a press release with an unfortunate typographical error in the dateline of Oslo, “Noway.”

It may sometimes feel like no-way for others embroiled in infighting, and with automakers themselves married to gasoline power, but in Norway, it’s not “noway,” but yes, they’ve found a way.

 

Oct 24

Global top-10 best selling plug in cars

 

OK, here’s where things stand. The Volt is not first, but gen 2 could fix that.

Let’s hope that’s the way it goes.

GM has an opportunity here …

668x357xIMG_3534.jpg.pagespeed.ic.gdFbSbI6uC
 

As of September 2014, the global number of plug-in electrified vehicles (PEVs) sold crested to nearly 604,000 with certain models rounding out the bulk of these.

In fact, the top-10 models from various manufacturers have accounted for 77 percent of the total at an estimated 464,956 units.

Counted are both all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids by sales total with the biggest standout being three vehicles from Renault-Nissan.

SEE ALSO: Global Plug-in Car Sales Now Over 600,000

Together, their volume is just around 170,500 units or more than 28 percent of all plug-in cars sold to date.

These counts come with the help of Brazil-based plug-in car statistician Mario R. Duran, and are based on reports through September, where available.

Vehicles counted are “global” but bear in mind, some are sold in more markets than others, with a couple not sold in the world’s biggest market, the U.S., and a couple sold only in the U.S. and Canada, not elsewhere.

While this is a compilation of the top 10 in descending order, if you’re curious, we’ll list 11th-15th as well.

SEE ALSO: Should You Buy a Plug-in Hybrid?

The 11th-place BMW i3 has sold 11,676 units and is catching up to the 10th-best selling car’s 15,063 units. At present rates, BMW’s city car ought to start climbing into the top 10 soon enough.

It has outsold China’s Chery QQ3EV (11,528), Volvo S60 PHEV (11,370), Smart ED (10,000), and China’s BYD Quin PHEV (9,615).

The top 15 comprise an estimated 519,145 out of the estimated 603,932 units sold since the dawn of modern plug-in vehicles.

At this point, this should come as little surprise. There are relatively few plug-in models in the world next to the sea of internal combustion cars but that is changing.

Following are the 10 best sellers …
 
 

10. Renault Zoe, 15,063 sold

 
Renault-Zoe
 
We normally hear about success of domestic models here in the U.S., but Europeans concerned with CO2 emissions are a market to be reckoned with, and since its December 2012 launch, the Renault ZOE has become the world’s 10th best seller.

A review by Auto Express pegs range at about 100 miles – down from Renault’s claim of 130. We’ll include a video too, as this car may be of interest, and less familiar than some of the others further up the ladder.

UK Pricing for the Zoe is around the same as a Renault Clio diesel, and Renault quotes 13,995 GBP including VAT ($22,400). Unique is the battery is rented on a monthly basis from Renault.

We think it would be neat if a car like this, or a next generation were to one day find its way to the U.S.
 

9. Renault Kangoo; 15,369 sold

 
Renault-Kangoo-2014
 
Everything we just said about Renault and Europe applies to the Kangoo ZE except this is an all-electric minivan.

This one also compares to a diesel counterpart and is positioned as a small work truck.

Here are details from Renault.
 

8. Ford Fusion Energi; 15,611 sold

 
2015_Fusion_Energi_Horses
 
The Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid should be pretty familiar to U.S. buyers.

It is the top-of-the-range for the Fusion family, and shares its full hybrid powertrain – albeit one-better, in plug-in form – with the Fusion Hybrid and Lincoln MKZ and U.S. market C-Max variants.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Ford Fusion Energi Review
The sleek looking sedan with the coupe-like silhouette is sold in the U.S. and Canada only.
 

7. Ford C-Max Energi; 16,377 sold

 
2013-Ford-C-Max-Energi-Action-01
 
The C-Max Energi is also U.S. and Canadian only, although in Europe it comes with internal combustion powertrains.

