Nissan Leaf Electric-Car Buyers Really ARE Different, Says Dealer

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

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So who buys a Nissan Leaf?

Not, as you may be unsurprised to learn, the sort of person who doesn't really care what they buy, says one Nissan dealer.

As Nashville Business Journal reports, Leaf customers are already pretty sure they want a Leaf when they walk onto the lot.

"It's typically a very educated customer who's doing the Leaf," explains Broderick Alley of Downtown Nashville Nissan, "they come in hoping it fits their needs."

Leaf customers often walk into the dealership knowing they want a Leaf, but speak to the dealer to ensure it's suitable for the mileage they drive, that they like the feel of the car and that they can afford it. Buyers are often looking to use the Leaf rather than an existing gas-guzzler.

Nissan says most people can't believe how easily the 73-mile EPA Leaf meets their daily needs--but ultimately the limited range still puts some people off.

It seems the initial purchase cost of the Leaf isn't proving much of an issue either--as the majority of customers lease, rather than buy.

Typically, a dealer may sell 60-70 percent of its vehicles and lease the rest--but Alley says that nearly every one of his Leaf customers lease. Favorable rates--as low as $139 per month with $2,995 down--means the car's $36,050 pre-incentive price isn't an issue.

Leasing is also popular as it helps maintain buyer confidence, in cars which are still new to many people.

And at the moment, the Leaf's relatively slow sales seem to reflect that lack of confidence from the buying public--even if the car's customers have discovered its capabilities.

[Hat tip: Brian Henderson]


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Comments (13)
  1. An inversion of the US statistics for lease versus buy: interesting indeed. Possibly a vindication of Better Place's business model of leasing the battery (and similar model for Renault in Europe).

  2. Leasing does make sense for this sort of gen1 product where rapid improvements are likely to occur. US buyers are leery of leases because of GM's move to crush all the leased EV1's rather than allowing the buyers to buy them. I think the fact you can buy the Leaf at the end of your lease helped calm those fears.

    I leased rather than bought because of the poor heating/cooling setup of the Leaf. I don't need the heat on, but I do need the de-fogger on. Newer models of the Leaf should fix this so once my lease is up I'll probably buy.

  3. I believe there were several EV programs by other OEMs that also ended when the EV 1 program ended. Also worth nothing that GM's Chevy Volt is for sale and happens to be the number one selling plug-in vehicle in the country.

  4. Not at all. Better Place is just increasing the cost to the consumer; Nissan is lowering it.

  5. I'll lease instead of buy. First, not all of us can claim the full tax credit if we buy, but the residual should reflect the full credit. If the car turns out to not meet my needs, I'll turn it in at lease end. If technology and pricing improve enough, I'll get a new one.

    The comment "the Leaf's relatively slow sales seem to reflect that lack of confidence from the buying public" may be flawed. It's been reported that the Leaf will be built in TN for 2013, it will have a heater that doesn't affect range in the winter as much as the current model, it will have greater range, and will be cheaper {but we did not know when originally posted that would be a different, de-contented car}. Why buy before the improved model comes out?

  6. Mark, I think you hit the head on the nail. I had planned on purchasing a 2013 Leaf, but decided to wait because of the heater issue and the battery degradation issue. Great lease rates and an instant $7500 off because of the fed tax credit made the lease a smart move at this time.

  7. The incentives were simply too strong to deny. Leasing is the safer route and makes all the financial sense in the world. My lease rate was even lower that those posted here. Low enough that the fuel savings are greater than the monthly payment so I am spending less than $100 per month (down payment amortized) to drive a really nice car. When you add to that the ability to move up to newer technology, it feels a bit like moving from the car industry to the computer industry technology race to lower prices and improve performance. Leaf is clearly not an all-purpose vehicle, but if you can live with the limits it is great transportation for many purposes. It has been one of the most enjoyable cars I have driven.

  8. Leasing gives customer a chance to try out something new without fully committing to it. Especially if next version is expected to be better.

    Also, leasing limits the number of miles driven per year. That is NOT a problem for BEVs anyway...

    I already put about 9,200 miles in the last 5.5 month that I have my Volt. It wouldn't work with a Lease...

  9. Xiaolong Li, your reasoning for buying is similar to our reasoning for purchasing our 2012 Leaf. We purchased 4-28-12, and put 14,165 miles on it. We told the dealer: "We drive approximately 350 miles a week (commute, shopping, entertainment, etc.). "

  10. All I have to say is Tesla model S. This company is going places. enough with these goofy and silly looking cars. It kinda pisses me off they they make them look so stupid. Chevy colt isn't so bad, but Tesla, wohhh baby. They currently have a model S, that looks as sexy and even better than most BMW's and Mercedes. They have a range of close to 300 miles on a full charge (no gas engine)with o-60 in 4 sec. 5 seats with just beautiful design and can be plugged in with any traditional wall outlet or home charging station. I'm soo getting one.

  11. Different strokes for different folks Matthew. And that includes a much lower purchase price BEV for most folks and the nearly $100K S model you refer to for less then 10% of folks.

    Telsa S is great but that doesn't mean the current Leaf is not great for most other folks besides you...don't be so self-centered. The Leaf is a very good vehicle in most ways and will be even better when the refreshed Leaf built in TN arrives.

  12. I purchased my 2011 LEAF. I do about 13,5000 miles per year. The low cost leases are typically for 10,000 miles. Leasing does not add up for me. The Federal tax credit helps to pay most of the first year depreciation. A cheap 2012 or a decent priced 2013 may make sense depending on the dealers willingness to pay for the 2011.

  13. Bought my LEAF from Downtown Nashville Nissan. Hands down, the best car purchase I've ever experienced! A month later & they didn't try to sucker me on anything. I tell everyone interested in a LEAF or just a Nissan to go deal with them.

    PS: Love my LEAF

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