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GM Volt, Plug-In Prius Buoy U.S. Rechargeable-Car Gains

General Motors Co. (GM)’s Chevrolet Volt widened its lead as the top-selling U.S. rechargeable car this year and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) expanded plug-in Prius deliveries as Nissan Motor Co. (7201) said it’s working to boost electric Leaf sales.

Sales through September of battery-only vehicles and those with both battery packs and a gasoline engine for added range almost tripled to about 31,400 from 11,094 a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Volt, with a record 2,851 sales last month, leads with 16,348 for the year, up fourfold, followed by 7,734 Prius plug-ins and 5,212 Leafs.

GM’s addition of a discounted lease for the Volt, currently $299 a month for a car with a $39,145 base price, is boosting demand for the model, Jesse Toprak, an analyst at, a vehicle pricing and data provider, said yesterday.

“I’m utterly surprised people are not lining up to get one at that price,” said Toprak, based in Santa Monica, California. “The annual fuel savings alone make this car very appealing.”

Demand for rechargeable autos, which large carmakers must sell under rules in California and some other U.S. states, hasn’t matched initial expectations of Detroit-based GM, Nissan and President Barack Obama’s administration, which targeted a market of 1 million such vehicles by 2015. Nissan, which also added a low-cost lease offer for the Leaf, said designing a sales strategy for electric cars has taken longer than planned.

Fisker Automotive Inc.’s $103,000 plug-in Karma, with about 1,500 sales this year, follows the models from GM, Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota and Nissan. The figures don’t include Tesla Motor Inc. (TSLA)’s Model S, which the company began producing in late June. The company isn’t yet disclosing monthly sales figures, said Christina Ra, a Tesla spokeswoman.

“We’re really pleased with the volumes we’re driving right now and want to grow them,” said Jim Cain, a GM spokesman. “We’ve now got marketing that’s focused on the fuel savings Volt offers and we’ve got an attractive lease that’s driving sales.”

Buyers in markets such as California can now lease a Leaf SV hatchback for $199 a month for 36 months, a bargain based on the car’s $36,050 base price, Toprak said.

“Volt has made an ultra-competitive marketplace with the offers they have on that vehicle,” Al Castignetti, vice president of U.S. sales for Nissan, said in telephone interview yesterday.


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