LEAF outsells Volt in August

LEAF Charge Port Lid

Volt demand not as robust as hoped

Volt sales just don’t seem to be catching on, as Chevy moved 302 Volts in August. We think that it comes back to the basics that moved many away from considering it as an alternative – it costs too much and it only seats four.

New technology is always a draw for many. Many, many consumers want the latest and greatest and are willing to pay up for it. While we don’t fit into that category with some things, we admit to the lure of new toys that we don’t really need sometimes. When the toy is a phone or a tablet computer for a few hundred dollars, or even a television for a thousand dollars, we may say that we must have it. But the Volt isn’t just a toy, and it costs over $40,000 and may not satisfy all of your driving needs because it won’t hold enough people – well then you might have a problem.

Nissan seems to be doing reasonably well with LEAF sales. August saw 1,362 LEAFs being delivered with 6,187 sold year-to-date. Nissan’s target is 12,000 by year end, which would require an average of 1,500 each of the next four months. This seems achievable. Chevy’s goal of moving 10,000 Volts by year end seems less attainable now. GM only has 3,172 out the door so far. Almost 7,000 in the next four months? Not likely at this point.

While personally, we favor the LEAF over the Volt, we would really like to see the Volt doing better than it is currently. The more alternative electric and hybrid vehicles (plug-in or not) on the road, the greater the general awareness that these are really transport devices that could be used by anyone doing almost anything. So if you are talking to anyone that seems genuinely interested in your LEAF, but it just won’t work due to range requirements of their situation, recommend that they consider the Volt. It’s not in any of our interests to see Volts languishing on the lots.

This entry was posted in Industry News, Is the Nissan LEAF right for me?, LEAF Availability, LEAF Information, Other EVs. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to LEAF outsells Volt in August

  1. Tom K says:

    I am a LEAF owner, but I too would like to see the Volt do better. My favorite fueling stop, Santa Monica Place, is where you can always find multiple LEAFs charging. I finally saw a Volt there yesterday. Where would GM be now if they had made the Volt a pure EV?

    • Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) says:

      Tom, glad to hear that the LEAF is doing will up there. While the LEAF is an amazing vehicle, the Volt does fill a hole that a pure EV can’t fill – driving on battery, but the ability to go further if needed. I talk to many people in my travels and one of the first questions I hear is “Yeah… but what happens when I run out of electricity?” Many people are not quite ready to actually have to think about it before it happens. They are too used to just pulling into the gas station when they’re running on fumes. LEAF will not work for those folks, but Volt just might. Separate needs, different vehicles to provide for those needs. Remember, every LEAF and Volt sale is one less ICE vehicle sale.

  2. Sasparilla says:

    Ernie, I think your advice is excellent – and something to remember when talking to people considering the Leaf but need the range extender, the lease rates for the Volt and the Leaf are essentially the same (~$400 a month with just federal incentives) – on a way to get around the extra price of the Volt, if they can stomach a lease.

    The pundits who predicted the Volt would fail when it launched as well as the oil industry and their propaganda lackeys (News Corp outlets in particular, which pounds both vehicles but the Volt in particular) want/need both of these vehicles to fail spectacularly – and have been seizing on the July / August sales number of the Volt to push that claim (but if you look into the sales numbers there’s a logical reason the sales haven’t been there – deliveries to dealerships haven’t been there from a week or so into July until the last week in August).

    GM basically ended 2011 Volt production with June (shut down the Volt production in July) as they retooled the production line to support moving production of Volt numbers to match their local battery production capacity rate in 2012 at some point (which is about 60k a year – i.e. GM is flooring Volt production in 2012) – as well as the switchover to the 2012 model year. They gradually ramped production back up in August (taking longer than planned), with 2012 Volt’s only starting reaching dealers for customer sales at the very end of August (basically the last week from what was being said on the Volt forum – from people who were waiting on them).

    Worth it to note, GM sent the first 700 or so 2012’s to dealerships as non sale-able demos (as they worked the kinks out of retooling on the production line).

    GM has said they are producing 150 a day now, which is about 3000 a month (probably until they get their local battery production capacity online) and between now and November will open Volt availability from the existing 6 or so states to the entire country.

    I would expect to see a big jump in Volt sales in September as production finally starts pouring into the dealerships again. If not, GM has a very big problem, but really I doubt that, at this point.

    The plug-in revolution is still safe, IMHO, but your advice is right on the mark – both of these vehicles need to be successful and they cover two different ends of the plug-in market (they are complimentary), particularly in light of the direct propaganda attacks from News Corp and its masters who want these cars to fail and are actively doing what they can to ensure that.

    • Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) says:

      Sasparilla, thanks for the insightful commentary. I should have mentioned within the article the similar lease rates for the two cars. Since I am not a lease fan, this did not occur to me, but it would be a favorable option for many.

