Nissan LEAF Sales Overtake Chevy Volt’s in April

By · May 03, 2011

Volt and LEAF

It’s still way too early to establish long-term market trends on competing electric vehicles, but based on April sales numbers, the Nissan LEAF has for now overtaken the Chevy Volt in popularity.

We are getting ready to publish a full set of hybrid, clean diesel and plug-in sales numbers for the monthly market dashboard on Here’s what we already know: General Motors sold 493 Volts in April, representing a decline from the 608 sold in March. Meanwhile, Nissan bumped up deliveries of the LEAF from 298 in March to 573 in April 2011.

Therefore, this is the first month since LEAFs and Volts started selling that the LEAF outsold the Volt. Automotive News reported that the decline in Volt sales was due to G.M. shipping demo models to Chevy dealerships for test-drives. (G.M. has long stated that the Volt is designed to bring in new Chevy customers to dealerships, even if those shoppers end up buying other models.)

The total number of plug-in sales in March was 1,067—the first time that sales broke into four digits. This figure includes one official purchase of the Mercedes A-Class E-Cell. There are zero official sales of the Smart ED (Electric Drive) in April, although 35 have been reported to date.

All told, since December 2010 when plug-ins first went on sale, there are now 2,797 new grid-enabled vehicles on U.S. road. The pace will have to rapidly accelerate to meet manufacturers' projections, and the U.S. government's ambitious goal of 1 million EVs by 2015. Based on reports of recent LEAF shipments, we expect Nissan’s EV sales numbers to considerably pick up in May.


· · 7 years ago

For most families that already have a gas car, I think the Leaf makes more sense. They can use the Leaf on a daily basis, and the gas car when they go on a road trip. The Leaf is cheaper, uses no gas at all, and in California, gets you in the carpool lane.

I would buy a Plug-in hybrid to replace the gas car, only after having a pure EV. But I want my plug-in hybrid to have 4wd so I can go to Tahoe without putting on chains and also for the occasional dirt roads on road trips. Hoping the Escape PHEV will become a reality for that.

Nissan supposedly re-opened Leaf reservations on May 1st. I'm still waiting for my invite.

· JJJJJJ (not verified) · 7 years ago

There numbers are getting more and more worrisome every month.

Im pretty sure at this current rate, EV market share is actually DECLINING (ICE sales saw a massive jump this month)

For reference, lets look at the Fiat 500. New company (for us)....but with a bad history. No dealership network. A single car with a niche appeal that is being manufactured for the first time (the US model is very different from the european one).

March sales, 500. April sales, 882.

How was fiat able to ramp up sales and distribution at a faster rate than Nissan and GM?

Im worried this is no longer a supply problem, but a demand one.

Maybe $40,000 really is way too much.

I just cant see any of the sales goals being met.

· · 7 years ago

If this is a demand problem, give me my Leaf! I'm waiting to get my hands on one.

· · 7 years ago


You do realize that it's not a demand issue, it's a supply issue. Neither Nissan nor GM are making the Leaf or the Volt fast enough.

· Guy (not verified) · 7 years ago

It is NOT a sales problem. Dealers in Austin, Texas are quoting 7 months to two years to get a Volt. They are "sold" out of 2011 allocation - but of course these cars aren't delivered yet so they don't count as "sold".

· JJJJJJ (not verified) · 7 years ago

Travisty, and why arent they? As I said, other automakers have no problem ramping up production. When Nissan launched their brand new Juke last year, they started out with 4,000 and went up from there.

So if there is demand, then these companies are intentionally holding back supply.


It might be because they have a set capacity (say, 100,000 cars a month) and why produce 1,000 Volts with a profit of $2,500 each, when you can make 1,000 jukes for a profit of $5,000 each.

(All numbers made up to illustrate)

It might be an attempt to create demand by making their product scarce. Sort of like how the prius is now being advertised (at least here) as a scarce product. Only 7 left, come in before theyre all gone!!!

A waiting list supposedly builds hype.

Just ask tickle me elmo.

· · 7 years ago

@JJJJJJ I don't know why GM is not ramping up fast - But Nissan had produced a lot of Leafs (over 8,000) and sold them in Japan, EU & US. Ofcours, the earthquake will reduce the rate of production a bit.

BTW, can anyone get figures for Leaf sales in Japan & EU ? We got some figures for Japan in Jan & Feb. Nothing after that.

· Max Reid (not verified) · 7 years ago

If the plugin sales exceed 1,000 units in April, then its a great news. In another 9 months, we will have both Focus EV and Miev. Especially with Miev priced at 28K, it may sell well.

Looks like EVs will compete head to head with Hybrids soon. Its high time, GM reduces the price of Volt.

JJJJJJ : Who told you that Juke gets 5K profit and Leaf gets 2.5K. Can you show me the link. Overall, vehicle sales have jumped only 13% and I am sure Hybrids would have increased even more. Meanwhile sales of Big SUVs have gone down.

National average Gas price is 3.967 today, so expect Plugins & Hybrids to increase dramatically as the production in Japan is restored and new models like Prius V, Sonata and Civic Hybrids are launched.

· JJJJJJ (not verified) · 7 years ago

Max, I wrote
(All numbers made up to illustrate)

Im just pointing out that a manufacturer will always promote the product with the biggest profit margin.

In GMs case, this may be using the Volt to draw people in, and then steer them to a higher profit vehicle. A customer will only buy ONE car. Why sell them the Volt when the cruze can bring home more profits?

EVNow brings up another point. Due to the current state of the dollar, every Leaf sold in Japan is more profitable than any leaf sold in the US. So they have an incentive to focus only on Japan, and send a token unit or two to america.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

JJJJJJ, the reason Fiat can ramp up sales is a little thing called the supply chain. The supply chain for ICE vehicles is very mature so many companies can big on work whereas some of the components going into the Volt and Leaf are one of a kind. GM has publicly stated they only have one supplier for many parts of the Volt and the price is WAY ABOVE its cost. GM has said they believe they can drive down the costs of the 2nd generation Volt by making many of these components themselves.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

JJJJJJ, the reason Fiat can ramp up sales is a little thing called the supply chain. The supply chain for ICE vehicles is very mature so many companies can bid on work whereas some of the components going into the Volt and Leaf are one of a kind. GM has publicly stated they only have one supplier for many parts of the Volt and the price is WAY ABOVE its cost. GM has said they believe they can drive down the costs of the 2nd generation Volt by making many of these components themselves.

· · 7 years ago

So GM designed an electrical car so that they can get people who really want an electrical car to visit their store and then try to pressure sell them in buying an ice vehicle.

Glad to see that GM finally is trying to stop "killing the electrical car".

· · 7 years ago

And I really hope there is a demand problem so that I can get my leaf. ;)

· VaMom (not verified) · 7 years ago

I am guessing that the Leaf sales will not be able to keep up with Volt sales going forward (assuming GM decides to actually make a few Volts!!!) The Leaf is manufactured in Japan, and Nissan was able to send over a full load of Leafs that had been completed just before the big disaster there (9.0 earthquake, tsunami, ongoing nuclear emergency). Electrical power there has been greatly reduced by the loss of the 6 reactors at Fukashima and rationing will be significant as Japan heads into the hot summer months.

It is unclear whether the Volt will be similarly affected (by supply issues from Japan.) Although the Volt is fully manufactured in the US, its Lithium Ion batteries require a particular rare earth element that may have come from Japan.

Stay tuned.

· JJ - Can (not verified) · 7 years ago

From reading the above posts, I would go with following theories:

- They will sell the Leaf to countries with the best exchange rate on the dollar.
- The nuclear and tsunami crisis in Japan preventing expansion.
- The specialized parts needed for these cars holding back production.
- They didn't expect-plan for this level of demand.

· · 7 years ago

One of the limiting factors for EV production is battery packs. It takes awhile to scale the battery manufacturing up, while ICE parts are available in large numbers from a wide variety of suppliers. So, of course, ramping up production of a new ICE vehicle is easy. (Even so, the production of many car models, especially Japanese brands, has been limited by quake damage to the controller chip plant.)

For Leaf production, at least Nissan is building assembly and battery plants in Tennessee. If they can begin production next year on schedule, supply problems in this country should be reduced. Until then we will just have to be patient. Why is that such a problem?

· · 7 years ago

@dutchinchicago, "So GM designed an electrical car so that they can get people who really want an electrical car to visit their store and then try to pressure sell them in buying an ice vehicle."

Sort of, except that the Volt was intended to draw interest from car buyers who might not be interested in a pure EV anyway and get them to buy a cheaper Chevy Cruze or some similar car. That has been GM's strategy all along: the Volt is a form of "greenwashing". Nothing new there. It has been getting a lot of good press for GM ("car of the year" awards and the like), so it has served its purpose well.

However, at least the Volt is a respectable, if expensive, vehicle that will use a lot less gas than a regular car for many drivers. So it is "real" in that sense.

· · 7 years ago

GM isn't the only company that hopes their EV will bring in sales of other models. Carlos Ghosn has also said that he expects their whole line to get a boost from the LEAF. The more people that walk into showrooms, the more cars they sell. If the LEAF can garner enough interest to bring people to Nissan dealerships just to look at this new "electric car", then it will most certainly boost sales of other Nissan cars.

· · 7 years ago

Brad, it would be nice to have a little more context about how these numbers really represent supply/production, not consumer interest. I can easily see many casual or biased media outlets (I'm looking at you Fox) pointing to articles like this and saying, "Ha, no one wants the Volt, Government Motors sucks" etc..

· · 7 years ago

@Tom, No doubt that Nissan does hope for interest in the Leaf to draw car buyers to dealerships (when they can get enough Leafs to have them on display, that is). IMO the difference is that the Leaf is a real EV and the Volt, misleading name notwithstanding, is just another hybrid. Does GM have any plans to produce any pure EVs? Not that I've heard.

You drive a pure EV. Do you think that there could be a market for them someday, that they could fill the needs of millions of drivers in this country? My sense is that GM does not, hence the very complex, ICE maintenance requiring, PHEV Volt. (If thinking that makes me a cynic, so be it.)

· · 7 years ago

@dgp: I'm with you. With the LEAF, you pay much less than the Volt, get a larger battery pack, much more EV range, less weight, and less maintenance. For "extended range" we can drive our 50 mpg Prius; as a family, we need more than one car anyway. So it seems to me that when sales are no longer constrained by production, the LEAF could very well end up outselling the Volt. We are certainly enjoying our LEAF.

· max (not verified) · 7 years ago

I agree that the Leaf will outsell the Volt. I am very willing to wait for the Leaf and will not buy any hybrid. I also think Nissan has underestimated the demand for the Leaf. In my opinion the demand is already up to at least the half million Leafs per year mark at this early stage. Perhaps whenever Nissan does open orders up to the general public we will find out where Leaf Sales are headed. Personally, my opinion is that the Leaf and the Volt are not really comparable. However, we keep seeing comparison.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 7 years ago

Characterizing the sales figures as "popularity" is misleading, if the sales are severely limited by the supply. Basically this is a measure of how many cars are delivered to the backlog of customers. That's not really a measure of "popularity".

· · 7 years ago

dp: I think both cars serve a market segment. I know pure EV advocates that bought a volt and love it and some that wouldn't even consider it. There are definitely people buying volts that wouldn't but it if not for the generator.

