Is the Nissan LEAF Really Outselling The Chevrolet Bolt EV in the U.S.? Some Context To A Math Problem

It’s the start of March, which means we’ve recently seen the release of official U.S. sales figures for the month of February. And with that release came the unexpected news that the General Motors sold less Chevrolet Bolt EVs during February than Nissan sold LEAF electric cars.

As soon as the Bolt EV (alongside its 238-mile EPA approved range and $37,495 price tag) hit the market, it was expected that the aging Nissan LEAF (with just 107-miles of EPA-approved range) would suffer a dramatic drop in sales as customers dug deep to find the extra few thousand dollars to buy a car with substantially more range. But February’s sales figures suggest something else has happened.

What’s the reason for this apparent disparity? Are people less enamored with the Bolt EV than it was thought? Or are there some other underlying causes (like limited availability and competing lease deals) that are causing a sales anomaly?

Watch the video above to find out our take.

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  • Martin Lacey

    I see you were wireless charging during the shoot!

    If I may correct you Nikki, GM are not making Bolts as fast as they can – it’s still being made on a shared assembly line and they are not working a three shift system.

    Could you do a piece on what gear you use to make your vlogs? You do have a good quality production!

  • Albemarle

    I agree with you Nikki about the car’s differences. Here in Canada, there is at least a $10,000 price difference and often a willing dealer discount on Leafs. Having said that, it’s a fair price difference for EVs with such a different range. My friend just bought a Leaf EV because he really didn’t need the extra range of the Bolt but liked the $12,000 difference in price he got. Government rebates are pretty close so he did well.
    The Bolt EV is in very limited supply here. Smaller dealers can get only 1 or 2 of them until summer, larger dealers can get 7 to 10. So they are not sticking around on dealer lots. Our local dealer can get 1 and then no more till the 2018 come out in August. To try and compare two cars, one with general availability and the other on allocation, is silly.
    I can hardly wait to see the press covering the Tesla Model 3, since they are all pre-sold for years to come. You just can’t buy one for years.

  • Griff

    Good analysis Nikki.
    I expect that the Bolt numbers will improve significantly once it becomes widely available as well. I also think that the Bolt is causing an increase in Volt sales. After all the Volt is more comparable the the upcoming Tesla Model 3 than the Bolt. The Volt still offers a decent daily EV range with no range anxiety (or search for charging stations) on a road trip.
    GM needs to market the Bolt as an EV CUV and not take on Tesla directly.

  • Chris O

    “GM is making cars as fast as it can sell them”. Than what explains the inventory build up during February with nearly 2,000 EVs in stock in the 5 states they’re sold according to some sources? Definitely indicates a demand rather than a supply problem. The demand GM expected in the states it’s currently available just appears to be lower than GM expected. Nationwide roll out will solve that demand problem but early signs are that Bolt is not shaping up to become a sales hit.

    Not surprising with Model 3 just around the corner that will offer at the same ~$40K price tag a car that actually looks like a $40K car and has the benefit of serious quick charge capabilities plus the support of the sort of high output charging network that goes with such capabilities. Frankly one would have to be mad to pay sticker price for Bolt considering what Model 3 will do to residual value. More interesting are those bargain lease deals that should be available pretty soon now as GM resorts to plan B to move the compliance metal.

  • dlwatib

    GM admits that they are losing money on each Bolt sold, so it’s very likely that Bolt is not selling well due to a combination of lack of availability and lack of dealer enthusiasm. They didn’t produce a very attractive or stylish package, probably for that very reason. Of course, the Leaf is also more quirky than stylish, so that’s probably not the problem. A certain segment of the market will even drive a Pontiac Aztek if it meets their other requirements!

    Reviews indicate that the Bolt’s interior is not very impressive, with the seats being noticeably narrow and thinly padded, and the overall impression rather cheap and plastic-y. This could be a deal breaker for some people, especially those who prefer the Leaf interior. Chevrolet’s lack of CCS charging infrastructure could also be a deal breaker for some people. Nissan dealers have CHAdeMO stations on site, and they are plentiful elsewhere in the US too. Not so CCS. Nissan’s No Charge To Charge program is also mentioned favorably in reviews. GM offers no fast charging support whatsoever. My understanding is that even the CCS charging port is an extra cost option ($750) on the Bolt.

    The other consideration is that the Bolt is too near the price and range of the Model 3 not to be compared to it, and the comparison is not favorable to the Bolt. In most areas they are equally unavailable, making other considerations even more acute. Most people would rather plunk down $1000 and wait for the Model 3, or buy a used Model S available now.