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EV auto sales shine in first quarter of 2022

·3 min read

Automakers’ U.S. sales for the first three months of the year may portend the arrival of the battery-electric age sooner than expected. The only brands to post sales gains were all-electric.

Sales of electric vehicles soared during the first quarter of 2022, mostly due to the debut of new nameplates. Meanwhile, the overall industry reported a 15.3% decline in new vehicle sales, to 2,516,236 units, according to figures from the Autodata Corp.

Tesla and Polestar reported especially sharp rises in first-quarter sales in the U.S., compared with the same period a year ago. Even Karma, an EV company that has struggled to gain traction in recent years, sold 60 vehicles for the quarter just ended, versus 14 a year ago. BMW, the single outlier, reported modest growth on increased demand for its large utility vehicles and recently redesigned 4 Series sports car.

The industry-wide sales figures released on Friday show that sales plunged by double-digits for every other brand except Hyundai and Kia, which suffered only single-digit declines. Headwinds facing the industry include rising gas prices and an inventory shortage due to supply chain and production disruptions resulting from COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began February 24.

Mainstream automakers’ electrified portfolios marked a bright spot in a struggling market. Ford, which said in March that it will separate operations for its EVs and gas-engine vehicles, reported a record 37.9% jump in EV sales in the first quarter compared to the same period last year.

Hyundai posted a particularly solid result, selling 6,244 Ioniq 5 EVs in the first quarter compared with 153 in the fourth quarter of 2021. Kia, which started selling the EV6 in the first quarter, reported 5,281 of the electric vehicles were sold in the U.S. in the first quarter, according to Autodata. GM sold 99 of its new Hummer EV compared to one in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Tesla, the 800-pound gorilla of EV companies, saw its U.S. sales rise 87.2% to 129,743 units, compared with the same quarter last year. Tesla's global sales for the quarter broke a new record, despite idling its Gigafactory Shanghai twice in March to comply with government mandates to stop the recent COVID-19 outbreak. Consumer interest in EVs boosted all of Tesla’s models, but the Model Y compact crossover led the increase.

Polestar’s sales climbed 1,179.7% to 1,510 units, compared with the 118 units the company sold during the first quarter last year, due to the arrival of the Polestar 2 luxury sedan.

Even though the EV volumes are small and due to EV brands ramping up production at their factories, the overall trend indicates a sea change in consumer demand.

Newcomer Lucid delivered 460 during the first quarter of 2022, according to Autodata.

Rivian reported Tuesday it produced 2,553 vehicles in the first quarter, putting it on course to meet its production goal of 25,000 EVs this year. Rivian also said it delivered 1,227 vehicles in the first quarter. The production figures include a mix of the Rivian R1T pickup truck, R1S SUV and the commercial vans it is making for Amazon, a Rivian shareholder.

Update: Rivian's production and delivery figures were updated with the company's own report as opposed to Autodata numbers, which were lower.