• $289 per month for SV, $319 per month for SL; $2,999 down, 39 month term.
  • After one year, Leaf holding 95% of purchase value.

With only a relative handful of plug-in cars available for purchase at this point, every month their sales numbers bring out the pundits to decry their death or hail their success. The reality is that it's a new car segment and it's going to initially grow in fits and starts like any other new car segment-such as hybrids did when they were introduced a bit more than a decade ago.

For the record Nissan says it has sold as many Leaf electric cars as it has made in the one factory currently producing them in Japan for global delivery. But as the company switches North American sales from an online reservation system to the more traditional model of walking into a dealership and buying one off the lot (or ordering a customized one), its sales numbers have been a bit lackluster with only 510 of sold in May-far below last May's level of 1,142.

Nissan attributes this to trying to meet demand around the globe from one factory while subsequently trying to get new stock into dealer lots and thinks sales will tick back up the rest of the year, but even so they're not pulling any punches when it comes to trying to make the Leaf a more enticing buy. While the best leasing rate available for the Leaf used to be $349 per month, the company has just rolled out greatly reduced rates to help bring in new customers.

At $289 per month the new lease for the base SV trim is the most enticing, however that's also the least popular trim (less than 10% of sales, according to Nissan). The upgraded SL trim, with popular additions such as fast charging and solar panels, comes with a still-affordable $319 per month lease. Both leases require well-qualified applicants, $2,999 down and a 39-month term with a 12,000-mile restriction per year. Tax, title, registration, and destination fees are not included in that price.

At the end of this year two more Nissan factories around the world, including one based in Tennessee, will start producing Leafs and their batteries and should take significant pressure off the one Japanese factory currently tasked with building them for the entire world. At that point monthly sales numbers should become more of a reflection of actual demand for the Leaf and less of a snapshot of which country got the most Leaf shipments that month.

For those of you still on the fence about whether or not to take the plug-in plunge over worries about how the cars will hold their residual values, NADA Guides has just published one-year residual values for both the Leaf and the Chevy Volt, which has them maintaining a huge proportion of their value. In the case of the Leaf, it is holding 95% of its value whereas the Volt is holding 90%.

Although the 2011 Leaf retailed for around $33,000, NADA subtracted the available $7,500 federal tax credit to obtain an average net sticker price at the time the car was sold of $25,280. NADA now says the average trade-in value of the 2011 Leaf is $23,975, or just about 95% of the original tax-credit adjusted retail price. It may seem strange to calculate residual value in this way, however most consumers who outright purchased the car would have recieved the full $7,500 back when they did their taxes-and that value has to be accounted for somewhere.

What it means to you: With attractive new lease prices and excellent residual values it may be time to finally act on your urge to purchase or lease a Nissan Leaf.

author photo

Nick Chambers is a "next generation" car enthusiast, recognized for his green automotive coverage in Gas 2.0, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, HybridCars.com and PluginCars.com. In addition, he's been syndicated in Matter Network, AP and Reuters.

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