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Which Cars Are Getting Traded In For Electric Cars? We Find Out

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2011 Chevrolet Volt

2011 Chevrolet Volt

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In the last nine months, we’ve seen over 10,000 plug-in cars sold in the U.S. alone, with Nissan taking the lion’s share of new plug-in car sales with its 2011/12 Nissan Leaf. 

Mass-produced electric cars still very much a niche market, so anyone buying one can be legitimately thought of as an early adopter -- but which cars are being traded in by those early adopters to make way for a plug-in car?

According to information obtained by The LATimes from automotive research firm R.L. Polk & Co., the most common car traded in for a plug-in car is the Toyota Prius. 

According to data, 7% of all Volt sales involved a Prius part-exchange, while 18% of all Leaf buyers were making the switch from Prius to Leaf. 

For owners of the second generation Toyota Prius, the Chevrolet Volt is a logical progression. Driving like a hybrid when its battery pack is depleted, the Volt offers extended range operation but also offers the around-town electric mode that Prius owners have come to love. 

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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For those switching to the Leaf, the switch is even more logical. The Leaf looks similar to the Prius, and offers a similar level of trim, driving feel and steering response to its green Japanese rival.

But while many plug-in sales are including a Toyota Prius trade-in, other cars are getting traded in too.

According to R.L.Polk & Co., an unusually high number of German cars were traded in during the first six months of the year for a 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Cars like the Audi A4, BMW 3-Series and Volkswagen Jetta represented 6% of all trade-in cars. 

But owners of the Nissan Leaf were more likely to trade in a used Toyota -- and not just a hybrid Toyota -- for their new electric hatchback.  In the same period of time, 38% of all trade-ins for the 2011 Nissan Leaf were from Toyota owners. 

2008 Toyota Prius

2008 Toyota Prius

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Perhaps the most interesting data comes from the statistics surrounding brand loyalty. Of those buying a new plug-in car during the first six months of 2011, a massive 90% of all Nissan Leaf buyers were new to the brand, while 78% of Chevrolet Volt buyers had not owned a Chevy before. 

Although these figures do make for interesting reading, it’s important to remember that plug-in vehicle sales still represent a tiny fraction of all new car sales in the U.S. 

And with most new plug-in car sales to date coming from early adopters and fans of plug-in cars, we don’t think there is enough data yet to draw any firm conclusions about Leaf or Volt buyers. 

 

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