• Apr 20, 2010
Nissan Leaf – Click above for high-res image gallery

If the Nissan Leaf was a glitzy casino game inside a Las Vegas hot spot, Ward's Auto suggests that few people would be willing to place their bets in hopes of hitting the jackpot. The odds for the Leaf would, in typical Vegas fashion, be in the house's favor. Stepping away from the lights of Sin City and back into reality, Ward's, like Forbes before it, believes the Leaf is Nissan's multi-billion dollar investment that may end up going down as a great effort that never pays off.

What are the odds of success for the Leaf? It's hard to say exactly, but if hybrids and their success (or lack thereof) is any indication, the Leaf has quite a challenge ahead. As Ward's guest commentator John McElroy points out, after a decade on the market, hybrids have captured only a marginal amount of sales – just 2.5 percent. That's ten years, seven brands and 20 different hybrids, yet only a minor fraction of total sales. McElroy adds that electric vehicles (EVs) are expected to face an even more difficult time cracking the market. But, even if you assume that EVs can match hybrids, the Leaf's impact appears minor, especially when you consider that other electric vehicles will compete for their piece of the pie.

Here's our take on it. Renault-Nissan has poured $6 billion into electric vehicle development and will likely hold the biggest chunk of that 2.5 percent. But a big piece of 2.5 percent is still mighty small. Leading us to wonder if Nissan is placing a risky bet on future success or just intent on using the vehicle as a marketing tool to show off just how "green" it is. If it's the latter, $6 billion is quite the chunk of change to get a point across. Still, the Leaf could lead to an electric future with the odds strongly in Nissan's favor – and that's a gamble worth taking.



[Source: Ward's Auto]


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  • 90 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      This discussion reminded me of something amusing:

      We went to Disneyland a few months back in Southern Cal and stood in line at "Tomorrow Land" waiting to drive "Autopia". As we inhale gasoline fumes we just had to laugh out loud...and thought, wait, maybe we're really in Frontier Land...no, not quite right either...They should make a new land just for Autopia (sponsored by Chevron) "Irrelevancy Land", just so they can keep Autopia so future generations can can know what it was like for their grandfathers to go to work uphill, both ways, in a gasser, while sniffling carcinogenic fumes ;)



      • 4 Years Ago
      The problem with the conclusion of this article is that it presupposes that hybrid uptake will forecast electric vehicle uptake. This is wrong on many fronts- most notably that U.S. fuel economy standards have become much more stringent. This in turn requires auto manufacturers to offer hybrids or EVs as valid options throughout their entire vehicle lineups. Without these vehicles, the penalties for being below the mileage standard will be odious.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I put my reservation in on this "risky bet" a few hours ago and I'd like to agree with the post above that hybrid uptake cannot be an indicator of market response to EVs. For example, I have never considered a hybrid as a viable alternative to my current small ULEV II equipped car because the mileage was only marginally better, the overall environmental benefit is negligible by comparison and the costs are much greater. With a pure EV on the other hand, there is a definite economic benefit with regard to fuel/maintenance costs, EV driving in CA is more efficient than ICEs, plus there is the potential to drive with solar - which I've always regarded as the perfect end state for my personal automotive needs.

      By the way, Nissan extended the reservation period to 9PM EST to accommodate higher than expected demand. Looks like quite a few of us hand raisers have put their money down on the table!
        • 4 Years Ago
        I just received the email from Nissan at 7:37pm. What happened to 1-6pm?
      • 4 Years Ago
      So much passion! We all want to convince ourselves we are making the right financial decision. My passion is to finally see and purchase the solution that eliminates the need for gas, not just reduces it. I love the idea of an EV rather than a hybrid and have reached the point where I hate the oil companies so bad, that cost is no longer the factor! It will definitely be a second car until the range is extended but once battery production ramps up and price comes down, we could be adding a second battery as an option for range or God forbid someone actually developes and releases a cold fusion replacement for a battery. I am somewhat suspicious of Nissan's break from the pack mentality. Why do they jeopardize the ICE business with a solution like this. In my opinion they have opened up Pandora's box for the auto industry. Limitations on volume production is going to be the only constraint. All of the EV critics will point to the oil consumed for power production but if anyone is watching, there are so many nuclear startups being encouraged and approved by the Gov. that there is going to be a substantial transition coming in the near future. The next critique is spent nuclear fuel. Check out Bill Gates backing of Terra Power and a reactor that operates off of spent fuel! I can't believe the oil companies are allowing the price to remain high. Why not drop the price and watch everyone's developments tank!
        • 4 Years Ago
        "I can't believe the oil companies are allowing the price to remain high. Why not drop the price and watch everyone's developments tank!"

        You mean a repeat of what they did to kill electric vehicles 10 years ago. Trouble is, China and India have replaced us as the main driver of oil consumption growth. Plus there's that nagging little thing called Peak Oil.

        /In short, if they could have done that they would have done so by now. Instead, oil prices have gone up 78% this year (from $50 to $84.35 as I write this) - while our economy is by all accounts still in shambles. What will happen to the price of oil when our economy gets going full steam again? I think I can guess.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The price of gasoline is going to take off. All electrics will do fine, especially the Leaf which has a great quality/price ratio.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Yep. It is basically comes down to the price of gasoline. And except for the occasional overshoot, gas/oil prices only move in one direction.

