By on May 23, 2015

Nissan creates "World's Cleanest Car" Ð a zero emissions Nissa

We’re accustomed to seeing outdated sports cars stumble as they age.

They’re as capable as they were when launched, of course, but demand for the cars often decreases rapidly. Those who were interested in the stylistic proposition already bought one. Those who saw them as paragons of performance encounter newer models with a greater dynamic portfolio.

Consider the Scion FR-S, sales of which plunged 23% in its second full year in the United States; sales of which declined 29% in the first four months of 2015.

Perhaps exacerbated by falling fuel prices, the sharp downturn in sales of two particularly famous, unconventionally powered hatchbacks is vaguely reminiscent of a sports car nameplate’s yo-yoing. A Camry-like ability to sustain demand right up until the new model arrives in dealers? Not for the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt.

Granted, the Volt’s decline began before old age. Launched during the same month, December 2010, as the Leaf, the Volt volume ramped up much more rapidly. 2,029 copies of the electric-plus-range-extended Volt were sold in the United States during the car’s first five months, compared with 1,044 Leafs.

Volt vs. Leaf sales chart

Yet by March 2013, when the Volt was 28 months into its first-generation, year-over-year volume plunged 35%. That began a three-month streak of decline for the Volt. In calendar year 2013, Volt sales decreased by less than 2%; declining in seven of twelve months.

Looking back from April 2015’s 42% year-over-year decline, Volt volume has decreased in the United States in nine consecutive months, in twelve of the last 16 months, and in 19 of the last 26 months.

2011 Chevrolet Volt

The Leaf’s downturn is much more recent. After posting annual increases in each of its first four years – including a 130% jump in 2013 and a 34% increase last year – Leaf volume has declined in each of 2015’s first four months.

The 15% drop in January resulted in just 1,070 Leaf sales, the lowest total for the all-electric Nissan in two years. February sales fell 16%. March volume plunged 38%, a drop of 690 sales. In April, Leaf sales slid sharply once again, with a 26% decline measuring a loss of 535 sales. Preceding this four-month streak was a 23-month-long span in which Leaf sales consistently improved on a year-over-year basis.

Many electric cars are ultra-low-volume portions of a high-volume vehicle’s lineup. Tesla infamously doesn’t release detailed monthly sales reports. (HybridCars.com estimates 6,800 Model S sales in the U.S. through the first four months of 2015, a 26% improvement.) The Model S, while never fully replaced during its near three-year lifespan to date, is markedly different from the Leaf and Volt in the sense that Tesla constantly provides significant updates to the car and the Model S lineup. Predictably, during its phasing-out, U.S. sales of the first Toyota Prius Plug-In, a vehicle which posted an annual peak of 13,263 units just last year, is down 66% to 1,699 sales.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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43 Comments on “Sales Of The Aging Electrics You Know Best Are Predictably Falling Fast...”


  • avatar

    I rarely ever see Leaf around here. I do see plenty of Volts.

    The real problem is that these cars aren’t very spacious -for a whole family – and there’s not a lot of places to charge them.

    I believe the government should offer incentives to businesses to install charging stations at offices, malls, theaters, etc. This would make EV more desirable.

    Or offer gasoline backups along side the plug-in ability.
    Even a 100 mile electric range is reasonable when you have a gas-backup.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      I’d love to see a regional breakdown on this comparison. I see a few volts where I live, but the leafs are everywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      ricegf

      I’m surprised to see your assertion that the Leaf is not very spacious. Have you actually seen this car, or is that just your impression from photos?

      The spacious cabin was actually a big reason we purchased our (gently used) Leaf. We can seat 5 very comfortably, and it’s easy to add and remove two LATCH car seats for the grand kids as needed. All that with reasonable cargo space in the back, too.

      The weak resale value was a benefit for us as well, as we got our 2012 SL model with less than 10,000 miles, 12-of-12 battery quality bars, and supercharger port for under $14,000 – very competitive with similar size gasoline cars. While it wouldn’t do as our only car (we regularly make a 600 mile trip, for which a Leaf is not well suited), as a second car the Leaf’s cheap fuel, convenience of overnight charging, low maintenance, and excellent driving experience have made it our go to choice around town.

      YMMV overall, but “not spacious” just isn’t the case with the Leaf.

      • 0 avatar

        Agree with your rebuttal ricegf. The interior is bigger than many give it credit for.

        I manage to fit all manner of stuff into it like furniture.

        http://jpwhitenissanleaf.com/2012/03/18/furniture-moving-with-a-leaf/

  • avatar

    The Volt does have a gas backup but was the first to see declining sales.

