NASHVILLE -- A number of news sites reported last week that U.S. sales of the Nissan Leaf and other electric-drive vehicles looked good in May -- “surging” was one of the words they used to describe it.
The opposite was true. Leaf sales fell 33 percent from year-earlier levels, and that’s dramatic. Nissan has its hands full with the car right now, and that’s what Automotive News reported.
How can one set of official sales numbers result in two opposing characterizations?
The answer is that somebody out there misunderstands auto industry sales. (Actually, three sites, by our count; we will spare them the ignominy of being named.)
Somebody thought it was OK to measure May’s results against the previous 30 days, or the previous 60 or 90. Car sales don’t work that way.
May’s results are only meaningful in comparison with the previous May. April results only reflect the market conditions of “April in America.” An automaker conducts a big summer sales event at the same time every July. February is typically a low-volume month because the weather is lousy and there are only 28 calendar days. December sees a nice spike in sales as people hurry to buy a car for year-end tax deductions, or for a holiday gift.
May has little to do with April or March.
And based on the official numbers, U.S. sales were 12 percent lower for the entire “alternative power” vehicle segment in May. For whatever reasons, the Chevrolet Volt fell 36 percent compared with May 2014. The Honda Insight was down 52 percent. The Ford C-Max, the Lexus CT, the Honda CR-Z, the Mitsubishi iMiEV – all down from a year ago.
That’s just what it was.
But surging, it wasn’t.