Thanks to the drama lower prices at the pumpthe average American household should spend $750 less on gas in 2015 than last year. We have already seen how some of this “saved” money is spent, with Restaurants, casinos, hotels and recreational activities all seeing a bump in business lately. Cheap gasoline also appears to have influenced expensive purchasing decisions, as is evident from the spike in SUVs and luxury cars Sales.
It’s a whole different story, however, when it comes to the impact of cheap gasoline on electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf. Nissan just released its February numbers and brand sales were up 1.1% year-on-year. Sales of the all-electric Leaf, however, fell 16%. This follows a 15% decline in January, the first of its kind drop in sales for the Leaf in two years. Overall Leaf sales fell from 2,677 for the first two months of 2014 to 2,268 this year.
The recent sales performance of the Chevrolet Volt, the gasoline-electric pioneer that rivals the Leaf for the title of most popular plugin among buyers, was even worse. January was the worst month for the Volt since August 2011, with only 592 units sold, a decrease of 41% compared to January 2014. According to General Motors data, 693 Volts sold in February 2015, a decrease of 43% compared to 1,210 the previous year.
Admittedly, the prospect of new Chevy plug-in models has hurt Volt sales recently. the All-electric Chevy Boltwhich is expected to cost $30,000 and get 200 miles on a single charge, is expected to hit the market in 2017, while the Volt 2016 should be available for purchase in the second half of 2015. Many potential Volt buyers are simply waiting for the new model, which can go 50 miles on electric power, compared to 38 miles for the current model.
This explains some, but not all, of Volt’s sales decline. Certainly, cheap gas prices hurt sales of the Volt as well as the Leaf, other plug-in vehicles and even hybrids like the Toyota Prius to start. After all, one of the main reasons to buy an electrified vehicle is that fueling it costs less than filling it up at the pump. Consequently, when the gasoline prices fallas it has done month after month for almost six months recently, one of the main arguments in favor of the plug-in path is weakened.
It’s not just the new plug-in models that have been beaten thanks to a combination of cheaper gas prices and new emerging technologies that are making older models look obsolete in a hurry. According to the wall street journalthe resale value of used electric cars has completely dropped:
Nissan leaves the the best year of all plug-inswith Leaf sales in the US topping 30,000 in 2014. The way things started in 2015, it will be tough for the automaker to beat last year, however. Nissan blamed bad weather for the Leaf’s recent struggles, and he expects a strong rebound in the spring. Meanwhile, in early 2014, Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan said he expects to sell an average of 3,000 sheets per month that year and purchase 4,000 sheets per month in the near future.
Despite recent sales, Nissan isn’t giving up on electric cars anytime soon. Neither do many other automakers. At auto show in geneva this week, BMW, Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler were among automakers showcasing high-tech battery-powered vehicles that demonstrate their commitment to electrified cars.
At one point, rising gas prices will likely direct more interest towards alternative fuel cars as well. But it hasn’t happened yet. “Gasoline prices rose slightly this month, but that didn’t seem to have much of an impact on buyers’ choices,” said Jessica Caldwell, principal analyst at Edmunds.com. said in a report focused on February sales. “We continue to see a strong market for trucks and SUVs, especially compact crossover SUVs, which continue to ride an impressive wave of popularity.”
At least if the Leaf and Volt are in trouble, Nissan and GM can take solace in the fact that some of their larger, less fuel-efficient and less eco-friendly siblings are doing quite well this winter. cheap gas, cold temperatures and lots of snow. Two Nissan SUVs, the Pathfinder and Rogue, had record months of sales in February, while GM pickup sales rose 37% for the month.