Most of us love a little competition, and in moderation is a good thing. When the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan LEAF went on sale, there was a lot of reporting on the sales “race” between the two. That is despite the fact that the two cars are very different in approach. Volt is a range-extended electric vehicle while the LEAF is a pure battery electric.
One you can get stranded on the side of the road in; the other keeps on going. In the beginning, LEAF sales outpaced the Volt. There was a lot of pent up demand for the LEAF, and Volt was getting a lot of negative coverage in the press thanks to becoming a political punching bag. Now, the Volt is outselling the LEAF by a significant margin, and no one is really following up on it.
Last month 510 Nissan LEAFs were sold, up from 370 the month before. That is below Nissan’s expectations. After being on the market for a bit, sales are petering out rather than building like the Volts. That’s why it’s curious that Bloomberg(via Autoblog) reports that Nissan is preparing to add capacity in Smyrna, Tennessee. The plant will reportedly be able to build 200,000 LEAFs and 150,000 battery packs per year. On track for 5,000 units in the U.S this year, there is a gigantic disparity between demand capacity.
Production in the United States will eliminate the exchange rate issue though, either eliminating some of the losses or allowing Nissan to make a profit on the car for the first time. So far, pure electric vehicle sales on the city car level don’t seem to be going too well. That’s because most people don’t want to spend around $35-40,000 on a car that has under 100 miles of range. That just isn’t enough to be in the comfortable range for many people. We think sales of cars like the 2013 Tesla Model S with a usable range will do much better.