        The Leaf may look a little risky now . . . just wait until 5 years from now. Nissan is going to look like they had great foresight.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I paid $99 to reserve my Leaf a couple of hours ago. I think it will do quite well.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Got my reservation in, too.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I also reserved today and echo Posterboy's comments, for what it's worth. I had never considered buying a Nissan before the LEAF was introduced (and pricing was announced).
        • 4 Years Ago
        Also reserved an SL for $99 the other day. It would be interesting to see how many people have put down some real money to reserve a Leaf. I wonder if Nissan will release figures on that at some point (delineated by state).
        • 4 Years Ago
        My reservation is in. I hope I never have to buy an ice again.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I paid my $99 as well. Before the LEAF, I never had any intention of buying a Nissan so I'd say Nissan's "gamble" is "paying off" for them pretty well right now. "No plug, no deal" meets "sign on the dotted line".
        • 4 Years Ago
        Reserved mine too.

        Didn't the reservation make it seem like only the more expensive model had the Quick Charge capability?

        I selected that one just in case - figuring I can change it later.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Put mine in....

        Nissan may make a profit in just reservations... hehe :P
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't think it's [i]that[/i] risky. Even if Nissan EVs were only 1% of the market a $2,000/vehicle premium would allow Nissan to recoup their initial six billion investment in six years. Look at the first gen Prius in Japan. According to some analysts Toyota lost upwards of a billion dollars in the first gen, broke even for the first gen in America, and made a billion the last year the third gen was produced, plus whatever they made before that. Not to mention that Toyota has a ton of hybrid vehicle patents. Other automakers either have to license their stuff through them, or use a different, anecdotally less efficient, system.

      http://www.businessweek.com/archives/1997/b3557013.arc.htm

      http://www.greencarcongress.com/2009/04/report-honda-toyota-earning-profits-on-hybrids.html

      http://www.allcarselectric.com/blog/1021889_toyotas-hybrid-patents-may-hamper-competitors
      • 4 Years Ago
      By my count off kbb.com, there are 383 models of automobiles for sale in volume production in the US. With only 20 models as hybrids, and many of those as low-volume Lexus offshoots, I'd say they're doing pretty ok if they have 2.5% marketshare.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I disagree. Hybrids aren't doing well at all (with the exception of the Prius of course).

        Your figure of 20 hybrids out of 383 models means that hybrid models make up over 5% of vehicle models. 5.22% to be exact. So they have managed to squeeze out 2.5% of a market that they make up 5% of.

        A recent article right here on ABG showed the lackluster performance of hybrids: in March hybrid sales rose 18% - but - regular light vehicle sales rose by 25%. So hybrids underperformed the market, despite a 38% increase in Prius sales.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Easy to see why hybrids don,t sell,they don,t show a real reason for existence. I put 2 weeks on a Saturn,it couldn,t decide what to do, or why.
      I want a plugin with a microturbine generator
        • 4 Years Ago
        Right on Len! The real issue is this: can you drive to work and back every day for a month and never use any gasoline?

        With the current crop of hybrids, the answer is a definite "no."

        With the Leaf and other EVs that can go at least 60 miles before needing to be recharged, the answer is yes.

        /That is my reason for seeing no reason for hybrids (at least the ones you can buy today, the two mode, parallel, motor assist kind). Series hybrids like the Volt, Fisker Karma, Raser fleet truck, and now the Alte series hybrid conversion, however, would be the only hybrid I'd concider.

        I just prefer EV because of its simplicity and efficiency. That will never be equaled in a hybrid.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I hope Nissan is listening because a 200mile range with heater going is what I need at 25K in price.

      Yes I realistically need 200mile range due to ever changing job sites and living in Michigan where it can easily go negative 15 or lower with wind chill in the winter.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Maybe in a couple decades, but right now that's like asking for a pickup that can tow 10,000lbs and only runs about $15k.
        • 4 Years Ago
        A 100 mile range for about $30k in a full featured car like the Leaf is fantastic for a first-generation vehicle. Like all new technologies, the performance will go up and the price will come down in the not-too-distant future.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The 100 mile battery pack is about $10k I think, probably will go down to $5k in a few years.. so your extra 100 miles would cost perhaps an additional $5k.

        Would you be willing to pay $37k for that 200 mile LEAF?... note that the $7500 fed credit will be gone by then and gas will be close to $5 a gallon, maybe higher.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Well, I don't think an EV is in your future. I think you'd be much better off the with the Volt. Support your homies!
        • 4 Years Ago
        "Would you be willing to pay $37k for that 200 mile LEAF?... "

        In a word. Yes, yes I would.
      • 4 Years Ago
      When will the Leaf actually be shipping?
        • 4 Years Ago
        December 10th 2010 the Leaf will be available in Oregon. There will be only so many available until 2011. We are special out here, we have many charging stations already. We are one of the communities the electrification coalition plan applies to.

        http://www.electrificationcoalition.org/index.php

        We are sooo special.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Mid 2011 I think.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I reserved an SL in silver
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