In Discouraging Trend, Nissan Dealers Discount LEAF Price
In the past few days, I’ve started seeing reports that some Nissan dealerships are offering steep discounts on the Nissan LEAF. While this could mean great deals for a few EV buyers, the move to drop the price—by as much as $5,000 off MSRP—could call the long-term health of the EV market into question. These spiffs are on top of a federal tax credit of $7,500, and a $2,500 rebate in California.
The website homepage of Fontana Nissan in San Bernardino, Calif. Advertises a LEAF available for “$13,000 off MSRP.” GreenCarReports said that Fontana, as well as North Bay Nissan in Petaluma, Calif., and are offering $5,000 off MSRP for any in-stock LEAF. Campbell Nelson Nissan in Seattle, Wash. is offering charging equipment bundled with a lease.
Paul Scott, a long-time EV advocate turned LEAF salesman, 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.”
Nonetheless, the need for dramatic price reductions is discouraging. “We all know what the end game is, but it's frustrating as hell to have gone through those years trying to get the carmakers to build EVs,” said Scott, “and then when they do, the public yawns and says, so what?”
Alan Baum, an auto industry analyst with 25 years of experience, said it’s too early to read a lot into these dealership incentives. “There are always dealers that have too much of one vehicle and not enough of another,” he said. “That’s not news.”
Baum suggested that perhaps a couple of dealers “got ahead of themselves” by taking more volume than they wanted. “Now, they’re trying to deal with it.” Baum believes the verdict on EV popularity won’t be determined until electric vehicles are available in a wide range of styles and segments.
The discounts are emanating from dealers, and not from Nissan. “If prices are going to change, Nissan wants to be the one to do it, so they can control the markeing.” said Baum. “Nissan would want to put a program behind the shift, coordinating it with new vehicle features or giving away charging equipment. Otherwise, it all becomes a hodgepodge.”
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