The latest new vehicle sales data from California New Car Dealers Association shows that as expected, the above trend ZEV sales in Q4 2017 were likely consumer responses to the potential sunset of related federal subsidies. The Q1 sales of true ZEVs (battery and fuel cell vehicles) were slightly below the quarterly levels from a year prior. Total PEV sales (plug-in hybrids and ZEVs) were up solely as a result of continued shifts from hybrid to plug-in hybrid sales, likely reflecting continued consumer acceptance issues related to range, higher purchase price, and reliability of the new technologies. Key findings from the data:
• Total California light vehicle sales in Q1 2018: 487,741. Down 3.8% from Q1 2017.
• Light truck market share was 53.7%, up from 49.8% in Q1 2017. The growing consumer preference for larger vehicles continues to be a contra-trend affecting the state’s ability to achieve its ZEV goals, as fewer models are available in this market component at price points that would achieve broader sales below the higher income segments.
• Consumer shifts to light trucks for the US as a whole was even more pronounced, accounting for fully two-thirds of new light vehicle sales in the first quarter.
• The trend towards light trucks came even in spite of higher fuel prices. The average California price for regular gas in Q1 2018 was $3.34 a gallon, compared to $2.89 the year prior.