November Leaf Sales Gain More Ground On Flagging Chevy Volt

Is the value proposition of Nissan’s all-electric Leaf simply better than gen-one Chevy Volt as its sales are now leaving it in the dust, or is there more to it than that?

Since December 2010’s launch of the two alternate visions on weaning away from petroleum, they’ve exchanged places a few times, but Nissan has settled into a stride as most recently evidenced by its 2,687 November sales versus the Volt’s 1,336.

All this year Nissan has been closing a U.S. sales gap, though with the Volt’s 71,867 U.S. sales since launch, it still holds a diminishing lead over the Leaf’s 69,220, having long-since lost the global race with Leaf more than double at 150,000-plus.

For Nissan’s latest U.S. gap closing measure, its November sales are a 34-percent increase over last year and double the Volt’s volume. For Chevrolet, it slipped 30.4-percent from last year’s 1,920 in November 2013.

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Kelley Blue Book actually just named the Volt a better buy above the Leaf given all incentives, and the drive experience of the car itself, but everyone watching this car also knows an all-new 2016 model is due.

You may get a deal on a close-out Volt, and they’re discounting it already, and it is a good car already, but this is no ordinary car and improvements mean more in the eyes of would-be buyers.

GM’s first ever “extended-range electric” car is due for a facelift, more range, better economy, it won’t need premium gas anymore, and appears to have room for three to just squeeze in back for five total, instead of four. Or so it’s believed. We’ll find out Jan. 12, 2015 or sooner, and it goes on sale possibly late next summer, give or take.

Is that a recipe for holding out to see what’s next?

Meanwhile, Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn has just said it has a new chemistry that could “more than” double the present Leaf’s range. The battery could actually be built larger to allow for EVs to compete with “petrol” cars and “take the issue of range off of the table,” confirmed Nissan. But so far, there’s been much less news on this topic.

In follow up today with the Daily Kanban’s Bertel Schmitt located in Tokyo, he confirmed Nissan has not objected to his story that Ghosn is promising a radical improvement on the Leaf’s range not long from now. If his story had been misleading, he said, they’d not have hesitated to let him know.

Actually, it appears accurate, and Nissan may be concerned that if the news of a radically improved Leaf gained traction, and details were filled in, it could chill sales on the world’s best-selling plug-in.

As GM may be finding out, announced future changes to first-gen plug-in cars are not unlike rumors of iPhone 6 when iPhone 5s has been around for while. Plug-in car upgrades are not only mildly eventful like the difference between the 2011 Toyota Camry and 2012 Toyota Camry. Here we have an entire new type of car, and early adopters may have paid more, and learned to live with details – such as range and recharge times, etc. – that the masses have said they don’t want to.

And truth is both these cars – the Leaf and Volt – are due for upgrade, with the Volt changing over first while less attention on this fact is being placed on the Leaf. Thus far.

Also not helping it is the fact GM does not advertise the Volt much if at all outside of California, its largest market, and its marketing efforts have been deeply criticized by early adopting Volt supporters.

All this said, both these cars do meet needs now. We’ve heard from scores of their owners to know that. But, they remain niche players while people waiting on the sidelines want to see what’s next.

So, to answer our opening question which has the best value proposition? That’s a personal decision, but if sales speak louder than words, Nissan is presently winning, whether the deck is stacked against an also-excellent gen-one Volt, or not.