The low sales of the Nissan Leaf electric car have been much discussed in the media--just as those of the Chevy Volt were until it began to log respectable sales numbers over the last few months.
Nissan is now completing its switch from centralized online reservations for the car to treating it like any other new vehicle, with ready-to-buy Leafs now showing up at Nissan dealerships.
To kick-start that change, they're offering remarkably low lease rates on their flagship electric car.
You know that it'll be the $289 monthly lease rate for the base Nissan Leaf SV model that'll show up in the biggest print in the ads, based on 12,000 miles a year.
The 39-month lease requires a down payment of $2,999, plus the usual array of expenses for tax, title, registration--and that pesky but mandatory destination charge of $850--to be paid separately.
If, like a majority of Nissan Leaf buyers, you want the higher feature level of the more upscale SL model, that will run you $319 a month. Same down payment, though, and same annual mileage of 12,000.
The Nissan Leaf SL model includes the photovoltaic solar panel on the spoiler, a rear-view monitor in the dash display, fog lamps and, perhaps most important, the desirable quick-charge port, as standard features.
2012 Nissan Leaf
Base price for the 2012 Leaf SV model is $35,200; the Leaf SL starts at $37,250. Neither price includes the $7,500 Federal tax credit for which many buyers may qualify, plus state, regional, local, and corporate incentives as well.
One advantage to the 39-month lease is alleviating any worries about battery life, since once the car is handed back to the dealer, it's no longer the lessee's problem.
Most Nissan dealers that sell the Leaf should now have at least a handful of Nissan's electric model in stock, so in theory, buyers can now walk into a dealer and drive out in a new Leaf the same day.
Installation of a 240-Volt Level 2 charging station in the buyer's garage, of course, will likely take a couple of weeks longer.
Nissan completed the rollout of the Leaf across the U.S. during March, though not every Nissan dealer is qualified to sell the Leaf.
2012 Nissan Leaf 4-door HB SL Dashboard
One explanation suggested by analysts for low Leaf sales in the U.S. is that with limited supplies of the lithium-ion cells for battery packs that are now shared among the Leaf and several different Renault models sold in Europe, Nissan may be allocating batteries to those markets with the highest profit margins.
Nissan is standing by its 2012 U.S. sales goal of 20,000 Leafs, though it has sold only 2,600 through the end of May. That means it'll have to average 2,500 cars every single month to meet the target.
What do you think?
Will the switch from online reservations to cars in dealerships help or hurt Leaf sales? And will Nissan make its 2012 sales goal?
Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.