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Nissan Leaf – Click above for high-res image gallery

According to Forbes' Jerry Flint, "the [Nissan] Leaf is more likely to be a sales failure than a sales success." Why is Flint so willing to 'stick his neck out,' as he puts it? There's an entire column of information that you can find by clicking here, but we'll list a few of the bullet points:
  • It doesn't have the range of a gasoline-powered car
  • It doesn't have the top speed of a gasoline-powered car
  • It costs more than a gasoline-powered car
  • It takes "forever" to refuel
Well now, that does sound pretty damning, doesn't it? But let's analyze a few of these complains right quick. We'll grant the range issue right off the bat – all electric cars that lack a range extender are limited in range by the available capacity of the battery pack. Nissan says to expect about 100 miles, some will get less. No surprise there, and a deal-breaker for some. Moving on then... to top speed. Who really needs to go faster than 90 miles per hour? Certainly not us, at least not on a day-to-day basis.

Next is cost. Nissan has yet to announce an expected price for the Leaf, but most expect it to come in somewhere under $30,000 after federal tax credits are factored in, plus its running costs should be far lower than a typical gasoline-powered car. Finally, refueling time. It certainly doesn't take "forever," but eight hours on a standard wall plug is indeed a long time. For those that travel less than the car's actual range, though, that won't be a problem. Plug the car in at night and unplug it in the morning. Simple.

For those that travel further than the Leaf's available range, Nissan and the U.S. government are rolling out rapid charging stations in selected markets, which you can read about here on these very pages. Will that be enough to make the Leaf practical for U.S. consumers? Certainly not everyone, but Nissan doesn't care because it isn't targeting everyone.

So, will the Nissan Leaf be a flop? We have no idea. Neither does Flint. But we do know that the car's limitations are well known and shouldn't be a surprise to anyone willing to plunk down $30,000 (or so) on one. We'll see.



[Source: Forbes]


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  • 149 Comments
      Doug
      • 5 Months Ago
      Americans, by large part, are still buying imports increasingly more so than domestic cars. They love their Asian made and Asian transplant assembled in the USA cars. Americans have had enough of the union thug tactics that end up in shoddy workmanship. The unionized workers are never happy and have the worst attitudes of any worker out there. They think they are entitled to double the income they already make. This auto worker bad attitude translates to more car sales going to the import companies, even with the recent recalls that have been announced lately. The Volt will be a flop too. It simply costs too much. We are in a recession and import car sales have always done better in recessions. This electric car by Nissan will sell, but not in the numbers they hope for though. Still the American auto industry is toast and history. They have had many more recalls than the import car companies have had. By large part, America's youth have no use what so ever for American made cars. They have no sympathy for the unionized auto workers and are tired of their constant whining and bickering. America’s youth love their tuner cars and there is no American made car that can come even close to the tuner cars the kids of today clamor over and buy. Import cars still are on the top of the list in car and driver publications. Until the auto magazines state that American cars are far superior in every aspect than import cars then say good bye to the American auto industry. To achieve that higher rating by the auto magazines, the unions have to stop their thug tactics and step up the pace and compete on the global stage or die like so many other unionized companies have.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Bio-Diesel is not cost effective at this point in time. The cost to produce it in mass quantities is more than conventional Diesel. Its easier to pump crude out of the ground than grow millions of acres of crops and then all the processing to get it into a burnable state. Crude is far easier to refine. Would you pay $5.00 a gallon for Bio-Diesel if Conventional Diesel is $4.00 per gallon or less? You can be as green as you like, but if there is a huge desparage in cost, then people won't buy it. We have the technology to put solar panels on our homes that would reduce our electric bills to $0.00, but why don't people do it? Cost! How many americans don't have $30,000.00 to $50.000.00 or more to Solarize their homes? Not many, especially now! Think about how green that would be for the country. New power plants would not be needed and many could be taken off-line due to a huge reduction in power demand. It all comes down to what is cheap and easy. Make it cheap and easy for the Amercian public and they will flock to it. Make it difficult and expensive and you'll have a flop on your hands. EVs should be far better than Hybrids in terms of cost and reliability. Think about it. A hybrid has all of the systems of a conventional vehicle with all the same maintainance and all of the costs of of an EV with electric motors and batteries. An EV does not have the combustion engine and all of the costs and maintainance associated with it. Just a thought.
      Sekinu2
      • 5 Months Ago
      Its funny how far off some of the political comments have been on this. First off this car will fail as the range is not usable for anyone outside a downtown city which in its own right makes it a fail as people on any floor above the ground will not be able to run and extension cord to charge thier car... The car is ugly as al sin with no style not sure if thats mandated in building EV's or just because most involved are not into style either. The price for the car you get is too much and top speed wont let you drive on tollways safely...Bush was on the right path as hydrogen cars are the better road to explore as EVs at this time dont have the need technology to make it worth while its burning money as Obama does without care..
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Sekinu2
        1) The target demographic for the Leaf is the following:
        -2 car family
        -House (driveway or garage)
        -40 mile or less commute

        That is not too strict. Tens of millions of Americans fit into this category.

