Kelley Blue Book projects that the 2013 Nissan Leaf will retain 35 percent of its sticker price after 36 months. That is 5 percentage points below the 36-month projection Kelley set at the end of 2011 for the 2012 Leaf.
Eric Ibara, Kelley's director of residual value consulting, says the company trimmed its predicted residual value for the 2013 Leaf because wholesale prices of the 2011 electric car have hovered in the mid-30 percent range for the past few months.
Prices of used Leafs softened in recent months for several reasons:
- Gasoline prices have held steady below $5 a gallon.
- Nissan North America cut the price of the base 2013 Leaf to $29,650, before a $7,500 tax credit, from $36,050 for the base 2012. Both prices include shipping. The 2013 is built in Smyrna, Tenn., whereas earlier Leafs were imported from Japan.
- Used-car shoppers haven't embraced the car.
"Demand for a new Leaf is driven by vehicle enthusiasts, early adopters, people who are concerned about the environment," Ibara says. "But when it comes to a 2-year-old used electric vehicle, practical considerations greatly outweigh the novelty of new technology."
- Nearly new Leafs in auction lanes put downward pressure on prices.
Some rental car companies bought Leafs but quickly sent the EVs to auction after customers shunned them, agree Ibara and Ricky Beggs, managing editor of Black Book.
Over the past six months, Beggs says he has seen many 2011 Leafs cross the auction block with fewer than 10,000 miles, and some with as few as 1,200 miles. Beggs says Black Book data show the average auction price of the 2011 Leaf SV in mid-May at $13,700.
"There were some Leafs purchased by a rental car company that didn't get a high amount of usage," Beggs says. "The rental company had committed to buying, so almost immediately after the rental company took delivery they got remarketed."
Neither Ibara nor Beggs would identify the rental company.
Enterprise Holdings, which owns the Enterprise, Alamo and National rental fleets, has bought Leafs under a "program" agreement, spokeswoman Christy Cavallini says. That calls for Nissan to buy back those vehicles at the end of rental service and assume the financial risk when they are remarketed.
She says the Leaf does well at rental sites specializing in alternative fuel vehicles and markets where infrastructure is being built to support EVs. But the company's neighborhood locations found that people were interested in renting the car for a day to try it, but didn't rent it for vacations, she says.
Cavallini says Enterprise at one time had "a few hundred" Leafs in its fleet, but has trimmed the count as it waits for the 2014s. When those arrive, she says, "we'll have about the same as we had before."
Avis Budget Group said it had no Leafs in its rental fleet. Hertz Global Holdings Inc. did not respond to a query.