GM, Nissan plug-in deals power battery car sales

LOS ANGELES — General Motors and Nissan, the biggest sellers of rechargeable cars, posted record U.S. plug-in sales in August as their low-cost leases pushed battery-vehicle deliveries this year past 2012’s tally.

GM delivered 3,351 Chevrolet Volt plug-in sedans last month, up 18 percent from a year earlier, and Nissan’s all- electric Leaf hatchback sales more than tripled to 2,420, the companies said this week. U.S. plug-in hybrid and battery car sales totaled 57,976 in 2013’s first eight months, more than the 51,938 for all of last year, data compiled by Bloomberg and Autodata Corp. show.

Initially sluggish sales of rechargeable cars are accelerating on cheap leases and price reductions. GM, Nissan and Honda were already touting leases on plug-ins of $199 to $299 a month when Toyota in August added a $299 a month deal for its slow-selling RAV4 EV, powered by a Tesla Motors powertrain. It also set a sales record last month.

“It just becomes a matter of how much money you’re going to throw at it,” said Kevin Tynan, an analyst for Bloomberg Industries. “There’s no great change in the product or the market. But this is how you get people into the showroom to look at it.”

Through August, the Volt from Detroit-based GM leads the Leaf produced by Yokohama, Japan-based Nissan, 14,994 to 14,123.

U.S. sales of electric-drive cars and light trucks – ranging from hybrids to plug-in hybrids to battery-only cars – are up 28 percent this year through August to at least 399,070, based on Bloomberg and Autodata figures. Toyota City, Japan- based Toyota, led by the Prius, dominates the segment with 248,134 such sales this year.

Prices of such vehicles range from $30,000 to more than $100,000 for Tesla’s premium Model S sedan before U.S. and state tax credits and government discounts.

Prius, the world’s best-selling hybrid, had a 30 percent increase last month to 27,358 units, the company said. Sales of the line, including the main hatchback version, v wagon, c subcompact and Prius Plug-in, totaled 170,866 through August. Toyota has said it plans to sell a record 250,000 this year.

“That’s more than last year’s Acura and Volvo sales combined,” Bob Carter, Toyota’s U.S. senior vice president, told reporters today at an Automotive Press Association event in Detroit. “While hybrids makeup just under 4 percent of the auto market now, we believe the segment can and must grow.”

Ford Motor Co.’s electric-drive auto sales in August almost quadrupled, rising to 8,292 from 2,137 a year ago, according to company figures. So far this year, sales of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and EVs for Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford are up 375 percent to 61,306 units, the segment’s biggest gain.

Tesla delivered 1,950 Model S electric sedans last month and 12,351 this year through August, according to estimates by Autodata that the Palo Alto, California-based carmaker doesn’t confirm.

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