2012 Electric Car Sales Forecast

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With the six-month numbers in, we are now in a better position to estimate how many plug-in electric cars will be sold in the U.S. in 2012. For reference, it is estimated the whole U.S. car market will be at or slightly above 14 million for the year.

Last year, just under 18,000 electric plug-in cars were sold in the U.S. The format for this article will be to go car-by-car, adding them up at the bottom.

Chevrolet ( GM): 8,817 Volts were sold in the U.S. in the first half of 2012, with very few of those in January and February as GM awaited shipments of the version approved for the California carpool lane and additional $1,500 tax incentive. Production of the improved 2013 model started in late June and Chevrolet is just now starting to discount some remaining 2012 units by $2,500.

It is reasonable that Chevrolet should be able to sell almost 2,000 Volts per month in the U.S. for the second half of the year, yielding a year-total of approximately 20,000.

It should be noted that all versions of the Volt (Opel, Vauxhall and Holden) selling internationally are going at a rate of an additional 10,000 units with plenty of upside. The Volt factory in Hamtramck, Detroit, is now humming at a rate of at least 30,000 per year.

How much upside could there be to these 2012 Volt sales estimates? That will depend in part on how the Volt's excellent reliability record spreads, whether via word of mouth or advertising. So far, over 89 million miles have been driven by the owners, over 55 million of whom have been in all-electric mode. Quality issues? Searching the Internet, extremely hard to find any.

Nissan ( NSANY): The Leaf was the 2011 sales leader with almost 10,000 sold in the U.S. So far in 2012, the Volt has crushed the LEAF's 3,148 units sold in the U.S. Nissan says that the improved 2013 model, to be made starting in the next couple of months in Tennessee, should cause a sharp sales increase in the fourth quarter and hit 20,000 for the year's total.

That 2013 model had better be a huge improvement for Nissan to hit that number. I think 15,000 is more realistic, but it's really hard to say until we see the 2013 model and its improvements.

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