Nissan Leaf withdrawn from New Zealand, electric-car sales plummet


2016 Nissan Leaf

2016 Nissan Leaf

Enlarge Photo

When it comes to thriving markets for electric cars, New Zealand doesn't exactly top the list.

So what happens when a bestselling electric car is withdrawn from what is already a low-volume market?

The Nissan Leaf is the bestselling electric car worldwide, but now Nissan will stop selling it from New Zealand.

DON'T MISS: 2012 Nissan Leaf To Arrive in New Zealand, Christchurch First (Feb 2010)

And that is causing electric-car sales in the country to plummet, according to one advocacy group.

New Zealand electric-car sales have stalled since Nissan stopped selling the Leaf there last November, according to local group Drive Electric (via Stuff.co.nz).

The group says this is because the removal of the Leaf leaves buyers without a low-cost electric-car option.

2016 Nissan Leaf

2016 Nissan Leaf

Enlarge Photo

The Leaf had been selling in New Zealand for around $40,000 (about $26,000 U.S.).

With the Nissan electric car no longer available, the next cheapest option for a plug-in car is the Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-In Hybrid.

ALSO SEE: Why I bought a new Nissan Leaf electric car 2 hours from home: $8,500 net cost

But this model does not have an all-electric powertrain, and it costs roughly $60,000 ($40,000 U.S.) in New Zealand.

Price is an especially important factor in New Zealand because a larger portion of electric-car sales come from cost-conscious fleet owners.

2016 Nissan Leaf

2016 Nissan Leaf

Enlarge Photo

At the same time, many individual buyers prefer used cars imported from the U.K. and Japan that sell for much lower prices than new cars.

For its part, Nissan does not believe continuing to sell the Leaf in New Zealand is a commercially-sustainable proposition.

MORE: How I got a new 2015 Nissan Leaf electric car for $16K net: indecision

It was previously able to sell the Leaf at a lower price by sourcing Japanese-made cars from the company's larger sales operation in adjacent Australia.

Even if it decided to continue selling the Leaf in New Zealand, Nissan does not think it could do so without raising prices.

2016 Nissan Leaf

2016 Nissan Leaf

Enlarge Photo

Lack of strong electric-car incentives may have also factored into the carmaker's decision.

New Zealand's government is in the process of developing an incentives package, but Nissan does not expect it to move the needle much.

And as in other countries, advocates there worry that low oil prices are suppressing demand for electric cars.

While electric cars have made great strides over the past few years, the case of New Zealand shows once more that they still have quite a way to go before achieving mass adoption.

It also shows how removing a car like the Leaf, which is well suited to the needs of a large swath of buyers, from the equation can have a significant negative impact on sales.

New Zealand now has just over 1,000 electric cars registered, of a total of 4.7 million vehicles on its roads.

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