It’s Nissan vs. Chevy in the affordable EV segment
Chevy Bolt sales got off to a slow start in December with late and limited availability, but Chevy got 579 Bolts out the door (compared with 1,899 LEAFs). Once inventory started to ramp up a bit the tables turned with Chevrolet delivering 1,162 Bolts in January vs. 772 LEAFs for Nissan. So what does it all mean?
First, let’s put some perspective on this. January was the first full month of availability for the all-new Bolt. Nissan’s first full month of sales for the LEAF, January of 2011, saw LEAF sales of 87 units. It took until April of that year for Nissan to break the 500 mark, which they did with sales of 573.
Nissan achieved their highest single month sales total of 3,186 in August of 2014, which was also the best year thus far for Nissan with 30,200 vehicles sold. Public awareness of electric cars had been ramping up over the previous three years with Tesla first selling its first Model S in 2012 and many other automakers joining the plug-in vehicle fray. Now that pretty much anyone of driving age has heard of electric cars, it is not surprising that the Bolt would have a significantly better launch than Nissan experienced all those years ago.
That the Chevy Bolt goes twice as far also might have something to do with it. The EPA range of the LEAF is 107 miles – the Bolt 238, although the Bolt starts about $7,000 more. Also, the LEAF looks virtually identical to what it did in December of 2010 and the Bolt is the shiny new toy, although I don’t know of anyone that would call either particularly attractive. Tesla seems to own the sexy electric car market for the moment, but that exclusivity comes at the equivalent of Apple technology product prices. Yes, they say that the Model 3 is coming late this year at $35,000 but I’ll believe it when I see it. Tesla has yet to deliver on time.
So with the launch of the Chevy Bolt, the US driving public finally has an affordable, medium distance electric car that many will find meets their needs. This 60 Kwh battery class of vehicle, available in the $30,000 price range, is getting the EV marketplace near the tipping point of widespread acceptance.