Electric vehicles (EVs) for the masses are still all about affordability.
The Nissan Leaf, the first mass-market EV, has been popular since it went on sale in 2010. And as demand for used cars spikes in the US, that pattern is continuing: In 2020, the bargain-basement Leaf ($13,054 for the average used model) kept 28% of the US used EV market. Even in Tesla’s home state of California, the Leaf is outselling Tesla’s lineup.
That’s not a knock on Tesla. The California carmaker has sold more than a million vehicles, most of which start well north of $50,000, and claimed the crown of the world’s most valuable carmaker this year, with a market capitalization of $385 billion towering above even Toyota. In the last three years, the carmaker’s total EV sales dwarf those of the Nissan Leaf, 11 to 1.
But it does reveal an unglitzy truth about the car market: Price is most people’s first consideration. The automotive research company iSeeCars analyzed over 54,000 used EV sales from 2019 to 2020. The Nissan Leaf remains the most popular used EV in 18 of the 25 states with the highest share of EV sales.
That’s a function of both price and availability. Relatively few Tesla vehicles have hit the used car lots. Although the carmakers have manufactured a comparable number of Nissan Leafs (142,000) and Model S (164,000), Tesla owners have held onto their cars longer. For the 2012-13 model, three times more Tesla Model S owners kept their car than Nissan Leaf owners, reports iSeeCars.
Yet the volume of Tesla models now entering the market is likely to change the equation. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say America’s EV market belongs to Tesla. Nearly half of EVs sold in American since 2012 bear the Tesla logo. As the Model 3 has roared to bestseller status, the model’s share of all US EV sales rose to 62% (not including Tesla’s premium Model S and Model X). Eventually, of course, those new Teslas will hit the used car market, and the Nissan Leaf may finally lose its last hold on the top of the bestseller list.