GM Volt Beats Plug-In Prius, Leaf in U.S. Rechargeable-Car Sales

Rechargeable Chevy Volt
General Motors Co.’s 2012 Chevrolet Volt. Photographer: Courtesy General Motors Co.

General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Volt was the best-selling rechargeable auto in the U.S. in May, topping Toyota Motor Corp.’s plug-in Prius and Nissan Motor Co.’s all-electric Leaf hatchback.

Deliveries of the GM plug-in sedan more than tripled to 1,680 units from 481 a year earlier. Toyota sold 1,086 of the Prius version, introduced in March, and Leaf sales slid 55 percent to 510 cars, the companies reported today.

The Volt gained after Detroit-based GM briefly halted production of the car this year as inventory grew and as sales cooled after news of battery-pack fires following crash tests. Output resumed in April with structural reinforcements for safety, as well as modifications that qualified the Volt for rebates and carpool lane access in California, the top market for rechargeable autos.

Leaf sales have dropped the past two months as the Yokohama, Japan-based company has changed how it sells the car, now available in all 50 U.S. states, said Al Castignetti, vice president of Nissan’s North American sales.

“I have huge dispersion issues,” Castignetti said in an interview today. “In places like California, dealers have pretty good inventory, but I’ve got states that literally have no Leafs, and we’ve got to address that.”

Sales of the Leaf, which goes an average of 73 miles (117 kilometers) a charge, will rise to a minimum of 1,000 a month by July, he said.

The Volt, which goes at least 35 miles on lithium-ion battery power before a gasoline engine engages to propel the car, remains the best-selling rechargeable car this year. Sales through May more than tripled to 7,057, compared to 3,638 plug-in Priuses and 2,613 Leafs.

The four-model Prius line from Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota, which includes the plug-in version, is the biggest seller among all electric-drive autos, with sales rising 210 percent to 21,477 in May and 73 percent to 107,504 for the year.

The Volt starts at $39,145, and qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit. The base model plug-in Prius costs $32,000, before a $2,500 tax credit. Nissan’s Leaf, averaging 73 miles per charge, starts at $35,200, according to a company website, before a $7,500 credit.

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