Nissan Leaf becomes the first EV to surpass 400,000 sales

Throwing the confetti for the long-running, mass-market electric car

Nissan said Tuesday that the Leaf surpassed 400,000 sales, making it the first electric vehicle to hit that sales plateau. Of course, it's also had a hefty head start over its closest competitors, the Tesla Model 3 and the Chevrolet Bolt, having first gone on sale in late 2010, and it has a few other advantages as well. Not to rain on the Leaf parade or anything.

Now in its second generation and sporting improved driving ranges, Nissan says Leaf owners have driven their cars more than 6.2 billion collective miles, equating to an estimated savings of 3.8 million barrels of oil per year. The battery-powered hatchback is now available in more than 50 markets across the world, with six new markets coming on board during the first half of 2019 in Latin America, and seven across Asia and Oceania by year's end. The Leaf was the best-selling EV in Europe in 2018 and the top-selling vehicle of any kind in Norway last year, Nissan says.

Nissan also builds the Leaf at three different plants globally: Oppama, Japan; Sunderland, England; and Smyrna, Tenn.

By comparison, a spokeswoman for Tesla said the company had built more than 150,000 Model 3s as of the end of 2018, with nearly 140,000 sold since it went into limited production in mid-2017, according to its most recent quarterly letter to shareholders. Tesla said December was the car's highest-volume month ever, with 63,359 Model 3s delivered in the fourth quarter. The company also has begun producing the vehicle for export to Europe and China, has begun construction on a new plant to build it in Shanghai, China, and it recently announced it would finally start selling the vehicle at its long-promised entry-level price of $35,000, making it competitive on price with the Leaf.

Meanwhile, General Motors sold 18,019 Bolts in 2018 and 23,297 in 2017, for a total of 41,895 since the compact EV first went on sale in late 2016. A spokeswoman says about 52,000 have sold globally in that time.

Nissan recently introduced the longer-range Leaf Plus for 2019, boosting range to 226 miles, up from 150 miles in the regular Leaf, courtesy of a 62 kWh battery. That puts it in the same range (pun intended) as the base-level Model 3's 220 miles of driving range, as well as the Bolt's 238-mile range. Sales of the Leaf Plus kicked off in Japan in late January, with U.S. sales set to start in the spring, followed by Europe. The model gets a roughly $7,000 increase in starting price over the base version to $37,445.

U.S. sales of the Leaf totaled 14,715 in 2018, up 31 percent from the prior year.

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