Nissan was the first to introduce an upgraded battery pack to one of the mainstream electric cars, the LEAF’s new 30 kWh pack, and was only recently followed by BMW with the i3’s new pack and soon the VW e-Golf with its 2017 battery pack.
We were expecting that the new 30 kWh pack, which brings the LEAF’s range to 107 EPA-rated miles, would help erase its poor sales performance in the US in 2015 with 17,269 units versus 30,200 in 2014, but as it turns out, Nissan’s LEAF sales are still in free-fall in the US and the Tesla Model 3 could have something to do with it.
Nissan published its US sales report for the month of May and confirmed that it delivered only 979 LEAFs – down 53.5% from the same period in 2015.
LEAF sales are now down 39% in 2016 versus the same period last year despite the availability of the upgraded battery pack and as previously mentioned, we need to take into account that last year’s performance was extremely disappointing and should have been easy to surpass.
Tesla’s reservation process for the Model 3 took a lot of people out of the market. Over 373,000 potential buyers, who presumably were on the market for a ~$35,000 electric vehicle, have now placed a reservation for the Model 3 and therefore are not likely to buy a vehicle for the next year or so while they are waiting for the new Tesla.
This is likely directly impacting the LEAF, which is in the same price range as a base Model 3: the new pack is standard on the LEAF SV and LEAF SL models which starts at $34,200 and $36,790 respectively. Nissan also still offers the 24 kWh pack option on the LEAF S, which starts at $29,010.
Nissan is quite aware of the situation and actually launched a new ad campaign last month to attract Model 3 reservation holders. The ads are directly attacking Tesla’s reservation process:
The automaker launched the campaign in the US during the last week of April and evidently, it didn’t have an impact on sales in May – or at least not a positive one.
While the LEAF’s new battery pack adds a welcomed boost in range, it’s 107 EPA-rated miles represent only half of the expected capacity of the Model 3, which is expected to be over 215 miles for the base model starting at $35,000.
But range is only one aspect and Nissan is expected to bring to market a new battery pack with a similar capacity as the Model 3’s around the same time of its launch in late 2017. The main problem is that the LEAF is in dire need of a refresh. It looks like the market grew tired of the bug-looking EV.