It is Ford’s Prius fighter, and splits the difference between the Prius Liftback and Prius v wagon in size, while more powerful and faster.

SEE ALSO: 2013 Ford C-Max Energi Review
It and the Fusion Energi had their EPA mpg scores clipped. The C-Max was actually reduced twice but despite all that, it is a good car for what it is and gaining a following, if not still well behind the Prius which had a 12 year head start in the U.S. market.
 

6. Mitsubishi i-MiEV Family; 30,501 sold

 
Mitsubishi i - Portland
 
The Mitsu is the grandfather of mainstream city EVs and has been labeled also as Citreon and Peugeot variants.

It’s derived from a Japanese “kei” car and developed in 2009 after they removed the gas engine and installed all-electric powertrain.

SEE ALSO: 2012 Mitsubishi i-MiEV Review – Video
We credit Mitsubishi for being bold enough to sell this car nationwide in the U.S. It has essentially fallen to low sales numbers, here, but is cheaper and better than previously, and not a bad little EV, even if other more-competitive choices are now available.
 

5. Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV; 35,188 sold

 
Mitsubishi_Outlander_PHEV_Russia-668
 
Here is the PHEV Americans are waiting for, but for now it’s only being snapped up in Europe and Japan.

Launched in Japan in January 2013, Mitsubishi says the U.S. ought to see the plug-in hybrid in 2015, and we know a number of people are anticipating it.

It will fill the bill as an SUV that gets more electric range than the Ford Energis with the utility of a light-duty family-hauling SUV.

The U.S. is the largest PEV market, and when it gets here, assuming they can keep up supply, we suspect its tally shall continue to increase all the more rapidly.
 

4. Tesla Model S; estimated 47,000-plus sold

 
Model_S_white
 
This car needs no introduction, does it? Since launching it June 2012 in the U.S. Tesla is now selling it globally in 15 countries including across Europe, China, and of course the U.S. and Canada.

It starts here at $72,000 and has been a relative smash hit given its upscale price and sales volume sending it up the sales ladder In a league of cars half its price or less.

SEE ALSO: Tesla Model S Review
Model S is expected to have sold 50,000 pending full confirmation by Tesla’s third quarterly sales announcement after market close on Wednesday, November 5, 2014.
 

3. Toyota Prius PHEV; 65,300 sold

 
2012_Toyota_Prius_Plugin_017
 
The Prius with a plug rests partially on the laurels of the highly effective Prius Liftback and has sold well the past few years with global sales slowing in 2014. It was launched first in Japan in January 2012, and the U.S. February 2012.

Its EV range is lower than any PHEV, but underlying it is the 50-mpg Prius and Toyota’s reliability record, resale value, and fan base.

The next Prius PHEV is believed likely to get a boost to its 11 miles EV range but won’t be here until perhaps late 2015, early 2016.
 

2. Chevy/Holden Volt & Opel/Vauxhall Ampera; 83,687 sold

 
2011_Volt
 
This is perhaps the biggest U.S. alternative-energy success story and car political pundits love to bash the most all in one. The Volt is made in Detroit, and shipped to more than 12 nations.

And the count is for badge-engineered variants sold in Europe and the UK as Opel and Vauxhall, and in Australia as the Holden Volt.

Most have been sold in the U.S. – 69,082, and PHEV-absorbing Netherlands – 6,036, and Canada – 3,725, and this global count of 83,687 excludes several dozen cars as we only have records through June for four small European markets.

volt.ampera-markets
Top markets – note a few countries have records not through to September.

It’s sold in dribs and drabs elsewhere which is why it’s being discontinued as the Ampera, which even many Volt fans think is prettier.

Hey, here’s an idea: cancel the Volt, and introduce the Ampera to the U.S! Or never mind. GM is about to introduce the second generation in Detroit in January.