Yes, the Volt is a hybrid, no doubt about that, but it's certainly not "just another hybrid". It has a plug, and that separates it in my opinion from any other hybrid available. The ability to use electricity from the grid, or your own solar array makes it much better than hybrids that do not have a plug. A friend of mine has a volt and has 2,000 miles on it and has used 7 gallons of gas. He works about 15 miles from home and charges 110v at work. He single, it's his only car and he likes to drive to the Jersey shore in the summer(90mi each way) so he couldn't live with a LEAF. The volt works for him. It's obvious GM thought they needed to hedge their bet on EV's, worrying that the pure EV market might not be big enough yet to support one. GM is experimenting with pure BEV's make no doubt about it. They will be ready to bring one to market if they demand raising and are certainly watching LEAF sales very closely.

Yes I certainly think there will be a market for millions of EV, but as much as I love mine, I don't think the market is nearly that big yet. It's going to take a lot of folks a while to warm up to them, and part of that will be from people that are the early adopters speaking up about how much they love their EV. Advertising isn't going to make people feel comfortable with a new technology, talking to friends that have experienced it, and like it will. Personally I have convinced many friends and associates to consider buying one once they are readily available.

Do I think GM will make and sell a pure EV? Absolutely, whether they want to or not doesn't really matter, they will have to in order to be competitive.

· max (not verified) · 7 years ago

I doubt GM will make and sell a pure EV until it is very clear how high the demand is. That is one reason I expect the Leaf to show the world the potential sales. I have noticed just since I made the decision to buy a Leaf as soon as possible and really started mentioning the matter to friends and peers the positive reaction. It has been amazing and I quickly realized the retired folks are the real gold mine out there in the market for Nissan. For many, many retired folks like me the Leaf is just the purest ideal because we do not have the pressures of daily working life every day. This makes our daily routine more flexible to charge a pure EV! Every single retiree I have talked to about the Leaf ends up saying at some point, "So where do I get it?!"

· · 7 years ago

Finally able to reserve my Leaf today, now the waiting game continues.

· max (not verified) · 7 years ago

congratulations guy! I am in north Carolina so it will probably be a while yet for me. It is a long awaited day and will be a great feeling when it is finally ordered! Did they give you a delivery date? max

· · 7 years ago

@max They didn't give me a date yet, just a confirmation number that secures my spot in line.

· · 7 years ago

@Jose G
Don't believe anything Nissan says. I got my reservation confirmation number on April 20th, 2010 and now i'm being skipped ahead of be more people who are in the initial release states. Complete BS.... why I'll probably get a Focus EV at the end of the year.

· max (not verified) · 7 years ago

guys I was wondering if there is any way to gain any insight at all from reservations? I suppose not. As N. C. is one of the planned next stage states at least I have some hope of eventually getting one! I suppose being on the east coast area is a bad thing as it is much easier for Nissan to ship into a port on the west coast and deliver them there when all of them are coming from Oppama Japan. I am beginning to get the feeling Nissan should be a bit more honest with folks about when someone like me can hope to get a car. I am beginning to think I may not really have a chance to buy a Leaf until that Tennessee plant opens. Has anyone heard of when they are to start production on the leaf?

· JJ - Can (not verified) · 7 years ago

And Max, no more oil changes and car repair scams (I hope)

· · 7 years ago

@max: Congratulations on your LEAF reservation. The Smyrna, Tennessee plant probably won't be producing the LEAF until more than a year from now, so my guess is that your LEAF will come from Japan. From what I have heard, if you are able to reserve now, you might be able to take delivery within eight months or so. We should be seeing Oppama production ramping up. Hopefully.

· max (not verified) · 7 years ago

@JJ: It is exciting to think of lower maintenance and that has really attracted me to the Leaf and was instumental in my decision to buy. I suppose someone like me who drove pure JUNK cars almost all their life right into retirement will find driving a Leaf a real joy in a true unique way! I will hang in there and wait for the chance to order my Leaf and not be tempted by the Volt. I remain hopeful that N. C. will be able to see shipments from the Oppama plant but if it means waiting for one from Smyrna plant I can wait that long. It will be interesting to see what cars are actually being parked for the most part and taken off the road by each leaf which is sold. We may never know. My LEAF when it comes, will reduce both a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Lincoln Town car to garage, antique, very little driving under 500 miles each year on those two. Who knows the impact just that one Leaf has! And I am just one buyer.