        Just because you are not part of the market segment, doesn't mean the market segment isn't big enough to make the Leaf profitable.

        2) Just like the Ugly Prius failed.

        Oh wait... folks that wanted to be "conspicuously conservative" loved the unique look. And it became a huge success.

        3) And if you think 90 mph is too slow to drive safely on tollways then your the a-hole that everybody else on the road hates.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Few people will seriously consider buying these. It's not that the technology is no good, or that it is too expensive, or that the speed is limited. we have a number of perfectly feasable alternative transportation technologies available. Electric Vehicles, Fuel Cells, How about Propane, or natural gas powered vehicles? These are all perfectly well developed technologies. They have been around for decades. Would you buy one of these today if someone offered to sell it to you? Of course not. That would be stupid. If it ran out of fuel halfway to grandma's house (Maybe you forgot to plug it in) how would you refill it? If it broke down how would you get it repaired? We have plenty of alternative technologies to choose from, What needs to be developed now is the supporting infrastructure, and I am encouraged to see that they are finally beginning to address this problem. The only reason we are tied to the gasoline Engine is because there is a well developed infrastructure in place to support it, and no alternative technology will replace it untill we modify the infrastructure to support that technology.
      galbraith1065
      • 5 Months Ago
      Nissan is second only to VW in vehicle problems. Although that does not factor in Toyotas current problems I suppose. I am guessing Nissan's electric car will be a piece of crap.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Forbes- put out some bad press asap before your buddy's Texaco stock goes down.
      What a joke they just want the status quo, as long as they keep making billions every things fine.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I don't know about the US, but if the Leaf reaches anywhere near it's price targets it will be a runaway success here in Europe, with petrol prices the way they are.
      The company is Renault-Nissan, and anyone who doesn't think the French Government is in this up to the eyeballs doesn't understand France.
      Their nuclear plants mean that they can run millions of EV cars on cheap overnight electricity and reduce France's exposure to oil risks.
      BOA gives the likely price of oil by 2014 as $150/barrel, meaning gas at $4-5 gallon.
        • 5 Months Ago
        I'm not quite sure who you are talking to Ernie, but I have certainly visited France.
        I can't imagine where you get the idea that the French Government is so flush that it doesn't need the money from petrol taxes.
        Sure, many roads are narrow in the cities, and parking can be difficult, that's one of the reasons that there are a lot of small cars there.
        Plenty of French people live in more spacious circumstances though.
        In either case you are correct that they want to minimise oil use, and switch to electric where possible.
        • 5 Months Ago
        Just in case you were talking to me... :)

        "Oh sure, most of that is tax, but again, you're not understanding France."

        True. I don't understand France, even though I've been there a couple of times.

        "France intentionally taxes gasoline through the roof not out of fiscal need, but to intentionally make gas expensive."

        I'm sure they're happy to make money on petrol taxes, but I don't doubt that the gas taxes are also there to deter vehicles. EVs are vehicles too. They take room on the roads and take up parking spaces too. If what you say is true, they're going to want to deter EVs just like ICE V's.
        • 5 Months Ago
        Oh sure, most of that is tax, but again, you're not understanding France.

        France intentionally taxes gasoline through the roof not out of fiscal need, but to intentionally make gas expensive. If you had visited France before in even the most cursory way, you'd understand why. Many towns and villages have roads that are literally 8 feet wide. Parking is laughably difficult to find. Landowners are rich and powerful and unwilling to allow their land to get appropriated by the town (nevermind obvious historical landmarks that will get modified to allow wider streets when we're holding the winter olympics in Jamaica). City centers are choked with traffic and pollution. Oh yeah, and nevermind the small issue of where the oil comes from: anywhere but France.

        I think this writer has completely forgotten that Nissan isn't an American company.
        • 5 Months Ago
        "I don't know about the US, but if the Leaf reaches anywhere near it's price targets it will be a runaway success here in Europe, with petrol prices the way they are."