The hope is if critics ever did have ammo against it, this one will disarm them, and sales will catch up to the earlier expectations.
 

1. Nissan Leaf; 142,000 sold

 
Dongfeng Nissan launches its first all-electric vehicle
 
The success of the Leaf is a testament to the bullish investments Nissan made in an all-electric car that can work for people’s needs, and an indicator that battery electric outsell plug-in hybrids globally.

Worldwide battery electric vehicles account for 356,232 of the 603,932 PEV sales, and plug-in hybrids accounts for 247,700.

SEE ALSO: 2013 Nissan Leaf Review – Video

In the world’s biggest PEV market, the U.S., the home-market Volt with 69,082 sold holds an edge and both it and the Leaf with its 63,944 sales were launched in the U.S December 2010.

The Leaf has been catching up, and the past six month’s tally is 16,638 Leafs to 10,924 Volts, but the gen-2 Volt will come before gen-2 Leaf. That may help a year from now but the Leaf is on track to catch up and pass the Volt before then.

Worldwide, the Leaf dominates by a wide margin and at present rates could very well sail past a 150,000 global milestone by November just in time for its four-year anniversary.

 

Oct 23

Plug-in vehicles now at 600,000 sold worldwide

 

There are around 20 plug-in cars for sale in the U.S., with the Volt still holding the lead as the top selling. Globally, it’s a different story, as its 83,547 estimated including Amperas lags around 142,000 Leafs and leads 63,500 PiPs.

But the big picture is the horses are out of the stable. Word has it the fuel cell electric revolution is set to follow and we’ll see where that goes.

Chevrolet-Volt-White
 

Having started from zero last decade, global acceptance of plug-in electrified vehicles (PEVS) is speeding up and in just the past four months the number grew by 20 percent to 600,000 vehicles sold.

This counts only the top-10 countries and their purchases of primarily passenger-oriented, highway legal plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles. Of these around 356,232 are battery electric, and 247,700 are plug-in hybrids and they add to an estimated 603,932 PEVs.

The lion’s share began after 2010, but a few thousand were counted from as far back as 2006 in the UK and 2003 in Norway. Excluded are commercial vehicles except for a few small vans. Also not counted are motorcycles, and buses, and this is overwhelmingly a tally of “normal” cars for consumers.

Silver Lining

With only a little more than a quarter million PEVs in American hands so far, it’s evident the country will be late for President Obama’s goal of one million for 2015. And we’ve seen some failures with start-ups, and a U.S. market otherwise stuck in the mud with several “compliance cars” by automakers unwilling or unable to proliferate them beyond limited markets and quantities.

i3_green
 
But despite negative indicators hovering like dark clouds, the silver lining is PEV numbers are adding up not unlike pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters thrown into a jar that eventually tally to a fair amount of dollars.

SEE ALSO: Plug-In Car Sales Cross Global Half-Million Mark
As existing markets and others yet pending purchase PEVs, and as automakers roll out new models from yet-modest efforts, the tide is slowly turning, and momentum ought to increase given growth to date.

To provide a closer perspective, here are various global sales milestones and when they occurred: 100,000, Dec, 2011; 180,000, Dec. 2012; 405,000, Jan. 2014; 500,000, May 2014; 603,932, Sept. 2014.

Leaf_over_creek
 
At the current rate, estimates by Brazil-based alternative energy enthusiast, plug-in car statistician, and HybridCars.com reader, Mario R. Duran shows acceleration continuing.

Duran conservatively forecasts 700,000 global PEVs by December and 1 million by August or September 2015.

Disproportionate Contributions

Among the 10 top-contributing nations, the percentage of PEVs purchased varies considerably.

“China, Germany, the UK and Sweden all have experience ballistic grow this year,” said Duran looking over the percentage of growth. “France is tanked, and Japan slowed down from previous years.”

