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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Comments (11)
  1. Nissan, Chevy, Ford and Mitsubishi better send every single Leaf, Volt, FocusEV and iMIEV to California that they make for the next month. Don't ship them to other states, ship them to the highest volume dealers in California, no where else in the US/World. They need to take advantage of this price spike to move some plug-ins. This will get more of them out there and sales will increase as word of mouth expands.

  2. KOMO News reports gas nearing record in WA State. prices have jumped an average of 9 cents per gallon this week. High CA prices to blame... so what does CA's lack of special formulation gasoline got to do with us?? we just use plain old run of the mill E-10?

    sounds like another excuse to raise prices to me

  3. Well, gas price has to do with election. "They" want to use it as an excuse to defeat Obama... Or at least use it to blame it on Obama.

    Politics aside, this is a good thing. I think the "shortage" is NOT just in CA.

    Recently, one of my family visited a Maryland Chevy Dealer and they took a look at a Chevy Volt (the only one in the lot). The dealer sales person told him that they have sold out all their Volts for the month, but have 15 more comming. However, there is a "waiting list". And he might have to wait for the "next batch".

    Obviously, I think GM, Ford, Nissan and Toyota are gearing up for the "bragging rights" in EV/Plugins market. It will be good for consumers.

    See Volts on the road in CA is daily occurance now.

  4. I live in San Diego. We have a Tesla Model S on order with a probable January 2013 delivery. The latest gas price spike put my wife over the edge. We bought a 2012 LEAF SL last weekend. Paid $100 over dealer invoice through a credit union buying program. Can't believe we will soon be an all green car family!

  5. Keep that Leaf away from "hot climate"...

  6. We have had solar electric for four years. Only pay $11 per month (meter fee). We purchased a Volt 22 months ago. We have 19,000 miles on it and have averaged 191 MPG over that time. Our gasoline bill for the past nearly two years has been $392 and $264 for electricity over the past two years. I believe that we have saved around $6,000 to $8,000 per year over these two years.

  7. I wish people would see more examples like you and do the math themselves...

  8. Richard,
    I enjoy seeing the real life math too but how much did the solar electric system cost to install? That would need to be amortized over time to give a clear financial savings picture right?

  9. Troy, let me take a stab at this without any additional facts from Richard. $6000 saved over two years. Two years from now $12,000 saved. Four years from now $18,000 dollars saved. Six years from now $24,000 saved. Eight years from now $30,000 saved. And assuming gas and electricity prices do not trend upwards ten years from now $30,000 saved! Seems already like a pretty amortizing, err appetizing plate of savings, all things considered.

    Then again if the $8000 / year is more realistic and energy prices trend up...

    So Richard how much was your out of pocket cost for your system, and was that or the balance of your costs financed?

  10. The 7kW system cost around $45,000 after rebates. We run 2 refrigerators, two air conditioning systems, two furnaces, 3 TVs, two wine cabinets and lots of electrical stuff. We never think about using too much electricity.The Volt was an after thought and we worried that we might not produce enough electricity but it works.

  11. The solar system is a "ground installation" placed out of sight from the house. This added to the cost but aesthetically it was worth it.

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