Future Cars

A Leaf Falls In January: After 23 Consecutive Increases, Nissan USA Reports Leaf Decline

2015-Nissan-Leaf-550x366In the same way that consecutive games without a point draw attention to the fact that Sidney Crosby previously achieved a 25-game point streak, the Nissan’s Leaf slight decline in the lowest-volume month on the calendar shines a light on what was a 23-month streak of year-over-year improvements.

Leaf volume slid 15% in January 2015, a 182-unit drop. On a monthly basis, Leaf volume increased every month between February 2013 and December 2014, year-over-year.

It’s not a high-volume car, the Leaf, but it’s not so exclusive as to be called rare. Leaf volume has risen beyond 1000 units in each of the last 23 months. Average monthly U.S. volume measured 2911 units in the second half of 2014, up from an average of 2129 monthly sales in the second half of 2013. Leaf volume shot above 3000 units in May, July, August, and December of 2014. (The Chevrolet Volt has only topped the 3K mark once, in August 2013. Toyota has only sold more than 2000 Prius Plug-Ins in a single month twice.)

In fact, that high December output – U.S. sales jumped 23% to 3102 in the final month of 2014 – was partly to blame for the Leaf’s first decline in two years. “Increased demand in December from customers looking to take advantage of federal and state incentives at the end of the tax year pulled some sales ahead,” Brian Brockman, senior manager of corporate communications for Nissan, told TTAC yesterday. And while Nissan doesn’t see low fuel prices having long-term impact on the EV market, Brockman said, “We are also seeing some short-term effects of historically low fuel prices on EV demand among buyers who are solely focused on the economic benefits.”

Some? In the case of the Leaf, very little at all. Even in January, the lowest-volume month for the Leaf since February 2013, the all-electric Nissan still outsold a long list of conventional cars, SUVs, crossovers, and vans, including a large number of Nissan products: NV, Q40, Armada, Xterra, Titan, Quest, Q70, and many more. The Leaf sold more than twice as often as the approaching-replacement Volt (not that the Leaf is a spring chicken), 43% more often than the Scion FR-S, more than three times more often than the Volvo V60.

Leaf-sales-chart-550x360The Volt, FR-S, and V60 aren’t exactly mainstream machines. But that’s not really the point. In a slow month for the Leaf, it was wildly more popular than truly rare cars. In a slow month for the Leaf, it outsold approximately 47% of all passenger car nameplates in January. In a slow month for the Leaf, it outsold all-electrics like the Mercedes-Benz B-Class, Volkswagen e-Golf, Smart Fortwo EV, Fiat 500E, Chevrolet Spark EV, Ford Focus EV, Kia Soul EV, Toyota RAV4 EV, and Mitsubishi i MiEVcombined.

It’s worth noting that while HybridCars.com estimates that Tesla sold 1300 copies of the Model S, the Tesla is mostly alone in its electrified nature at the Model S’s price point. The same can not be said for the degree of direct competition faced by the Leaf. Indirectly? Toyota, for instance, sold more than 12,000 total Prius family cars in January.

Regardless of what the competition manages, Nissan would prefer to see Leaf sales continue to improve. Crosby fans also want to see Sidney do more than record points in back-to-back games after being held scoreless in five of six. That’s The Truth About Hockey.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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