Tesla Motors Opens Assembly Plant in Tilburg, Netherlands

The PEV market share in the U.S. is 0.71 percent, China’s is 0.22 percent, and if only these could adopt at a rate like some of the standouts, we’d really have significant volumes.

The heavy lifting is being done by smaller nations, most notably Netherlands at 4.02 percent, and Norway at just around 15 percent.

These small countries have demonstrated political will, implemented infrastructure, and made the cost-benefit equation compelling for plugging in versus staying wedded to conventional petroleum power.

Pennies In a Jar

These are the tallies based on published reports through Sept. 2014:

United States: 259,949
Japan: 95,153
China: 77,205
Netherlands: 40,954
France: 38,605
Norway: 37,824
Germany: 21,256
UK: 17,456
Canada: 9,200
Sweden: 6,771

 

Just for some perspective, if the number-one EV adopter – the U.S – was adopting at the rate of the most aggressive – Norway – it would be a changed world.

Instead of around 6,000 electric cars bought in the U.S. in September, Americans would have taken home 185,000. And this year, instead of close to 44,000 in the U.S., the grand tally would be 1.85 million – just from January through September.

The actual numbers are around 260,000 PEVs bought by Americans since 2008 out of the just-over 604,000 global total.

And really, it’s an academic discussion and moot point as long as reality is what it is.

The present reality is earlier predictions have not all gone as hoped, but in the main, they arguably have. Growth is happening, synergy is increasing momentum, 0.6 million PEVs now displace conventional cars, and the next milestone will be here before you know it.

 

Oct 22

Michigan law bars Tesla sales; GM approves

 

Yesterday what’s practically become a periodic occurrence again happened – a state pushed to stop the type of sales model Tesla Motors approves.

Also making the rounds are reports that GM “pressured” the governor of Michigan to sign the bill.

Tesla_Store_King_of_Prussia
 

Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder has just signed House Bill 5606 effectively prohibiting Tesla from operating factory direct in state.

The bipartisan legislation was overwhelmingly approved 38-0 in the Senate, and 106-1 in the House of Representatives.

“This bill does not, as some have claimed, prevent auto manufacturers from selling automobiles directly to consumers at retail in Michigan – because this is already prohibited under Michigan law,” Snyder said in a letter to lawmakers that accompanies the signed bill.

Tesla however has said differently alleging very shady dealing and abuse of the spirit of the law.

The governor in turn says he thinks signing the bill to become Public Act 354 of 2014 was the right thing to do. He also is calling for “healthy, open discussion on potential changes to [the automotive sales] business model.”

While he does not mention Tesla by name in a video, the governor, whose tagline is “Reinventing Michigan Getting it Right. Getting it Done,” has been in the hot seat between constituencies.

At issue in the language of the law was one word, says the governor.

“Language in the bill states plainly that a manufacturer can only sell new vehicles to consumers through its own network of franchised dealers,” said the governor’s office. “HB 5606 deletes the word “its” from a sentence in existing law.”

GM’s Involvement?

And in agreeement with the governor is General Motors, which reportedly urged him to sign the bill into law.

“We believe that House Bill 5606 will help ensure that all automotive manufacturers follow the same rules to operate in the State of Michigan; therefore, we encourage Governor Snyder to sign it,” GM said in a letter to the governor.

2014-Chevrolet-SparkEV-058-medium

GM spoke of leveling the playing field, its statement followed a similar sentiment regarding Tesla in Ohio, and ultimately its appeal was heard by Michigan’s governor, if not also repeated by other interests observing the state of affairs.

In response to GM’s lobbying, the Detroit News reports Tesla did not take kindly to GM’s position.

“What’s good for GM’s customers is not necessarily good for Tesla’s customers. What’s good for gasoline cars is not necessarily good for electric cars. Tesla is selling a new product with a new technology,” said Tesla in a statement.

