Detailed Price Information for Nissan LEAF
As the world's first mass-market and consumer-priced all-electric car, the Nissan LEAF starts at $35,200—and, when fully loaded, tops out closer to $40,000. As with most pure elecrric vehicles, the LEAF qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit—which you can claim on your federal income taxes if you purchase the vehicle yourself, but you will only qualify for the entire credit if you have a tax liability more than that amount.
The LEAF has also been available as a lease for $350 a month for 3 years with a $1,999 down payment. But in June 2012, Nissan announced a new attractive lease offer. Qualified customers can lease the 2012 Nissan LEAF SV (the base trim level) for $289 per month for 39 months with $2,999 in out-of-pocket expenses (excludes tax, title, registration and destination charge), based on 12,000 miles per year. That's a relative bargain considering that the LEAF SV retails for $35,200.
The lower lease reveals that Nissan is aware that it must dramatically increase the pace of LEAF sales if it's going to achieve sales targets for 2012. The company was hoping to sell 20,000 LEAFs, doubling U.S. sales compared to last year. In April 2012, Brian Carolin, senior vice president for sales and marketing for Nissan North America, told Detroit News that, "Our target has not changed." However, U.S. sales in the first half of 2012 only reach 3,148 units—nearly 20 percent below 2011 numbers, even though Nissan was trying to double the previous year’s sales numbers.
In July, several dealers in key markets began putting big incentives—discounts as high as $5,000—on the car. Paul Scott, a long-time EV advocate now selling LEAF’s in Santa Monica, Calif., doesn’t like the trend. “As with any product that is not selling as fast as producers would like, the price needs to soften to increase sales. I believe these cars are worth the MSRP, but clearly, most of the public does not,” said Scott. “Here at Nissan of Downtown LA, we are negotiable, but the $5,000 figure seems way out of line. I think that degrades the product in people's minds.”
Scott attributed slow demand to anti-EV media coverage, the recession, and falling gas prices. “All of these things have depressed sales,” he said. Scott still sees the LEAF as a great car, and said that his customers are “all in agreement that it's a fantastic vehicle that works as a primary car for virtually all of their needs.”
Nissan has had some leverage to reduce lease prices, because it is able to use the entire $7,500 tax credit as an additional down payment on the lease and then can claim the tax credit. In addition to the federal tax credit, many states offer additional lucrative incentives—including state tax credits, instant cash rebates, carpool lane access, and special parking privileges.
As with all cars running on electricity and an electric motor, the LEAF's operating cost per mile can be several times lower than a comparable gas-powered vehicle. Using the U.S. average electricity price of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, the LEAF will cost approximately 3-4 cents per mile to operate. Electricity prices are variable around the country and world, so you'll want to do your own calculations depending on where you live. The LEAF also benefits from having a relative handful of moving parts compared to a car with a combustion engine and drivetrain, and also lacks emissions equipment, which can add up to significant service savings over time—no oil changes or catastrophic mechanical failures.
The LEAF's closest all-electric competition is the upcoming 2012 Ford Focus Electric and, to some extent, the Mitsubishi i. The i sells for a considerable $6,000 less than the LEAF, although exact trim choice and options could reduce that advantage. Of course, the i is not nearly as much car as the LEAF. The Ford Focus Electric's price tag is $4,000 higher than the Nissan LEAF. Ford is producing fewer Focus Electrics, and will be probably be less likely to extend the discounts that have recently appeared for the LEAF.