No matter how you spin it, the Nissan LEAF is selling in depressingly low numbers in the United States – U.S. consumers bought or leased just 395 LEAFs in July. That’s right, just 395 in the entire USA!
There are a lot of reasons for this: Gas prices are too low; the LEAF is too expensive for too large a percentage of Americans; America is a land of short-term thinkers who will never see the long-term picture on anything, whether we’re talking about EV fuel savings or climate change; and, perhaps most damaging, the LEAF’s 70ish mile range is too little, psychologically, for 95 percent of Americans who will never buy the argument that most of them drive 40 miles or fewer per day and that the LEAF therefore offers sufficient range . . .
Unless, of course, a lot of these frustratingly-difficult-to-convince American drivers who really don’t need a car with a longer range than the LEAF (c’mon, half of them are in two car households for crying out loud!) but who, psychologically, absolutely believe they need more range, could literally be shown that the LEAF works for them.
A crazy idea
Enter a crazy idea from SolarChargedDriving.Com: Give these folks a totally free month in a LEAF. Yes, that’s right Nissan, convert the skeptics by putting them behind the wheel of a brand new LEAF for a full 30 days. Absolutely no payments and no strings attached. Just pure, and free, electric driving for 30 straight days.
Sure, Nissan would have to work out a bunch of things – say, insurance for the car, the problem of homes without a charging station, uneducated consumers, credit score issues, the fact that not every single person who got a free, no-strings attached 30-day Nissan LEAF test drive would opt to buy or lease a LEAF, etc.
Nissan’s got a clear problem here: Beyond the eager-beaver early adopters, there simply aren’t enough Americans willing to put down a ton of money to find out whether an EV actually works for them.
But these are total and complete minutiae, you know, things for a cadre of high-paid lawyers and marketing folks to work out. What really matters here is getting more people into Nissan LEAFs and converting them to an electric mindset, convincing them, by literally showing them, that an EV works for most of them, indeed, works smashingly well.
Drive electric & you’re hooked
Our “crazy” idea is simply a logical extension of the whole “once you drive electric, you’ll never go back” spiel, one we’ve heard one EV driver after another mouth. In other words, it’s not crazy at all.
Nissan’s got a clear problem here: Beyond the eager-beaver early adopters, there simply aren’t enough Americans willing to put down a ton of money to find out whether an EV actually works for them. [To be fair, Nissan’s not alone. Mitsubishi has sold fewer than 500 iMiEVs in the U.S., Ford isn’t bothering to do much with the Focus EV, and Honda is only allowing a tiny number of folks in a handful of states to lease its Fit EV.]
Offer a free month’s test drive on the LEAF and – poof – the problem of people not willing to even try a LEAF is gone. Sure, you’ve got some other challenges – most notably, could this all be done cost effectively.
EV future not here yet
But those are details, details, details. These are far overshadowed by what appears to be a massive miscalculation on CEO Carlos Ghosn’s part, namely that EVs are the future — as in the future is here now — of the automotive industry.
At best, the LEAF ship, indeed, the entire pure EV ship, appears to be severely listing, and, at worst, threatening to sink completely (though, if the totally hot 85 kWh Tesla S Model with its 270ish mile range was actually affordable right now – we know, a total pipe dream – this would completely change everything, and we do mean E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G!).
What really counts right now, what’s really, really important is doing whatever it takes to right the listing LEAF ship. This means Nissan’s gotta do something totally fresh, new, and radical – or those millions of folks for whom an EV would, in fact, work, and work really, really well, but who psychologically aren’t ready to take a $30+k dive into “range anxiety” (or a $17k dive via a lease), will never, ever take that dive. Not a chance.