The cost of electric vehicles (EVs) remains a major concern for the general public.
Since its introduction in 2010, the Nissan Leaf, the world’s first mass-market electric vehicle, has become a hit. That trend is continuing as demand for used cars in the United States rises: The bargain-basement Leaf ($13,054 for the typical used model) kept 28 percent of the used EV market in the United States in 2020. The Leaf is outselling Tesla’s entire lineup, also in Tesla’s home state of California.
That isn’t intended as a critique of Tesla. With a market capitalization of $385 billion, the California carmaker has sold more than a million cars, the majority of which start well north of $50,000, and has claimed the title of world’s most successful carmaker this year, surpassing even Toyota. The carmaker’s gross EV sales have surpassed those of the Nissan Leaf by an 11-to-1 margin over the last three years.
However, it reveals an unglamorous fact about the car market: most people’s first concern is price. From 2019 to 2020, the automotive research firm iSeeCars looked at over 54,000 used EV sales. In 18 of the 25 states with the largest share of EV sales, the Nissan Leaf remains the most popular used EV.
This is determined by both price and availability. Only a few Teslas have been seen on used car lots. Despite the fact that Nissan Leafs (142,000) and Model Ss (164,000) have been produced in similar numbers, Tesla owners have kept their cars longer. According to iSeeCars, three times more Tesla Model S owners kept their cars for the 2012-13 model year than Nissan Leaf owners.
However, the increasing number of Tesla models on the market is likely to change the equation. It’s not an exaggeration to claim that Tesla owns the electric vehicle market in the United States. Since 2012, the Tesla logo has appeared on nearly half of all electric vehicles sold in the United States. With the Model 3 roaring to bestseller status, the model now accounts for 62 percent of all US EV sales (excluding Tesla’s premium Model S and Model X). Of course, those new Teslas will eventually reach the used car market, and the Nissan Leaf’s last claim on the top of the bestseller list could be shattered.