For Arizona LEAF Owners, Selling Is No Longer an Option

By · September 22, 2012

Scott With LEAF

Scott Yarosh used to be a proud LEAF driver, until the car lost so much range that he could no longer complete his daily 45-mile commute.

Though several LEAF owners have succeeded in selling their vehicles in the wake of overwhelming evidence that the car frequently experiences rapid battery degradation in warmer climates, others haven't been so lucky. Over the last two weeks I've spoken to several frustrated LEAF owners in the Phoenix area who have tried to no avail to sell or trade their cars back to the dealerships they bought them from. In some cases, dealerships told them that they are unwilling to purchase any used LEAFs because to date, Nissan has offered no assurance that the problem will be remedied.

I called ten Arizona Nissan dealerships this week in an attempt to verify these claims. Several salesmen told me they had never heard of the battery degradation issue. Those that acknowledged the problem all stated a willingness to accept trade-ins on the LEAF—though none were able to say that they'd purchased one within the last month. A salesman at Avondale Nissan enthusiastically told me that he'd love to have more used LEAFs on his lot, and encouraged me to send any disaffected owners his way.

But the testimonials of the owners I've spoken to paint a very different picture. One driver—who requested to remain anonymous for fear of compromising his chances at a settlement with Nissan—claimed to have received a maximum offer of just $14,000 for his car, which he has owned for less than a year. According to this owner, Coulter Nissan expressed no interest whatsoever in purchasing the car, while Chandler Power Nissan told him "there is no resale market for [the LEAF] at this point."

Another owner in the Phoenix area (who also requested to remain anonymous) told me he sold his car in July because of noticeable range loss after just 9 months of ownership and 8,000 miles. After struggling to find a reasonable offer from a dealership, he was finally able to unload his car for $19,000—roughly half of what he paid for it.

Michael Rabara, a former owner (and now lesee) who I quoted in my previous post about this issue, says he sold his car for about $25,000 back in June. Today, a car with similar mileage in the Phoenix area is selling for just $21,539 on Cars.com.

Last night I spoke to Scott Yarosh, who broke his lease on Saturday after losing enough range that he could no longer complete his daily 45-mile commute. Scott lost four bars of charge capacity, diminishing his range to just 42 miles. He paid a penalty of nearly $700 to get out of his lease.

Thankfully, in perhaps the first bit of good news to come out of this story, Scott recently received a phone call from Nissan's dispute resolution team offering to reimburse the penalty. Despite the refund, he still has a bad taste in his mouth about the experience. "As it is right now, I will never own another Nissan again unless they really go above and beyond to help the other owners out." The day before breaking his lease, Scott purchased a Volkswagen TDI, which he runs on biodiesel.

Still No Relief From Nissan

Given the drastically lowered resale value of the LEAF in Arizona, owners in the area have limited options. The fate of their ownership experiences—and the substantial investments they made to help support the adoption of EVs—are in the Nissan's hands.

When we reached out to the carmaker for comment last week, we received the following statement via email:

"Nissan has been working hard to understand some LEAF customers' concerns in the desert southwest. We've tested a number of individual vehicles and will be contacting those owners to discuss their individual results in the near term. We also anticipate having more information to release to the wider Arizona customer base soon. We are taking Phoenix customer concerns seriously and are working hard to ensure their full satisfaction."

The communication closely resembles the same statement Nissan has been issuing since these battery issues first started to receive press attention several months ago. Despite the company's promises to resolve the situation, the lack of specifics or willingness to share any of their findings thus far have understandably led owners to panic—threatening to impede the momentum of the greater vehicle electrification movement.

UPDATE (09/23/12): Nissan has released an open letter to the LEAF community. You can find it posted at the MyNissanLEAF forums here.

Yesterday, Green Car Reports posted an interview with Nissan's Mark Perry about the degradation issue. In it, Perry states that the common thread connecting the seven cases it has investigated is that the cars in question had all accumulated more than 19,000 miles over the course of a year—significantly more than the 12,500 miles Nissan says it estimated the average LEAF would be driven each year. It should be noted however that there are also multiple claims of battery loss from drivers who have accumulated less than 12,500 miles, including a driver I spoke to in the above post, who says he experienced noticeable capacity loss after just 8,000 miles of ownership.

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