    Interestingly plug-in sales have exceeded phev sales for the last 9 months straight. In 3-4 months total cumulative sales of plug-ins should surpass those of PHEV’s if trends continue.

    Folks who have never owned an EV favor the ‘security’ of a PHEV with gas backup. As the market has matured, buyers realize that a BEV is just fine without the need for the ‘training wheels’.

    The article is accurate in indicating that TEsla’s approach to constantly evolving the Model S helps maintain its sales growth. More importantly many of the updates are available to the existing fleet via OTA software updates.

    The LEAF hasn’t seen any improvements since 2013 other than a more durable battery pack in 2015 which was to correct a flaw, not to improve the cars features or capabilities. As a model gets long in the tooth, sales will suffer. Its time for a refresh of the LEAF and it couldn’t come soon enough, it maybe 18 months or more before we see LEAF 2.0 hit the streets by which time Nissan may have lost their lead and momentum in the marketplace.

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect a lot of people who would consider a plug-in hybrid are more likely to buy a normal hybrid than a pure electric. They are a lot cheaper, and you don’t have to have a place to plug them in.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      I have a friend who has a LEAF. He’s planning on trading it for a PHEV Fusion because he wants to take some highway trips and is not wanting to always use his wife’s car for them.

      I wouldn’t describe a PHEV as a BEV with training wheels, they are used differently.

      • 0 avatar

        BEV and PHEV’s can and should be used differently. My point was that many potential buyers contemplating a BEV may choose the ‘safer’ PHEV due to pre-ownership range anxiety :-) Many early Volt owners boasted how they only used 1 or 2 tanks of gas all year. If that’s the case they would have been well served by a BEV.

        The PHEV use case is a special case and hence the lower market potential compared to BEVs. The ideal PHEV owner is someone who does low daily mileage but when they do need to go further tend to go on long trips well beyond the range of a BEV *and* they go on those trips frequently enough to make borrowing or renting another vehicle inconvenient or expensive.

        • 0 avatar
          FormerFF

          At this point in EV technology, I’d say the PHEV can be used by everyone, while the BEV is the special case. When there are mass market BEVs that have 150 mile real world range, then I can see them being appealing to more drivers. 150 miles is only a 75 mile round trip.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Look at that shrub behind the Leaf’s A-pillar. Looks like a guy in a ghillie suit. Someone’s gonna die.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      @rideHeight – “Look at that shrub behind the Leaf’s A-pillar. ”

      I zoomed in and that made me laugh. Actually, I think that’s the owner of the car. Someone told him to “make like a tree and… uh… leaf.”

    • 0 avatar
      jdowmiller

      LOL! Anecdote time: the house the Leaf is parked in front of is a mildly famous landmark here in Nashville. At one point, it was the largest house in the city. Also, it was chosen as the residence for Connie Britton’s character in the show “Nashville”. That said, my friend was one of the contractors during its construction and sometime in the early 2000s was given run of the place during a weekend the owner was out of town. The friend invited us and several other friends over to join them for a low-key pool party. The only thing I was interested in was the garage as I was almost certain there would be some serious precious metal behind the doors. Imagine my disappointment when the only thing in there was a *base* first-gen Z3.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Leaf and Volt are really two different stories, in my opinion.

    Volt is suffering the sales pain common to all hybrids, with the added problem of a better Volt 2.0 waiting in the wings.

    Leaf is suffering from several issues, and the word is out:
    1. Unsatisfactory battery degradation on 11-12 models (at least).
    2. Poor battery performance in cold conditions, and the early problems with heat.
    3. No meaningful improvements over 5 model years.
    4. Horrible resale, and ridiculously high lease residuals.
    5. No Leaf 2.0 on the horizon, giving the impression Nissan is slacking.
    6. Tesla. With 1/3 the battery degradation of the Leaf, excellent customer care and satisfaction, long range, good looks, and no thermal issues, the public knows what a great EV can be.

    Both Leaf and Volt suffer from poor dealer support – something Tesla doesn’t have trouble with!

    • 0 avatar

      @SCE to AUX

      Agree with your summary.

      I can add that a 2013 LEAF owner just left an extensive comment on my blog. His/her 2013 LEAF has advanced degradation after 2 years. I don’t think Nissan adequately addressed the battery issue until the 2015 MY and time will tell if they did actually resolve the issue or not.

