If you thought the Nissan Leaf was a hard sell in the expanses of North America, then you may be surprised to learn it's doing far less well in one of its natural habitats.

Cities are where electric cars often make the most sense, but the fashion and luxury-conscious buyers in smog-ridden Hong Kong aren't playing ball.

According to Bloomberg, only 64 Nissan Leaf electric cars were sold in the first nine months of the year. That's nowhere near the 1,362 that Nissan sold in the U.S. in August alone.

It's not for the want of rich buyers either. Hong Kong is awash with high-end cars like Maseratis, Porsches and Aston Martins, so people have the money. Subsidies on electric cars are higher than much of Asia too. With an increasingly wealthy population, the main issue seems to be that Hong Kong buyers simply see their vehicles as status symbols and the clean, green Leaf doesn't cut the right image.

There are other issues too. Hong Kong isn't over-endowed with charging stations, so even potentially interested buyers are being put off. Several groups are keen to see electric vehicles more widely adopted to combat the smog problems that caused an estimated 4,800 additional deaths from 2007 to 2010.

The worry for Nissan and other electric car makers is that trends in Hong Kong tend to rub off on China, and as the car-buying population of that country increases there may be a lack of EV buyers there too.

Claus Weidner, Chief Operating Officer at Hong Kong Mercedes-Benz says "It's a money and a tax question. This makes it easier for consumers to come into this market". Weidner believes the main issue is government support.

For the people of Hong Kong though, it could be as simple as being able to buy electric cars from some of the more luxurious brands like Mercedes and Porsche.

If Hong Kong isn't interested in the Leaf, we may have found the perfect place to sell the Rolls Royce Phantom 102EX...


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