Slow sales cast doubt on electric vehicles
Does GM's pause on Chevy Volt production spell doom for the Nissan Leaf and other electric vehicles?
General Motors' decision to suspend production of the Chevrolet Volt for five weeks because of oversupply is a bad sign for electric cars, including the Nissan Leaf, which is to be made in Middle Tennessee.
Sales for both the Volt and the Leaf have been disappointing, said Lacey Plache, Edmunds' chief economist. In 2011, GM sold 7,671 Volts, missing its target of 10,000. Nissan meanwhile sold 9,674 in Leafs in North America, far from the 20,000 it had hoped to move.
While electric vehicles have been popular with early adopters and environmentalists, they've failed to gain widespread appeal.
The reason, said Plache, is the price tag. There's a big price differential between electric cars and their gas-powered competitors. The Volt sells for $41,000. The Leaf sticker price is $35,200. Their gas-powered equivalents sell for about half the price.
"The payback time needed to recoup the price differential in gas price savings has typically been longer than the average person owns their car, which is about five to six years," Plache said.
Attempts to reach officials at Franklin-based Nissan North America Monday were unsuccessful.
Plache predicts a hard road ahead for the Leaf and Volt.
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