“The evidence is overwhelming that a traditional dealer-based approach does not work for electric cars. Moreover, GM distorts the purpose of the franchise laws (including in Michigan), which are in place not to cement a monopoly for franchised dealers but rather to prevent companies with existing franchises from unfairly competing against them. Tesla has never used franchised dealers, so these concerns are simply irrelevant.”

How directly GM’s lobbying is to be credited or blamed for the decision is in question. At least one GM enthusiast site wrote “there’s no denying that General Motors’ support of the bill must have had at least some influence on Snyder’s decision to enact it,” citing also FTC officials who’ve supported Tesla and pushback as “anticompetitive.”

This Isn’t Over

Snyder’s appeal that he was in the right is very similar to what was said in New Jersey earlier this year – that the law was already on the books, and the legislation done at the behest of the Michigan state dealer lobby only tightened existing laws.

Tesla framed issues in its blog post. Governor Snyder issued a 1-minute video and press release defending the decision.

Rather than re-write all these, we’ll let the opposing viewpoints speak for themselves. Below are copied in whole the Tesla point of view and the point of view from Governor Snyder’s office with links to each.

Tesla’s Blog Post

October 16, 2014
A Raw Deal in Michigan
By The Tesla Motors Team

On October 1, the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association succeeded in passing a bill that is harmful to consumers. The bill, HB5606, was originally a single amendment to existing law designed to ensure that the car dealers can tack additional fees on to the purchase price for all vehicles (from any manufacturer) sold in Michigan. Such fees have a controversial history, are generally regarded with skepticism and have been the subject of consumer concern in other states.

Not content with enshrining their ability to charge consumers dubious fees, on the last day of the legislative session, the dealers managed to make a last-minute change to the bill in an attempt to cement their broader retail monopoly. Using a procedure that prevented legislators and the public at large from knowing what was happening or allowing debate, Senator Joe Hune added new language in an attempt to lock Tesla out of the State. Unsurprisingly, Senator Hune counts the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association as one of his top financial contributors, and his wife’s firm lobbies for the dealers.

By striking a single, but critical, word from MCLA 445.1574(14)(1)(i), the law governing franchise relations in Michigan, the dealers seek to force Tesla, a company that has never had a franchise dealership, into a body of law solely intended to govern the relationship between a manufacturer and its associated dealers. In so doing, they create an effective prohibition against Tesla opening a store in Michigan.

This amendment goes even further. It also seeks to prevent Tesla from operating a gallery in Michigan that simply provides information without conducting sales. We could even be barred from telling people about our car.

This anti-competitive behavior mirrors similar tactics in New Jersey and Missouri, where dealers have resorted to backroom political maneuvers to shore up their monopolies. The dark-of-night tactics highlight the dealers’ concerns that their arguments don’t stand up well to public scrutiny.

Indeed, no consumer unaffiliated with dealers would ever want this. Officials at the Federal Trade Commission have spoken out about the potentially harmful consequences of the dealers’ anti-competitive behavior, saying “competition ultimately provides the best protections for consumers.” Leading economists have also weighed in, saying dealer monopolies come “at the expense of consumers and innovative technologies.” And in September, in considering a similar body of law, the Massachusetts Supreme Court handed down a ruling that made it clear that such laws were not intended to exclude a manufacturer without franchise dealerships from selling to consumers directly.

While the car dealers’ anti-consumer bill has made it through the legislature, it has yet to be signed into law. The bill is now on Governor Rick Snyder’s desk. We are calling on concerned consumers to contact the Governor and urge him to veto this legislation and return the issue to the legislature for a full and open debate in 2015.

Please make your voice heard.

Other ways to contact Gov. Snyder:

Phone: 517-373-3400
Mail: P.O. Box 30013, Lansing, MI 48909
Twitter: @onetoughnerd

 

tesla-showroom

Governor’s Press Release

Gov. Rick Snyder signs bipartisan bill clarifying existing direct auto sales law

Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder today signed bipartisan legislation that clarifies and strengthens an existing law about direct auto sales in Michigan.

