By on June 1, 2016

2016 Nissan Leaf, Image: Nissan

Nissan Leaf sales have all the buoyancy of a cinder block, meaning buyers clearly weren’t impressed with the extra miles of range added for 2016.

The venerable electric vehicle recorded 979 U.S. sales in May, up from the previous month’s 787 units, but down a whopping 53.5 percent from a year earlier. If the model’s perpetually smiling face could frown, it would.

It’s a sign that economic forces, increased choice and age are all catching up to the Leaf, which once sold 3,186 units in a month (August 2014). Electric vehicle enthusiasts are already nerding out over a looming crop of 200-mile EVs, so a range bump to 107 miles isn’t very sexy.

Since coming on the scene in late 2010, the Leaf’s nemesis has always been the Chevrolet Volt — the EV for commuters too afraid to ditch gas altogether. A restyle of the Leaf is still a couple of years away, but Chevy just gave the Volt a complete makeover, and it shows in sales.

The Volt had its best May showing this year, with 1,901 units sold. That’s better than the Leaf by a long shot, but still way off the Volt’s record of 3,351 in August 2013.

Some automakers haven’t released their May sales figures yet, but April’s tally showed total plug-in vehicle sales outpacing last year’s numbers, though not by much. Canadian figures aren’t in yet, but April was (oddly) the best sales month to date for both the Volt and the Leaf.

[Source: InsideEVs] [Image: Nissan Motor Corporation]

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49 Comments on “Nissan Leaf Sales Faceplant; Chevy Volt Laughs and Points...”

  • avatar

    It also doesn’t help that it’s horrifically ugly and dorky looking. Less of a concern when gas is at $4.00/gal., but when it’s $2.00/gal.? No sale.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “Less of a concern when gas is at $4.00/gal., but when it’s $2.00/gal.? No sale.”

      Which is why it was the perfect time to buy my used Volt this spring and why it will also be the perfect time to dump my 11-12 MPG Sierra HD this fall.

      I prefer the smooth, quiet, effortless drive you get with an EV or any ICE vehicle. Or “Model T’s” as I call them. The efficiency is merely icing on the cake. I covered 25 electric miles in the morning yesterday and another 40 late afternoon/evening in the Volt using nothing more than the 115 VAC outlet in my garage to charge it. I’ll do another 50 miles today with no gas burned. Love it!

      • 0 avatar

        Ditto. Combine low gas prices, with all the Volts coming off lease, and CPO Volts have never looked better.


      • 0 avatar

        Yes, but where are electric rates going? Remember what Barry Obama said: “under my plan, elecric rates will necessarily skyrocket”. The move away from ultra-cheap coal generated electicity hasn’t hit yet.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve yet to see my electricity rates change under Captain 0, so if he’s going to make them skyrocket, he’d better get moving – he’s only got a few months left.

          Regardless – it wound’t bother me one bit. I’ve got a rooftop solar array and generate more power than I use, even with an electric car.

          Have cake. Eat it too.

        • 0 avatar

          Well currently NG generated power is cheaper then coal in most of the country (I know east coast rates coasted well under coal back in March). I believe Utah/Montana coal is still cheaper but I’m not sure that effects electric costs on either coast but it will mean problems in those immediate areas.

      • 0 avatar


  • avatar

    Here’s an idea:

    How bought you idiots make it a PHEV the same size as an Altima… Or Maxima so you can compete with Tesla?

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      My friend’s Fusion Energi Titanium, aside from the trunk space, is a perfectly normal car with ample space. 2013 examples have dropped to well below $20K. I think it’s the answer for a lot of people.

      • 0 avatar

        The Fusion is a great car. And a PHEV is a great concept. It’s just that an EREV is an even better concept.

        That is: The Chevy Volt is an EV that happens to be able to also run as a hybrid if necessary. The Ford Energi series cars (and their equivalents from Toyota, Audi etc.) are just hybrids with a bigger battery and a plug, meaning that in full-electric mode they have half the range and half the acceleration of the Volt.