      I agree that September will be a telling month for GM as regards the Volt. Production should be back up, dealers will have demos, and availability should not be unduly restricted. Also, GM and Nissan both will make vehicles available in a broader market within the US. We haven’t heard what the maximum production rate of LEAF is post tsunami. If fully ramped up, we’re looking at roughly 4,000 per month for worldwide consumption. Assuming half of those come to the US, that caps sales at 2,000 per month until Smyrna, Tennessee production comes online at the end of next year. It seems uptake in other global markets is going slowly at the moment. This may allow for a larger portion to make its way to these shores, but I wouldn’t count on it being as many as 3,000 per month. It might be time for me to take another look at production and distribution plans to see what I can find out.

      • Sasparilla says:

        I’m not a lease fan as well (money loosing option overall), however for the costs, its the only way to make things work for me (probably alot of others as well) at this point. The midwest, Chicago in particular, gets tar sands oil for its refineries now (Keystone 1 pipeline that our president approved in 2009, gives a Prius the CO2 emissions of a Hummer), so I want off gasoline ASAP and I’ll hold my nose on the lease to do it.

        I love your site, thanks for putting it up. I’m enjoying the fact that my state was moved up dramatically in the Leaf’s rollout (IL), from the forgotten 36, and we’ll see Volt’s and Leaf’s around here in November (test drove one at a Nissan event last weekend which was awesome).

        The Chicago and suburbs area will have 200+ public Level 2 chargers by the end of the year (really) and 70+ quick chargers (Leaf compatible) on the chargepoint network – blew me away that they did this (I saw one working last weekend). You’ll be able to go anywhere in Chicago and its suburbs in a plug-in at the end of 2011 with a charger (and probably a quick charger) not far out of the way. The only vehicle infrastructure you could do that in a year with (and affordably), I just love it. Have a great weekend.

  3. jeff b says:

    Unfortunately, the leaf is soooooooooo very limited by its low range and by its high price that it just is doomed from the start as a practical choice for most american drivers. I test drove a leaf this weekend, and it only had a range of 87 miles (not in economy mode). I really want leaf to succeed. I really want to consider the car. But if Nissan can’t give it a range of roughly 200 miles for a price of roughly 25-30,000 dollars, then its doomed to failure. Especially as the competition isn’t going to sit still. Paul Wilbur may have destroyed Aptera, but the Chinese are already planning on a 200 mi ranged vehicle within 1-2 yrs; and there are others in the pipeline. Bottom line, for most american drivers this small compact with its limited range would warrant a price of maybe $15,000 as it is now; you’ll need a much better range in a much more impressive package before americans could feel good about a $40,000 price tag. That is…if the economy ever improves enough that americans can pay $40,000 for their next car in the first place.

    • Ernie Hernandez (LEAFguy) says:

      jeff – Welcome to Living LEAF. Your first sentence sums it up – the LEAF is not designed for most American drivers. The LEAF is designed for those American drivers who fit its parameters. It is not the sort of car that most Americans would not consider spending over $20,000 on. Most Americans do not own Corvettes. Most Americans also do not own F150 trucks even though the F150 has been the highest volume vehicle sold in this country for over 30 years. The reason that most Americans don’t drive Corvettes or F150s is because those vehicles don’t fit their needs. If the LEAF currently does not fit your needs, we suggest that you look at a vehicle that does. One thing to keep in mind is this – for over 6,000 Americans so far this year, the LEAF does fit their needs. 6,000 is certainly not most Americans. But it’s a start.

      Like you, I really want the LEAF to succeed. And if the people that do buy it use it as it is designed to be used, it will be a breakthrough success. When a 200 mile range LEAF is available several years down the road, then more people will have seen the LEAF driving around for several years and be more comfortable with the idea that the LEAF might work out for them also.

      The competition is absolutely not sitting still. This is good for everyone involved. The Coda Sedan (the Chinese EV that you are likely referring to) is available right around the corner. The battery of the Coda is 50% larger than that of the LEAF, which measured using the same EPA test will provide a range of 150 miles. While the starting MSRP of the 2012 Nissan LEAF is $35,200, the starting MSRP of the Coda sedan is $44,900. Both of these prices will benefit by the federal income tax credit of $7,500 plus any state and local incentives in addition to that. The question then becomes is 50 miles of additional range worth an additional expense of $9,700. After any incentives, that price differential will remain. Tesla will have a Model S sedan next year with a 300 mile range for roughly $80,000. Right now, it doesn’t really matter which manufacturer’s EV products you are looking at, it comes down to this equation – range = money: how far do you want to go?

      You refer to a $40,000 price tag. 2012 LEAF starts at $35,200. The step-up SL trim level carries an MSRP of $37,250. Both are well below the $40,000 mark. You mention that $15,000 might be a better price point for the LEAF. Take a look at the features and amenities on currently available $15,000 vehicles and compare them to what is available on the LEAF. Navigation, satellite radio, bluetooth. We know of no $15,000 cars with these amenities.

      Bottom line – LEAF isn’t designed to appeal to every American. Then again neither is Corvette nor F150. A line that we use quite often is this – if you need a hammer, you don’t buy a saw you buy a hammer. If the LEAF won’t work for you currently, find a vehicle that will. You will be much more satisfied.

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