      2011-12 owners in the US added up to 20,000 drivers. Not taking extra special care of this small number will eventually come back to bite them. The resale values are the canary in the mine.

      Given the 2013 models are also suspect battery wise and the 2013 MY sales were great which doubles the drivers to 40,000. This gives us a clue why Nissan didn’t rush out to help the early purchasers. The problem is too big. They couldn’t resolve the issue quickly enough.

      The next few years should be interesting to see if Nissan can come through this unscathed, or if they end up with a tarnished EV brand.

      It comes down to customer care and public relations. If you look at the reliability of the 2011/12 LEAF it receives top marks. Very few unscheduled repairs. A very well engineered car. The Model S by comparison is a train wreck with numerous unscheduled repairs, but we never hear about it. Because Tesla fixes the problems rapidly and treat their customers right.

      • 0 avatar
        HerrKaLeun

        ” Nissan adequately addressed the battery issue until the 2015 MY”

        That part is hard to prove until in a few years, which obviously is too late for 2015 new car buyers.

        “This gives us a clue why Nissan didn’t rush out to help the early purchasers. ”
        this speaks more about the attitude Nissan has towards quality. they do the same with their CVTs that keep failing all over. Stick it to the car buyer… has not much to do with battery technology.
        I know for sure if Toyota would have had problems with its Prius in its early years they would have purchased the cars back at high value or would have made it right otherwise. Nissan – not.

        • 0 avatar

          CVT’s are expensive to reapir and Nissan did extend the drivetrain warranty to 10yrs/120,000 miles retroactively
          http://www.nissanassist.com/ProgramDetails.php?menu=2

          They just took too long to do it.

          As for not helping the early purchasers, this isn’t so much an attitude issue as inability to pivot and respond. Tesla jump all over issues at the first sign of trouble, drive to their customers house if need be. Nimble small company. Nissan gather data, have committee meetings etc etc. Takes too long for a large, slow to react, company to respond.

          As for buying back cars. Nissan did buy back several cars in Pheonix from drivers who complained about rapid battery degradation. WHat happened in Pheonix is just now filtering down to the rest of the southern states. How Nissan will respond is yet to be seen. its quite possible if they don’t act quickly enough, they will tarnish their EV brand.

          • 0 avatar
            HerrKaLeun

            you should google for some pathfinder forums.
            Yes they replace the CVT after giving costumer some time stealing runarounds. But they never fix the problem. People are on their 3rd CVT!
            And they install refurbished, not new ones. Some people needed a new CVT after 3000 miles, and then might have gotten some 20000 mile old refurbished CVT. and the resale value is low, no one reimburses for that. they basically take one costumers broken CVT, fix something, and give it to the next guy. Probably playing musical chair until the warranty is over.
            and they never changed the design enough. Problems started (according to forums I read) with 2013 MY (I assume when CVT was introduced) and even 2015 MY owners have problems.

            I’m just a dude who read on the Internet and some weeks/months ago when there was a Pathfinder (or some other Nissan) review on TTAC someone linked to one of those forums and I almost fell off my phone reading how Nissan handles this problem and how they apparently never really improve the design. No, I don’t have personal knowledge and experience, but definitely won’t buy a Nissan unless leased.

            I’m sure at the 10 year/120,000 mile mark you can pick up Pathfinders for one dollar since no one will want them.

          • 0 avatar

            FYI The Nissan CVT was first introduced with the 2003 Murano and extended to many more vehicles in 2006 including the 2007 MY Altima.

          • 0 avatar
            HerrKaLeun

            Jpwhite: I was referring to what Pathfinfdet forums indicated the CVT isdues were. I know the smaller an lighter Nissan had it before. But it seems they just put a Versa CVT into the Heavy Pathfinder and that gets torn apart.

      • 0 avatar
        pbxtech

        “Tesla fixes the problems rapidly and treats their customers right.”

        If you could say this about Chevy, the Volt would be perfect for me.

        • 0 avatar
          Jimmy7

          38,000 miles. No problems other than tires. 3 friends with Volts, same story.

          • 0 avatar

            Interesting The LEAF is hard on tires as well. Must be that low end torque tears them up. 68,000 miles and just had to buy tires again for a second time. Last about 35,000 miles a set.

          • 0 avatar
            pbxtech

            Jimmy7, that is great to hear, man I want to be proved wrong. My last GM car was an Aura and 38K was about when it started have power steering problems. If things hold up on the next generation I may take the plunge. There are so many cheap used ones for sale, I am tempted to take a stab at one now.

