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TheStreet Open House

2012 Electric Car Sales Forecast

Stocks in this article: TSLA

Toyota (TM): Much like the Ford C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi, the Prius Plug-In is not a capable electric car in the same way as the Nissan and Chevrolet, but I am counting it anyway. U.S. sales have been mostly close to 1,500 per month and expanding into more states as the year moves along. Toyota should not have any problem hitting its goal of 12,000, with potentially plenty of upside.

Manufacturing of the RAV4, co-developed with Tesla (TSLA), has just started and 2,600 units will be made over 2.5 years, with deliveries to start by August. That's an insanely low number, and demand in California alone could be there for all of these in 2012. I bet they will sell them all in 2012.

Ford (F): The all-electric Focus has been selling for a couple of months, but perhaps because the car costs even more than the largely similar Nissan Leaf, it has not sold much. It's almost impossible to say whether it will sell more or less than 1,000 units for the year.

Ford is launching the C-Max Energi near the end of the year, and should be able to move perhaps a couple of thousand of those units.

The Fusion Energi will probably not hit the market until the first quarter of 2013. Both of these should be big sellers in 2013, depending on how they are priced. They are very attractive cars, so it's just a matter of the yet-unannounced pricing.

Tesla: Elon Musk has nailed all of the forecasts so far, and is extremely confident of hitting at least 5,000 for the year. I have no reason to doubt him. Furthermore, he is equally confident in 20,000 units for 2013.

BMW: Has leased 700 1-series electrics in the U.S. The i3 won't launch until (late) in 2013.

MItsubishi: The prospects are for perhaps little over 1,000 units, maybe even less.

Coda: Total wild card. I am not convinced many will sell. Perhaps 1,000 units.

Honda (HMC): 1,100 electric Fits will be made, and leased only for $389 per month.

Fisker: It looks like Fisker is on track to sell at least 1,000 for the year.

Let's add them all up, and compare to just under 18,000 sold in 2011:

Chevrolet: 20,000
Nissan: 15,000
Toyota: 14,600
Ford: 3,000
Tesla: 5,000
BMW: 700
Mitsubishi: 1,000
Coda: 1,000
Honda: 1,100
Fisker: 1,000
TOTAL: 62,400

That would easily more than triple the 2011 sales level, but still constitute just under half of 1% of the total U.S. car market in 2012. 1% would be 140,000.

The swing factors are huge enough for 2012, so I am not making much of a prediction for 2013 yet, let alone 2014. That said, the trajectory here is very easy to understand.

By 2014, it expected that almost every car maker will have serious plug-in electric cars in the market. 2013 will be an important year, with BMW and perhaps VW and Audi -- among others -- entering the market, and the existing makers such as Chevrolet, Ford, Nissan and Tesla dramatically expanding their offerings.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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