House Bill 5606, sponsored by state Rep. Aric Nesbitt, also prohibits auto manufacturers from dictating fees franchised dealers can charge customers. The legislation allows individual auto dealers to make the business decision whether to charge the transaction fee.

The bill was approved by 38-0 in the state Senate, and 106-1 in the state House of Representatives.

Snyder said Tuesday there has been a misunderstanding about the legislation.

“This bill does not, as some have claimed, prevent auto manufacturers from selling automobiles directly to consumers at retail in Michigan – because this is already prohibited under Michigan law,” Snyder said in a letter to lawmakers that accompanies the signed bill.

Language in the bill states plainly that a manufacturer can only sell new vehicles to consumers through its own network of franchised dealers. HB 5606 deletes the word “its” from a sentence in existing law.

This change would merely allow manufacturers who do not have their own franchised dealers to sell through another manufacturer’s network of franchised dealers. They will be required, just as they are now, to sell through a franchised dealer, and not directly to consumers. HB 5606 does nothing to change this fact. At most, it clarifies the existing requirement in Michigan law.

Snyder requested Attorney General Bill Schuette analyze the effect of the bill, and the Attorney General’s Office also concluded that auto manufacturers could sell only through franchised dealers, as is the case in existing law.

Snyder said lawmakers can and should discuss the current business model soon to determine if it is best for the state’s consumers.

“We should always be willing to re-examine our business and regulatory practices with an eye toward improving the customer experience for our citizens and doing things in a more efficient and less costly fashion,” he said.

The bill is now Public Act 354 of 2014.

The governor also signed HB 5273, sponsored by state Rep. Nancy Jenkins which connects small businesses with funding opportunities by creating Michigan Investment Markets, which operate as intrastate broker-dealers. The law connects Michigan businesses and residents, allowing for stock in local businesses to be bought, sold and traded.

The legislation is an extension of the crowdfunding measure enacted in 2013, allowing companies to use crowdfunding to raise money for their business. It is now PA 355.

For more information, visit legislature.michigan.gov.

###

 

Oct 21

Model S to crest past 50,000 global sales this month

 

Tesla’s Model S continues to confound the critics by selling a car costing anywhere from 2-4 times the national average car price of around $32,000.

Globally, it is catching up to the Volt, although still far enough apart, and gen 2 ought to help keep it at bay, or so it is hoped. By end of June, GM had sold about 77,000 Volts and Amperas globally since Volt’s Dec. 2010 launch. As of September, Volt is at 69,092 in the U.S., its largest market by far, and under 83,500 globally. Tesla’s Model S, launched a year and a half after the Volt, is on track to sail past 51,000 globally, and may have already hit a nice round 50,000 milestone.

mod_s

Tesla may have just announced the quickest 0-60 sedan, but just as notable is how Model S has sprinted from 0-50 – thousand sales that is – as it’s on track for 50,000 globally by the end of October.

Estimated sales through the end of September are 46,928 according to various reports and Tesla’s quarterly shareholder letters through June. It’s believed the automaker will have delivered as many as 51,300-plus units before November 1, although there is room for error in the actual count.

That notwithstanding, it won’t be long now, and this shows the electric luxury performance sedan has grown its global market and maintained popular interest to accelerate sales on par with a far-cheaper Nissan Leaf.

It took established Nissan around two years, two months from December 2010 through its mid-February 2013 announcement of its 50,000th Leaf sale worldwide. The Model S costing two-four times more, could cross that milestone in only around one extra month.

Model_S_showroom

The Model S was launched June 22, 2012 and it will have been around two years, three months when the approximately $72,000-$133,000 car – depending on configuration – equals the Leaf’s earlier sales tally.

The Leaf did struggle during 2012 and sales picked up after a 2013 price cut, and it’s now close to 150,000 after setting sales records all last year and this year. But Tesla actually raised its prices while other plug-in cars – including Chevy Volt, Mitsu i-MiEV, and Ford Focus Electric – have all been significantly slashed.