          • 0 avatar
            FormerFF

            I suspect a large part of the tire issue is that the Bridgestone Ecopias that LEAFS come with are just not very good.

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            Former FF is correct; the OEM tires on the Leaf are terrible – mine lasted only 10k miles in the hills of western PA.

            My next set (Continental PureContact) has been excellent, but I don’t think they’ll have the required trade-in tread when the lease is over in 4 months. They have 14k on them now; they might be at 50% as far as a PA safety inspection is concerned.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            Another new LEAF difference – at least with the SL. I have Michelin Energy 17 215/50 instead of whatever the original OEM tires were. Wear seems to be okay so far. I think the SVs get these tires and wheels now as well.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I think B mode was a nice feature to add. I give it credit for allowing me to get 100+ plus range at 55. With 12,000 miles I’m not seeing any real degradation.

      Currently on an approx. 160 mile trip with my Leaf. Last night was 77 miles non stop and I had 20% battery left. Two people plus luggage. B mode was good enough for braking for 73 of those miles. No brake pedal used. Will hit a quick charge station for the trip home tonight. Have a choice of 4 different L3 stations. Maybe half dozen L2s.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        It’s like we drive two different cars.

        I could never consider such a trip in my 12 Leaf, not just because of the car, but infrastructure. There are only two L3 chargers around here, and each is 25 miles from my house. Beyond that, there aren’t any.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          Plugshare is showing 17 L3 chargers in Eastern MA. Actually there are 18, but the idiot dealer in Lancaster MA limits charging to customers of his dealership.

          Infrastructure was a big factor in my purchase. I wouldn’t have bought an EV if it wasn’t for the placement of two nearly adjacent L3 chargers on my longest commute route. Twice a week I make a 100 mile round trip commute (that’s why I have 12k miles since end of Sept) and even though I normally charge only at home and my destination (with a short stop for breakfast at a bakery with free charging & cheap fresh baked muffins), I wanted to have them there for unexpected events.

          Infrastructure is also the reason I’ll probably get a Model 3 next time (with the Leaf sticking around to keep some of the miles off of the 3). Hard to beat Tesla’s charging network.

          Made the return from my trip last night. The first L3 at a dealer was turned off, but easily made it to one station of a pair on opposite sides of the road 18 miles away. Charged to 82% (took about 45 minutes), had free coffee and a bathroom break, then easily made it the final 40 miles. Spent the charge time surfing the internet and catching up on email. Tasks I would have done anyway, but at home, if I was in an ICE car.

          Lots of smooth new pavement and no traffic on the way back – near silent driving accompanied by the satellite radio. One of the reasons I put up with the hassles. BTW – left a perfectly good ICE car at home in the garage.

          Making the same trip next week, but a new outlet for charging will be waiting for the car, so if my bladder holds up (depends on traffic), it’ll be a non-stop trip both ways.

    • 0 avatar
      ricegf

      Leaf 2.0 will double the range for the 2017 model year, according to a Nissan executive interview (i.e., not yet a formal announcement). This was stated in response to the announcements a few months back of the 200+ mile range Chevy Bolt and Tesla 3 in the same price range as the current Leaf for the same 2017 model year.

      The rumor from an unnamed Nissan engineer is to expect a 48 kWh battery, exactly twice the current Leaf, in a slightly smaller and lighter package. That would yield more than 200 miles of range on the European test circuit, or about 175 miles on the more realistic US EPA scale.

      I personally look forward to the official announcement, which I would expect in the coming months if this proves to be a real product and not just defensive execuspeak. It does somewhat address the “slacker” impression you mention IMHO.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    It sounds as if many of those who wanted one have already bought one.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I don’t think so; they’re just waiting for the right car.

      Tesla’s done an excellent job of selling the ‘no compromises’ ownership experience. Now, I think the market is very ripe for such an experience at half the price.

  • avatar
    HerrKaLeun

    the general problem with new technology is that new models have huge improvement compared to the old one. so selling the old one is hard. Similar to consumer electronics. 2 years gives you an entirely new smart phone experience.

    Gasoline cars have been sold for over 100 year and are mature. Sure that new model that comes out every 5 years has some improvements in safety, space etc. but not an 50% upgrade mileage, comfort, performance and space. So the old model still can be sold at some discount. A new EV on the other hand is significantly better than the old one. Look at the old and new Volt range, gasoline mileage etc. and you see huge improvements. It is not that the old model is so bad, the new one is just so much better.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Intuition kept me away. I won’t even get an all new gas model.