        Luckily, rather than accept a 15-second 0-60 in EV Now mode, you can set your Energi to Auto mode, and it will fire the gas engine whenever you ask the engine room for more power.

        • 0 avatar

          it splitting hairs to try to call the Volt anything but a PHEV.

          • 0 avatar

            I get your point but disagree for the reasons stated above: the Energi’s PHEV approach provides half the range and half the acceleration of the Volt’s EREV approach in full-electric mode. And if you like driving an EV, full electric mode is where you’d rather spend your time if possible.

  • avatar

    Isn’t there another, bigger Leaf battery on the horizon as well? If so, I can understand people sitting on the sidelines waiting for this to come out.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Yes, there is a new Leaf soon, and Nissan has hinted that the new one will be better in every way.

      In other words, the current Leaf is an end-of-life model. The only reason to get it is if you absolutely must have a previous-gen electric right away.

      • 0 avatar

        Yup – I’m unsure why sluggish sales for a car in the last year of its cycle are worth of headlines. Perhaps TTAC should’ve titled it “Nissan Death Watch”

        This just in: Sales of a product slow after it’s been on the shelf for 5 years. Shocking!

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Doctor

        I hope it has a telescoping steering wheel. They put fancy regenerative brakes, tailored the body to have a low drag coefficient, and did all of this other work and you can only move the steering wheel up and down.

        • 0 avatar

          Yes. Telescoping steering wheel would fix the only complaint I have. I’ve driven the Volt (old and new) and for me, it’s uncomfortable to sit in and hard to get in and out. The Leafs fugly factor was actually a selling (leasing) point for me. Hope the new one isn’t too conventional in appearance.
          Just wondering, did the Volt ask the Leaf to step outside?

  • avatar

    Nope. The problem with new Leaf sales are that USED Leafs are so damn cheap. $13k can buy you a sub-20k mile 2013 Leaf all day long. A brand new one is well over $20k with all rebates and tax credits.

    If I wanted a Leaf, there doesn’t seem to be any good reason to buy one new.

    • 0 avatar

      I wonder how Nissan is faring with their battery warranty – it’s a potentially massive bill waiting to happen.

      Lots and lots of used Leafs leave the country, too: We get them here in Norway, at considerable markups.

    • 0 avatar

      The secondary market is a huge issue for the sale of new Leafs. They sell for as low as $8,500 in southern California with around 30-40K miles. Some have 80K miles which shows the Leaf isn’t as disposable as folks insinuate with respect to the battery life; although battery capacity does shorten over time (just like your smartphone), but I believe Nissan designed the cells to be relatively easy and cheaply to replace. I considered buying a used one for local errands, but the new Volt makes a lot more sense for my wife’s 88-mile roundtrip work commute.

      I would like to see more 3rd party support for the Leaf (upgradeable/replaceable battery modules), and that would likely further exacerbate the problem Nissan is having with new Leaf sales. Personally, I think auto manufacturers should limit their supply based on the demand curve. Certain niche cars are produced year after year and you see dwindling sales because the market is over-saturated. Just look at the old 300ZX, 350Z/370Z, Mazda Miata, S2000, VW Beetle, PT Cruiser, Honda Element, MINI. I would think a pause in-between production changes would keep prospective buyers interested.

  • avatar

    Why Leaves aren’t selling…
    1) Air cooled battery notorious for losing capacity over time.
    2) Tons of used ones available for cheap, largely cuz of 1).
    3) Not nearly as fun to drive as the pint-sized electrics (Fiat 500e, Chevy Spark EV).
    4) Design is aging, especially the interior which is a bit cheap.
    5) Nissan has told us an all-new Leaf is coming soon, so why buy the old one?
    6) …especially if they’re not cutting the price to clear out the old one first?
    7) Who wants to buy a short-range EV now, when the first affordable long-range EV (Chevy Bolt) is less than a year away?

