High Gas Prices, High Incentives Boost Electric Car Sales In CA

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Headlight - 2012 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL

Headlight - 2012 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL

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If you drive a regular gasoline car in California, you’ll know that the past week has been far from easy, with gas prices peaking at over $5 a gallon in places. 

But while many car drivers were suffering unbelievably high gas prices, plug-in and electric car dealers across the state have started to  reap the benefits of the pump-shock state.

As Jim Wakin writes for The New York Times, high gas prices, combined with extra dealer incentives, has meant that sales of plug-in cars are starting to rise. 

For example, earlier this month, Nissan began giving dealers in California $4,500 of discretionary money to be spent raising sales figures of its 2012 Leaf electric car. 

Thanks to poor sales throughout most of the summer--not helped by concerns about battery lifespan and range loss in hot climates--Nissan started September with nearly 4 months of Leafs in its inventory. 

The ideal auto industry average is 60 days’ supply. 

And with the 2013 Nissan Leaf, the mildly-updated, first all-electric Nissan to be built in the U.S., ready to enter production, Nissan is clearly keen to clear its backlog of 2012s.

The confluence of extra incentives and high gas prices couldn’t have come at a better time for dealers. 

“We’ve definitely seen an uptick, but I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent because of the gas prices,” said James Livesay, a sales manager at a Nissan dealer in Sunnyvale, California. “A lot of it has to do with the incentives on the vehicle, but the gas prices don’t hurt.”

Last weekend, the dealership sold 10 Leafs. In September, it sold 24 in total.

It isn’t just Nissan dealers, either. 

Chevrolet, Mitsubishi and even Ford dealers are also seeing the benefits of high gas prices. At one Chevrolet dealership, a $3,000 manufacturers’ discount helped it sell 15 Volts last weekend. Normally, it reports sales of between 50 and 70 Volts a month. 

According to one dealer, however, not everyone who can afford a new car is making a purchase decision right now. 

2013 Chevrolet Volt

2013 Chevrolet Volt

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Many, he says, are waiting until after the 2012 Presidential election.

“People are getting their information lined up, then waiting for next month,” said Mitsubishi dealer Larry Judge. “Depending on how that goes, that’s when I think you could see sales kick in.”

Do you live in California? Are you seriously considering a plug-in car for the first time? And what kind of deals are you seeing on plug-in cars in your area?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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