· max (not verified) · 7 years ago

@Tom: Today has been a day of over a dozen folks talking about wanting to order their Leaf and most are retired. Same words from all generally about their decision and it comes down to long range lower fuel costs and anger at the big oil prices. As soon as almost anyone, even hard core long term gas guzzler folks, figure the cost savings of any where from one thousand bucks to five or six thousand a year fuel cost savings over the price of gas the result is always the same. Folks realize you can pay a lot of finance charges and a lot of other bills in these difficult economic times with that savings. And folks are just plain angry about gas prices. Anger is as good a reason as any to buy a Leaf I think! Certainly, what you will spend on the electric bill can hardly be compared to the savings on gas. This is the first car ever sold to the general public which literally pays for itself in savings and that is enormous. Folks really realize that aspect. And it is true in every sense and the Prius or Volt or any hybrid cannot say that really to the same degree. IT IS AN ENORMOUS ECONOMIC MATTER THE LEAF HAS TO FUEL SALES!

· JJ - Can (not verified) · 7 years ago

Max... those are good points.
1 - I'm angry that here in Canada the oil companies get tax breaks while charging us through the nose for gas prices.
2 - I'm angry at all the money I've spent getting unnecessary repairs and the problem doesn't get fixed. And just all the money spent on any repair and maintenance over the years that I'll be saving on when I eventually get an EV.

One guy once wrote on another page that I don't maintain my vehicles.
I guess he hasn't driven as many cars as I have.
All of mine were used, bought from people I knew and were well maintained.
But when something goes wrong and I'd take it for repairs, they'd often misdiagnosed the problem, even at the dealership with their diagnostic computers.

If you haven't already done so, take a look at the DVD: Who Killed the Electric Car. I got it at the library and the Bonus segment about all the parts you don't need to replace (exhaust parts, spark plugs, oil, etc) was quite an eye opener for me and is what got me hooked on EV's. Some of the people featured in this DVD write on this website.

On the bright side of your wait, maybe it will give Nissan some time to work out some bugs.

· Tim Wright (not verified) · 7 years ago

How refreshing . . . a forum with contributors who can write and spell with no doltish recriminations being exchanged. Nonetheless, it appears to me that the writers represent - at least for the present - a very small segment of auto buyers. (Your forebears were the initial buyers or early adopters of Prius and Insight models.) I still have reservations about overcoming the laws of physics in battery technology and weight, as well as replacement costs of same.

· · 7 years ago

@Tim Wright, I am inclined to believe that battery technology and pricing can and will improve somewhat over the coming years. However, the plain fact is that current technology is already good enough to provide EVs that meet the needs of most drivers most of the time.

An EV doesn't have to be able to handle all kinds of trips, including very long ones, to have considerable utility. No breakthroughs in the chemistry and physics of batteries are necessary to make EVs viable, they already are now. And I have little doubt that economies of scale will lower prices as battery production ramps up, making EVs more affordable over time.

· · 7 years ago

@Tim Wright (not verified) "I still have reservations about overcoming the laws of physics in battery technology and weight, as well as replacement costs of same."

I think battery will double in density and halve in price every five years ... you can call that EVNow's law ;-)

Lithium, if oxidized uncontrolled is exothermic and gives out as much energy as would a similarly sized gasoline fuel. Only think is we don't want to burn out Lithium, but want highly controlled - reusable - Lithium. Current 24 kwh battery that Leaf uses has the energy equivalent of 2/3rd a gallon of gas.

Li-Air can theoretically get to ten times or more of the current energy density. The new NMC battery Nissan is working on is already 50 to 100% better than the current battery they have in Leaf. That next gen battery will be on the road in 3 to 4 years.

I think a 400 mile battery @ $4,000 is likely by the end of this decade.

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