    Funny tho, I think of the Leaf less as a Japanese EV than as “the quintessential French car”: bustle-butt hatch styling, quiet pillowy ride, and only able to go about 100 miles before you have to stop and deal with an issue for it to run again.

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Mostly agree.

      My 12 Leaf listed for $9k after I was done with it in 2015, but likely went for $8k. It had 27k miles and was in excellent condition. Used ones with these miles are now listing for $7k.

      I thought it was great fun to drive, and it was exceptionally reliable. But the dealer was clueless, the gas gauge lied, and the 15% battery loss in 3 years wasn’t good. Level 3 charging was – and remains – virtually unavailable in my area, so the farthest from home it ever went was 25 miles.

      Battery degradation has an exponential effect on resale value.

      So I wait for my Model 3 to arrive. It will have a similar MSRP, 4x the range, better battery management, better performance, and more interior room.

      Nissan’s concept car for Leaf 2.0 is hideous, and they’ve made no overtures about how they will fix the Leaf 1.0 and 1.5’s shortcomings, except for a bigger battery. So they can forget me as a repeat EV customer. I’d be much more interested in a Rogue.

    • 0 avatar

      You got Renault in my Nissan!

      I will now use family guy to illustrate the point.

      See the officer Reeses clip

  • avatar

    There is only so many old fart dust democrats, you sold them all a Leaf already.

  • avatar

    I seem to remember the CEO saying in an interview that he hoped no one would buy their electric cars bc they lost money on every one. Or was that FCA? Perhaps the buying public took his comments to heart.

  • avatar

    Any “sales” they could have had were crushed by the secondhand market and Fiat’s lease strategy of “eff it.” $2500 down, $59 a month at my local dealer.

  • avatar

    I wonder how much of the decline is due to Georgia’s EV rebate expiring?

    There was a dealer in the ATL area pumping the base model out the door on $99/mo leases and moving serious numbers. They probably weren’t the only ones.

    • 0 avatar
      I've got a Jaaaaag

      Probably a lot Atlanta was the Leaf’s biggest market IIRC and most of those were 2 year leases that were essentially free with the rebates. My unofficial and unscientific observation skills have noticed fewer Leafs on the roads around here.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      That decline occurred a while ago. This decline is just about the product.

  • avatar

    The Model 3 shows that the mass market wants an EV that doesn’t look stupid. The Bolt, Leaf and MiEV all look like econoboxes.

    Mass market cars need to look good…..or at least not terrible.

    • 0 avatar

      This. My wife would love an EV to commute with it. All the EVs in the market place have plenty of range and we have 3 vehicles thus a backup gas powered machine is always available (but no I will not help YOU move). However the Leaf is just so ugly… like all of Nissan’s current line up, with the Juke (aka Puke) leading the way. I saw a new Pathfinder yesterday and even it looked blah. Gone is the boxy, upright SUV with clean lines and instead its looks like another me too CUV.

  • avatar

    People around here buy them for the HOV lane stickers rather than fuel cost. So why would they buy a new one when used ones are as low as $8k? At that price I’d buy 2 and rotate between home and office and keep them plugged in when parked.

  • avatar

    Leafs do not seem popular where I live in Canada… Used ones are even more rare than new. Rebates are fairly impressive though…$9800 for the “S”, $10500 for the “SV” and $11500 for the “SL”. The real kicker though is the Cost new seems much higher here:

    “S” – $32,698
    “SV” – $37,398
    “SL” – $40,548

    Note: all prices are before tax and fees. Too rich for my blood.

  • avatar

    It sounds like nice used Leafs are heading toward golf cart prices.

    Perfect wheels for school kids or senior citizen duty.

  • avatar

    There is a car dealer near me that specializes in selling these when the leases are up. He always has at least six. I see them all over Marin. I think people are buying the previously leased ones to try it out.

  • avatar

    I can’t imagine how miniscule the sales numbers must be for the Mitsubishi MiEV.

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