NASHVILLE -- Nissan's bold move into electric vehicles this decade looks like a sales flop to many. But don't tell that to Ted Christiano, executive manager of Boulder Nissan in Boulder, Colo.
"The Leaf now accounts for 80 percent of the new cars we sell here," Christiano says. "We're doing a great business with them."
Christiano's store is doing everything right in selling the Leaf, including reaching out to EV-friendly consumers via social media and sending sales consultants into the community to show people how an EV works.
"I'd like to have more EV models from Nissan," Christiano says. "How about an all-wheel-drive EV?"
Christiano is selling 200 to 300 new Leafs a year. If all 1,100 of Nissan's U.S. dealers sold that many, the automaker would have to build a bigger Leaf factory.
Instead, the company last year sold 14,006.
The difference in realities reveals something profound about the U.S. market for EVs. In the big scheme of auto sales, few Americans have embraced the notion of battery-powered personal vehicles such as the Leaf. But on the other hand, there are thriving pockets of the market where EVs are in demand.
In Seattle, the Leaf is outselling the brand's volume-leading car, the Altima. In Kansas, Delaware, New Jersey, Minnesota and Connecticut, Leaf sales have risen by double and triple digits in the past few months, according to Brian Maragno, Nissan's director of electric vehicle marketing and sales.
Jeff Rosen, longtime owner of Rosen Nissan in Milwaukee, admits he has never sold many Leafs. But last year, he opened a store 80 miles away in Madison, Wis., where he suddenly finds himself in the Leaf business.
"It's amazing the traffic we get from the Leaf there," Rosen said. "Madison is a very green-conscious market. It differs from area to area in the country."