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Plugging in to Bargains

Automakers’ loss is consumers’ gain.
Jim Motavalli

Consumers intrigued by electric vehicles—but put off by their high prices—might want to take a second look. Automakers are highly motivated to move the plug-in product to meet looming California zero-emission mandates and federal fuel economy standards. Their willingness to lose money on every sale spells major lease bargains for buyers—how does $199 a month for three years sound?

That low price applies to some highly regarded battery-powered subcompacts, including the Fiat 500e, the Chevrolet Spark EV, the Nissan LEAF and the Smart Electric Drive. Honda has its own version of a great deal—an all-inclusive $259 a month for the Fit Electric Drive plus a 240-volt garage charger (worth $995 by itself), with no money down and unlimited mileage. (The Spark, Fiat and LEAF require deposits and mileage limits.)

Especially in California, by far the EV leader, the bargain prices led to temporary shortages of some popular models. There’s a real uptick after sales were in the doldrums for months, but the loss leaders may not last.

“Right now all the car companies are doing an internal calculus of how much they want to spend kicking up sales of electric vehicles,” says Jack Nerad, executive editorial director at Kelley Blue Book. “Given the economics of such vehicles, it is highly doubtful that any car company is making money selling them. The general sentiment seems to be, ‘Let’s just sell what we need to be in compliance and then move on.’ ”

Toyota Financial's George Borst made a calculated bet on auto leasing when competitors panicked. Read the story on

Post date: 
Sep 16, 2013


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