    I’ve had two CVT models from Niss no issues with either. I keep reading issues but don’t experience them with my ownership.

    I do experience issues with fleet at work with Mercedes and Ford.

  • avatar

    What about the Mitsubishi iMev? Have they managed to sell a second one yet?

    • 0 avatar
      CX1

      I almost bought one but my country club said they are too heavy for our bridges.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        Ha ha — good one.

        I think Mitsu skipped the 2015 MY, but is supposed to offer a 2016.

        I’m amazed, as few as they sell.

        I was looking at a couple of off-lease 2012 i-Miev’s going for around $8k, but then I went to the forums and started reading about battery pack failures and other issues.

        Got cold feet for sure.

        But, if your country club could reinforce their bridges, you could be playing golf in the winter, and the i-Miev “cart” should have enough range for 18 holes…

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      In 2014, the Leaf outsold the iMiEV 150:1, or 30200:196.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I saw one in the wild once.

  • avatar
    fozone

    The rumors are that the next-gen leaf will have a 150+ mle range, so i’m not surprised educated shoppers are holding off. Unless you need a car NOW it makes no sense to jump into such a stale model.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    No surprise with either of these: the Volt is being replaced with a superior 2016 model; and the Leaf faces scads of strong competitors in the mass-market all-electric segment, vs zero such competitors when it first came on the market.

    I think sales of both, and even sales of PHEVs and hybrids, may also be suffering slightly as people consider waiting for the Chevy Bolt. With 200 miles of range, an affordable sticker, and a couple more years of infrastructure build-out in the meantime, the Bolt promises to be an honest-to-God game-changer like nothing since the Prius.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> the Leaf faces scads of strong competitors in the mass-market all-electric segmen

      If you look at the EV sales figures for Q4 of 2014, those same competitors were there and the Leafs numbers were still pretty good. Then again, if you compare April 2014 vs. April 2015, the i3 and eGolf look like they’re impacting the Leafs sales. I think it’s a combination of the anticipation of the new model (a version of which will probably match the Bolt in range) and the new cars.

      I don’t see the Bolt being a game changer. It’ll face versions of the Leaf, Model 3, and others in the same price range and with 200 mile capability and it will have the disadvantage of the CCS network which will still probably be weak at that point. Nissan also has the advantage of a car that sells world wide vs. the Bolt which will probably be limited to a much smaller geography.

      So far, CCS is going mostly to dealerships which means you’re subject to their hours and their whims such as restricting charging to their own customers (Bouchard Nissan) or use the EV spaces as used car display spots (Kelly Nissan). It’s happening now at some Nissan dealers with their CHAdeMO network. That isn’t a problem with Tesla Superchargers and there are numerous CHAdeMO chargers at non-dealerships today.

      The wild card to watch for in the Bolt time frame is if Nissan decides to upgrade their lease returns to the new battery. CPO used Leafs with fresh 150+ or 200 mile batteries could be the closest thing to a game changer.

      Not sure if a 200 mile battery would be the battery to start a digital camera like takeover of the market – which is what I’d define as a game-changer. It will bring over a bigger chunk of drivers, but it won’t be the automotive version of the giant meteor that killed the dinosaurs. I think that battery is yet to emerge from laboratories. You can’t plan breakthroughs in technology, so you can’t predict when it will happen. However, there are hordes of researchers pounding away at the problems knowing they’re in for a huge payday from cellphone, robotics, and automotive industries if they come up with something. It could be next week, or it could be in ten years. No one knows for sure.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I was just in the Atlanta area and I’m convinced that Nissan sold all the Leafs( Leaves?) there. Granted, there is more population and more money in Atlanta, plus a more temperate climate than in Pittsburgh.

    But I saw at least 20 Leaf’s in about 200 miles of driving over 4 days and I’m 99% certain they weren’t all the same one. Only a few Volts and I’d say more Leaf than Prius even. I even saw one Leaf behind another at a light!

    I’d take a Leaf or some other pure electric if there was the infrastructure to deal with it. My car sits at the airport for days at a time and then I drive it home. My wife drives my car about 15 miles roundtrip for work when I’m home, leaving me the Odyssey for kid duty. We have the Odyssey for family/kid/roadtrip duties.

    But there are no chargers in the extended term lot where I park. I’m sure they’re in the short term garage, but I can’t get a parking pass for that as an employee. Chargers are few and far between anywhere in Pittsburgh.

    Maybe once the infrastructure catches up and/or the price comes down, but I won’t entertain 100% electric until that point.

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