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U.S. Electric-Vehicles Sales May Soar 130%

Following a “coming of age” for electric vehicles in 2012 when U.S. deliveries passed 55,000, we forecast 130% growth year-over-year to over 127,000 in 2013, as demand broadens.

Beyond Tesla Motors’ (ticker: TSLA) Model S securing a top-five spot—along with the General Motors (GM) Volt, Toyota Motor (TM) Prius plug-in hybrid electric (PHelectric) vehicle, Nissan Motor [of Japan] Leaf, and Ford Motor (F) C-Max—we expect sales to be boosted by new entrants into the space, such as Honda Motor (HMC), Fiat [of Italy], BMW [of Germany] and Audi [a unit of Volkswagen Group of Germany], that broaden electric vehicles into new classes and price points.

Even so, we expect a compelling consumer value proposition to yield greater interest in new traditional hybrids and diesels.

After jumping over 210% in 2012 to 55,500, we forecast U.S. sales of battery electric (Belectric) and PHelectric vehicles will grow 130% year-over-year to just over 127,000 in 2013, spurred by: 1) the availability of many new models and classes; 2) lower price points and attractive lease offers; and 3) broader and deeper charging network offsetting, in our view, concern over reports about lower effective driving range than advertised in some cars.

Though the two electric-vehicle vanguards widely missed their 2012 targets, the GM Volt finished the year strong, and we estimate it will secure the No. 1 spot for the second year in a row with 35,000 (up 50% year-over-year), while we expect the Nissan Leaf to exceed chief executive Carlos Ghosn’s modest 12,000 target in rising 57% to 15,000. With both now benefiting from a full year of sales, we estimate the Prius PHelectric vehicle secures second place with 23,000, and the Ford C-Max at about 13,000.

With Tesla having, by our estimates, boosted production to its targeted pace of about 400 per week (20,000 per year) last month, we believe it is now in a position to begin fulfilling confirmed reservations at a more elevated rate. Underscored further by a bump up in fourth-quarter orders we expect to arise from the year-end price hike, we forecast U.S. deliveries for the Model S of about 12,000 in 2013, representing roughly 60% of its global 20,000 target.
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