Via ABG, first test drive and review of the American spec car:
2018 Nissan Leaf Quick Spin | Another fork stab into the light socket
The Leaf is improved in all ways, but is this the EV that will energize car buyers?
Utility is about the least interesting reason for buying a new car. There's no exhilaration in signing up for 60 months of financing on an appliance that will never inspire passion. There's no joy in looking forward to taking something for granted. So, here's the second-generation 2018 Nissan Leaf — the all-electric future of ordinary. Don't get excited. No, really. Don't. Get. Excited.
While much has evolved from the first- to second-generation Leaf, it's what hasn't changed that's most important. The Leaf, in form and function, is still an economy car — a five-door hatchback in a world where the almost meaningless differences between a five-door hatchback and a five-door crossover somehow matters. People buy crossovers, and ignore the hatchbacks on dealer lots to get to them.
Nissan could have jacked the new Leaf up on its suspension, bolted on some off-roady-looking all-season tires, added some cladding and called this thing an electric crossover. Or even do what Chevy did with the Bolt EV and call it a crossover even though it clearly is not. At least some buyers would have been tempted by a "Leafinder" or "Rogue E" who otherwise wouldn't consider a plain old Leaf. So count that as a strategic marketing opportunity missed. . . .
What's frustrating here is that while the agony of this rollout persists, there's still reason to be suspicious that the electric car market is, in fact, a viable one. Worldwide, electric cars represented a puny 0.2-percent of the total car market despite such incentives as the $7,500 the United States government kicks back to those bold, brave or batty enough to buy one. It's hard to believe that this new Leaf will inspire a new wave of enthusiasm for electric cars.
There's plenty of talk about mandating electric cars in France, China and California, and there's probably been a half-dozen hyped-up announcements since you started reading this sentence. But sooner or later, buyers have to find electric cars so attractive that they'll dump their internally combusted dreams solely based on the zappers' merits. Only Tesla has drilled into the market consciousness to pull that trick off so far. And that's with vehicles that, as good as they drive, are as much virtuous status symbols for the wealthy as real cars.
Nope, we're not there yet. American buyers are bound to show up at Nissan dealers, look at the $30,000+ plus price tag on a loaded Leaf SL (even after the $7,500 bribe) and then walk over and buy a $31,710 top-of-the-line Rogue that has more room, drives great, will go about 400 miles between fill-ups and refuels in a few minutes at any of America's 168,000 or so gas stations.
Whatever government mandates lie in the future, the new vehicle market is still millions of people making individual purchasing decisions. Decisions that usually include taking on a load of debt for a machine they're actually excited to own for five, six or seven years. Most electric cars simply aren't able to attract those buyers. At least not yet. And it seems doubtful that the new Leaf will change that.