Remarkable also is Tesla only sold 200 Model S units to start with in its third quarter of 2012 because it was taking great care with production quality control, and sold just 2,450 in its next full quarter. Since then it sold around the 5,000-unit range the next three quarters, the 6,000 range two quarters after that, and nearly 7,600 units in the second quarter of this year.

Wiggle Room

As everyone following this space knows, Tesla does not quote monthly sales, so the quarterly statements are where it divulges deliveries. These through June 2014 and various news reports for 15 countries counting sales and registrations were used to get the total.

Confirmed by Tesla through June were 39,128 Model S deliveries, and outstanding is its report on third quarter 2014 sales for July, August, and September.

Model_S_above

The company estimated it would sell 7,800 units for Q3 which would make for 46,928 through the end of September. Reports – cross checked where possible – place the actual Q3 estimate at 8,098 according to Brazil-based alternative energy enthusiast, plug-in car statistician, and HybridCars.com reader, Mario R. Duran.

If so, Tesla may have sold as many as 51,316 units by end of this month, and the exact day of 50,000 may go by otherwise undocumented.

Tesla’s largest market is the U.S., and the HybridCars.com Dashboard estimates 11,900 sales for Q3. Tiny Norway is second place and accounts for 3,535 according to reports. A question hangs over third-place China which the LA Times reported on Sept. 26 at 2,800 but with registrations not nearly lining up – only 432.

Tesla acknowledged to the Times the huge discrepancy, and it could have to do with not up-to-date registration records, and/or “scalpers” buying up new Model S sedans and stockpiling them to resell, thus they are not being registered.

Fourth place is the Netherlands with 958, fifth is Germany with 576, sixth is Canada at 467, seventh is Belgium at 361. Beyond this, we count: Switzerland: 346; UK: 350; Denmark: 302; France: 218; Sweden: 169; Austria: 101; Italy: 35; Spain: 16.

China is the biggest outstanding mystery, but another source which routinely tracks plug-in sales also placed it at over 2,800 Q3 sales, so the imminent 50,000 milestone we believe is a safe, if not precise, call.

Bottom Line

In January 2014, we reported Tesla had sold its 25,000th Model S, so indeed things are speeding up.

Assuming published reports are close to accurate, it’s believed Tesla will have sold its 50,000th Model S as soon as one week from now. But while people like to commemorate anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and milestones, Tesla’s latest special date may be viewed as one more way marker toward a larger goal.

MS_HP_charger

Tesla does not even see fit to put itself too closely under the microscope as other automakers do and report its month-by-month sales, but it is otherwise talking with its sales performance and loud and clear is its zero-emissions agenda.

Every Model S sold displaces one more gas-burning car that could have been on the road instead.

This month CEO Elon Musk tweeted Teslas had globally traveled a cumulative estimate of half a billion miles.

At the rate these 100-percent electric cars are proliferating – with Model X due next along with “D” models of the S, and Model 3 to follow – fuel savings and emissions elimination are accelerating quickly, just like the cars do themselves.

non sequitur: Painting of Tesla’s namesake:

 

Oct 20

Bobby the robot car laps Hockenheimring at near-record speed

 

We deviate from our normal programming here at GM-Volt for another state-of-the-technology story.

There’s been some interest in autonomous cars, GM is testing them in a special ECO city in China, and last week we saw Tesla demo its “auto pilot” features. Here’s the latest dog and pony show and it was special and a bit more exciting than, say, a Leaf navigating traffic cones at 25 mph.

Bobby_RS7_RR

His name is Bobby, and he’s a really fast driver. Actually, Bobby is a robotically controlled Audi RS7 piloted driving concept that drives as well as pro drivers, and he got to show this to the world on Sunday.

