Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Nissan Leaf slashed to $39,990 drive-away

Leaf's new $39,990 drive-away pricing is $15,000 cheaper than when it arrived less than 12 months ago.

But anyone who bought one has just had thousands of dollars wiped from the value of their vehicle.  Japanese car maker Nissan has slashed the price of its slow-selling Leaf to $39,990 drive-away, less than 12 months after it went on sale in Australia. 

The new RRP equates to $36,000 before on-road costs are added, which makes the Nissan Leaf at least $15,000 cheaper than the $51,500 price it was introduced at locally in July 2012.

Nissan Australia then dropped the price of the Leaf to $46,990 in December last year, but that too failed to spark sales.

In a last ditch effort to get Australians to buy a car that runs purely on electricity and has a maximum driving range of 160km, Nissan has gutted the price to within $3000 of a Toyota Prius petrol-electric hybrid (which starts at $33,990 but stretches beyond $40,000 on some models).

"We want to sell more," said Nissan Australia spokesman Peter Fadeyev. "We want to stimulate the market."

However the 116 pioneer buyers who paid full price and have already taken delivery of a Nissan Leaf may not be so happy about the price cut because it will immediately affect their car's already weak resale value.

"Early adopter" customers will not be reimbursed the price difference, Nissan says. When asked if those Leaf customers brave enough to take an early punt could look forward to a cheque in the mail, the Nissan spokesman said: "No. New car prices change. We reserve that right like all car makers."

Electric cars were hailed as the saviour of the automobile with their reinvention in the modern era five years ago, with some companies claiming up to 10 per cent of all new cars sold by 2020 would run on electric power.

But the limited driving range and high cost of the battery technology -- which has pushed up the price of electric cars -- have blunted their appeal in Australia and overseas. And the most informed forecasts are now at less than 2 per cent by 2020.

The car industry now says electric cars with "range extending" petrol engines are the next phase of hybrid cars and will find broader appeal.

Vehicles like the Holden Volt can be driven a distance of up to 88km on electric power alone before a petrol motor takes over, to give an overall driving range of about 400km. But for all its tech savvy, the Volt's local appeal is limited somewhat by its $60,000 price.

Mitsubishi and others have adopted a similar plug-in hybrid philosophy with their new generation hybrid cars.

Toyota, the world's biggest seller of hybrid vehicles, also has plans to introduce a plug-in version of its Prius that can travel 20km on a single charge before switching to petrol power.  Today's Prius can drive about 1km on battery power alone. The plug-in Prius has been sold in limited numbers locally and overseas but should reach the mainstream when the new model arrives in three years.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling