Just for some perspective, we thought we would note a few things, including last month marked the first half year for a new era of mainstream EVs begun by Chevrolet's Volt and Nissan's LEAF – which as disruptive technology, are being watched closely by pundits of every stripe.

Since the beginning of their production, both electric vehicles were slow out of the gate, initially recording sales in the mere hundreds – limited by supply, their manufacturers said, not demand.

Even so, journalists have been quick to note how low the numbers were, quick to compare the two, and are still making such observations – the latest story du jour being the Volt is losing to the sales king of the month, the LEAF.

Volt Consumer Advisory Board, including: (l to r): Eric Rotbard, Brian Wynne, Colin Summers, Lyle Dennis, Robert Becker, Chelsea Sexton, Kris Trexler, Tom Kuhn and Mark Swain. Sept. 28, 2010.

Actually both cars are still ramping up slowly compared to a number of ICE vehicles, many of which individually outsell both EVs combined many times over.

But to their credit, both Nissan and Chevrolet are the only electric vehicle manufacturers posting their sales performance month after month for the world to praise them, bash them, or at least benignly observe.

Smart, Tesla, and Wheego do not report monthly sales, and their totals are reportedly much lower than LEAF and Volt sales.

What is more, both Chevrolet and Nissan say they have a backlog of orders which defy allegations of lagging demand for either manufacturer at this juncture.

Moreover, both are still predicting huge increases in commitment to their electric vehicle platforms, promising more models to come.

June sales ‘race’

The Volt’s June sales edged up to 561 from 481 sales in May despite no new supply from a closed assembly plant being updated for increased production capacity and due to open later this month. In total, GM said it has sold 2,745 for the first half year.

Comparatively, the LEAF sold more than triple the number of Volts in June, and actually more units in June than the 1,650 or more units Tesla has sold of its elite $109,000-plus Roadster since launching it in 2008.

Now here is a race we fully agree the LEAF won. Under beautiful blue skies at the 89th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb June 27, veteran Nissan off-road truck racing champion Chad Hord and the LEAF made history as the first winners of the Electric Production Class.

The number of LEAFs sold last month was 1,708, by far the best month for the car. Nissan has sold 3,875 total units to date, topping Chevrolet by 1,130 units to date.

Perceived wins and losses aside, both Chevrolet and Nissan are still on track to reach their goals, but – not even counting a few GM/Volt haters out there – media have still portrayed Volt sales as losing to the LEAF.

Examples of headlines

“Nissan Leaf whips Chevrolet Volt in electric sales race” - USA Today
“EV Wars: After early lead, Chevrolet Volt takes backseat to Nissan Leaf in 2011 sales race”
“Nissan LEAF passes Chevrolet Volt in 2011 sales race” – egmCarTech

More to the story

There is no doubt there is competitiveness between the two manufacturers. Snippy advertising rhetoric we have seen is proof enough, as have been various comments by certain executives.

And it is true, the LEAF has done comparatively well – although we will observe Nissan did not miss its chance to offer the proverbial I told you so.

“We’ve been telling you we’d grow every month, and now you’re seeing more normalized production flow,” Al Castignetti, Nissan’s vice president of U.S. sales said to Bloomberg. “We’re starting to catch up with the reservations.”

But whether or not an early lead is an indicator of anyone really winning or losing a "race" is definitely in question.

In fact, GM has had to bat down what it said were unjustified allegations that the Volt was under-performing since it was launched.

“Many other people will look at the raw numbers and try and either extrapolate that we’re going to come short for 10,000 units, or they’re just going to take the raw numbers and say it’s not a success,” said GM Spokesman Rob Peterson in April , “And I don’t buy that, I think it’s a short-sighted analysis. We’re 100-percent confident that we’re going to get there.”

GM has not changed its word on the subject. Its word was we will see up and down numbers all year, but in the end, it will do what it set out to do.

Nissan may indeed be up, but the good news is the story is only starting, and the race is anything but won or lost by either side.

LEAF and Volt in the cold. (Photo by Motortrend.)
And in the mean time, thanks in part to pioneering efforts by both companies – as well as others – EV manufacturers now have clearer data with which to follow in their footsteps.

Fisker is reportedly due to deliver its Karma E-REV this month, Ford, Coda, and Mitsubishi also have models waiting in the wings, and more are expected in coming years.


If anything, the more accurate picture between the Volt and LEAF is Nissan did win a couple of proverbial battles, but neither has won any sort of proverbial war.

To put things in perspective, a proverbial “war” has begun, but is only just starting, and people need to realize what the real fight is.

The real fight is to get EV sales numbers above fractions of the ICE total. The actual war, if you will, is to achieve a complete paradigm change toward mainstream electric-powered transportation.

On that front, the LEAF and Volt are well on their way. And as "disruptive technology," while they do compete against one another in one respect, in another, they are actually on the same side.