It happened before the start of the DTM race. Bobby and another RS7 sports sedan with driver at the wheel were turned loose on Germany’s Hockenheimring. The RS7 with no human in the car this time went five seconds quicker at speeds up to 150 mph during a lap of just over two minutes.

Bobby_RS7
An RS7 is a $105,795 extra high-performance version of the A7 and above the S7. It’s powered by a 560-horsepower, 516 pound-foot torque 4.0-liter V8 and uses an 8-speed automatic. It’s been praised for its balance and truly upping the level beyond the already competent A7. Its fuel economy is EPA rated at 16 city, 27 highway.

The 4,400-pound car has been timed as quick as 0-62 in 3.5 seconds, and done the quarter mile at 11.6 seconds at 123 mph. Audi has had its specially prepped autonomous version up to 190 mph, and Bobby proved eminently capable of the run at Hockenheim.

Audi’s dramatic demonstration of “piloted driving” as it calls it got everyone‘s attention, but the the two-minutes of glory came after 10 years of work on the safety oriented technology. The division of Volkswagen AG says piloted driving is one of the most important development fields it hopes to see in commercial use ASAP.

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Therefore the hot lap perhaps most of all is hoped to gain the attention of regulators who are in position to greenlight public autonomous driving.

“The top performance by the Audi RS 7 today substantiates the skills of our development team with regard to piloted driving at Audi,” said Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, board member for Technical Development at Audi AG. “The derivations from series production, particularly in terms of precision and performance, are of great value for our further development steps.”

Audi predicts if permitted by authorities, the first consumer oriented systems could be ready in a few years. Autonomous adoption is projected to be an $87 billion market a decade and a half from now, and several other automakers are in a race of their own to win.

Fast And Smart

The RS7 with no human at the wheel is a thinking car. Bobby got a map of the track with only left and right boundaries defined, and it was up to his on-board computer to determine the best line.

A two-minute lap is well slower than 1:33-34 range done by the track-prepared Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) cars that qualified for the Hockenheimring race, but places it squarely in league with some of the world’s faster well-driven production cars. The record for the GP circuit is 1:48:50 by a Porsche 918 Spyder, and a number of performance cars have done low 2s such as the BMW M3, Mercedes C 63 AMG, and Porsche 911 Carrera.

Following is a briefed explanation and previous test drive:

To orient the RS7 on the track, it used specially corrected GPS signals transmitted via WiFi according to automotive standards and redundantly via high-frequency radio. In parallel to this, 3D cameras in the car film the track, and a computer program compares the cameras’ image information against a data set stored on board.

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“This is what makes it possible for the technology pioneer to orient itself on the track within centimeters,” says Audi.

Redundancy is built in as an effort to provide a fail-safe car. The whole idea is to improve safety, and a car that careened out of control causing property loss, injury or death would undoubtedly send shock-waves into the technology’s acceptability.

Challenges Remain

But really, while a new benchmark has been set, the Audis had the run of the road with no vehicles to avoid, pedestrians to not hit, and countless other random things that could cause an accident on public roads.

Factors such as those can add enormous complexity to the proposal to unleash cars that drive themselves en masse. One car is one thing. How hundreds or thousands per day could manage the clogged streets of a town like Manhattan is quite another.

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A year ago at the ITS World Congress, developers threw a wet blanket on the prospect of widespread acceptance of fully autonomous cars after years of being bullish and predicting its imminent arrival.

Hurdles cited include huge projected costs, connectivity barriers, liability questions, regulatory unknowns, lack of universal industry standards, and other technological limitations.

Whether these can be worked out, and how soon remains to be seen. In the interim, building blocks leading toward fully autonomous vehicles such as self-parking, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, automatic braking, and more are expected to be rolled out in production cars.

The hope for advocates is society’s comfort zone will increase as semi-autonomous technologies whittle away at unnerving aspects and remaining barriers.

A long version of the Audi RS 7 piloted driving concept at Hockenheim follows.