        Most of the petrol prices are tax. If EVs are a runaway success, they're going to get that tax money from somewhere else. Perhaps, taxing electricity?

        The Leaf is what it is. It has the benefits and detriments of an EV. My only real concern with it is the rumored lack of battery management. If true, I would expect the battery to degrade prematurely.
        • 5 Months Ago
        :-) there are around 500 cars per 1,000 people in France, as against around 800 in the US.
        So there are less cars, but it is hardly a car-free zone.

        It hardly seems that France is trying to abolish the motor car.

        They do also have schemes like the Autolib to provide electric cars on demand and reduce congestion in Paris though:
        http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jun/20/france.travelandtransport

        They are spending around $2.3 billion on charging networks:
        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125439947906756021.html

        The French fully intend to be at the forefront of electric vehicle adoption, and that means that there are great efforts to co-ordinate Government and industry action, just as they did when they moved to produce most of their electricity from nuclear power 30 years ago.
        • 5 Months Ago
        They can sell a lot of Leaf cars before sales levels seriously impact revenues, so the technology gets well established and can reduce costs.
        A couple of million EV cars in a market the size of Europe's are nothing.
        The tax would have to start rolling in at some stage, but well after the technology is going full bore.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think some people like the looks of this car. while most don't. Spending $30,000 on a car is not unheard of, think BMW, Mercedes, VW, and many others. However, styling is what dictates the value of a car. If this car looked like a BMW, there would be no one disputing it's price tag. Since it looks like a $20,000, everyone is chiming in on it's perceived high price
        • 5 Months Ago
        That's a very subjective comment. There are many very beautiful cars. If you're comparing the 60's to today's cars, maybe you shouldn't be commenting on anything. IMHO
        • 5 Months Ago
        Styling? Styling hasn't sold a car since 1960.
        Have you seen a Toyota for the last 20 years?
        They're all plain.
      • 5 Years Ago
      There will be 85 million cars sold worldwide in 2011 (being conservative) and it will keep on growing.

      Nissan will initially build out the capacity to produce 200,000 cars. If they sell them at $30k a pop, that's $6Billion a year in revenue.

      Can they sell them all? That 200,000 cars is only 0.2% of all auto sales. There are plenty of people, like me, that will be perfectly happy with the Leaf and don't need to drive more than about 60-70 miles a day, even on a busy day. They don't need to satisfy the needs of the other 99.8% of the population to be pretty successful for a first mass produced EV.

      Why does everyone keep trying to find a negative way to define it as a failure, with some really rough criteria, before it even gets started?
        • 5 Months Ago
        That 200,000 number is for Nissan North America for the US/Canadian market.... Total global production capacity for the Nissan/Renault alliance currently being built is more than twice that.

        So it will be a little more ambitious than that, but its still doable.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Jerry Flint the old and bitter author has a history of bashing EVs
      http://www.forbes.com/2008/10/06/vehicles-hybrid-electric-biz-cx_jf_1007flint.html

      There are more:
      http://search.forbes.com/search/colArchiveSearch?author=Flint


      Electric Cars: They Need Gas - Forbes.com
      Electric Miracle In The Desert? - Forbes.com
      The Day The Oil Stops - Forbes.com
      The electric car gets short-circuited
      Hybrid Hades - Forbes.com
      Mileage Isn't Everything - Forbes.com
      The Frankenstein Hybrid - Forbes.com
      The Hybrid Dilemma - Forbes.com
      Promises, Promises - Forbes.com
      Blues for the Greens - Forbes.com
      Lutz interview

      What do you think he wants?
      Saving GM 1
      Saving GM 2
      Saving GM 3

      Rebuttal to Dan Neil
      I've Seen It All - Forbes.com

      There are even more if you like.

      (thanks to TEG)

      • 5 Years Ago
      I drive 40 miles max per day, I have a garage with a 240v outlet, I have worked out if the Leaf costs 10k more than my current Nissan I will recover the cost in 5 years (not including the love of driving zero emissions), I would keep the car probably 10 years.
      • 5 Months Ago
      Anyone with any actual automotive knowledge would never call the Leaf a flop.

      It's clearly meant to be a second,and not a primary, vehicle. I'm surprised the author of this article didn't complain that the Leaf wouldn't tow a boat, or carry twelve people.

      If the article is correct about the Leaf's range, speed and recharging time, it would be a perfect car for my family, and for many of my neighbors.
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