Lower Prices Cause Electric-Car Shortages In CA: Shock, Surprise!

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2012 Honda Fit EV

2012 Honda Fit EV

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"Electric cars sold out!" isn't a phrase you'll have heard often over the past few years, but that's just what's happened in Southern California recently.

Recent lease deals putting electric vehicles within reach of many consumers have led to a rush of sales--and certain models have sold out quickly.

Among those, reports the Los Angeles Times, are the Fiat 500e and Honda Fit EV.

The latter has been a slow burner since its launch, but Honda's new $259-per-month lease deal--including unlimited mileage and a free charger--has apparently piqued buyers' interests.

No longer unloved

"It's incredible, especially since we haven't had any foot traffic or interest in the car in six months," Jeff Fletcher, sales manager at Honda of Santa Monica, told the Los Angeles Times.

His dealership had three Fit EVs sitting unloved and unsold before the new lease deal took effect.

"I'm not even sure we'll have enough cars for the people on the waiting list."

Waiting lists are underway at Fiat too, with its new 500e. The car hasn't even hit dealer lots yet, but demand is far beyond what Fiat--and its dealers--were expecting.

The LA Times also quoted Scott Brown, a Chrysler Group spokesman, as saying that he had been told by dealerships that "they've never seen interest like this" on any vehicle before.

Some dealers, he said, are no longer accepting orders for the Fiat 500e because they're not confident they'll be able to deliver the cars.

The 500e is available for $199 per month on lease. Another priced at the same point is the Chevy Spark EV, arriving at California and Oregon dealers this month. It isn't hard to imagine Chevy facing similar issues once the car arrives.

Honda's problem is bigger than Fiat's though, the Japanese automaker having only limited supply of its electric Fit. Just 1,100 cars are planned for this year and 2014, and the new lease deals have brought in more interested buyers than the meagre supply can satiate.

It could prove to be something of a problem for Honda, which now faces alienating buyers interested in the car but utterly unable to get hold of one.

2013 Fiat 500e electric car, Los Angeles drive event, April 2013

2013 Fiat 500e electric car, Los Angeles drive event, April 2013

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Nissan to benefit?

Those buyers could move to Nissan, which has its own tempting deals on the 2013 Leaf--a car benefitting from the lower prices associated with its Tennessee-based production and entry-level model. May was one of Nissan's best months yet for Leaf sales, with 2,138 cars sold.

A $199 per month lease might have something to do with that, though it isn't clear what proportion of Leafs went to lease customers or outright buyers.

Unlike Fiat and Honda, Nissan's supply isn't really limited--though extra demand has cut the company down to 40 days of inventory--apparently tighter than for some of its other models.

What each of the stories suggests though is something pretty much everyone has known all along--there's not a lot wrong with the cars themselves, they just needed to be priced right.

A wave of lower prices and great lease deals has clearly opened electric vehicles up to buyers waiting only for lower pricing. It's essentially a price war, and it's great for buyers--provided they live in the select few states where these cars are available.

Just what would electric car sales be like if pricing really came down?...

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