NZ switch to electric vehicles stalls after Nissan pulls plug on NZ Leaf sales

New car buyers have been left without an "affordable" electric vehicle option after Nissan stopped selling the Nissan ...

New car buyers have been left without an "affordable" electric vehicle option after Nissan stopped selling the Nissan Leaf in New Zealand, a lobby group says.

Electric vehicle sales have slowed after Nissan stopped selling its Nissan Leaf electric vehicle in New Zealand, according to lobby group Drive Electric.

Many fleet managers wanted to buy more electric vehicles, but had been left without an affordable option after Nissan pulled its Nissan Leaf electric car from the New Zealand market in November, said Drive Electric chairman Mark Gilbert.

The Leaf had been selling for just under $40,000, but the cheapest option for fleet managers was now a Mitsubishi Outlander "hybrid" petrol-electric car that sold for $60,000, he said.

There are currently 1015 electric vehicles (EVs) registered in New Zealand.

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Many of the EVs still entering New Zealand were secondhand Leafs imported from Britain and Japan by private buyers, Gilbert said. Three-year-old models typically sell for about $20,000.

But fleet managers, who accounted for about 60 to 70 per cent of new car sales, wanted to buy new, he said.

Nissan New Zealand managing director John Manley said it had stopped selling the car for commercial reasons.

The company had been able to sell the Leaf for $40,000 last year because it had been able to source some vehicles on good terms from Australia, where the Leaf remains on sale, Manley said.

But he said that price had never been sustainable.

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The fact Nissan had to compete with secondhand imports from countries where original EV purchases were subsidised also impacted the economics of stocking new EVs, he said.

The decision to stop selling the Leaf was "commercial and regrettable", but Nissan could not provide an EV at the right price with features that suited the New Zealand market, he said.

"Our decision was not based on any action, or perceived lack of action, by the Government."

Nissan is developing a second-generation Leaf but that is not expected to go on sale for at least a year and it is not yet known what it will cost.

The Government is still developing a package of measures to boost the uptake of EVs which it had originally hoped to announce before Christmas.

But Manley said he understood the measures would be "very soft".

"The industry is aware it is not going to be a substantive package," he said.

"They will provide some support via education and trying to encourage infrastructure."

Manley said that view was based on a number of discussions with Transport Minister Simon Bridges and with other ministers and officials. "While they are supportive of electric vehicles they are not [considering] realistic subsidies."

Lower oil prices had reduced people's motivation to consider alternatives to petrol cars and Manley did not believe there was strong demand for EVs, even from fleet owners, at prices that were currently achievable.

Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said that while Nissan had said its decision to stop selling the Leaf was purely commercial, "it's clear that if the Government was doing something real to encourage electric cars the cost/benefit balance would be different".

"There is a huge opportunity for electric vehicles to cut our contribution to climate pollution and our $6 billion annual oil import bill but the National Government is being left in the dust," she said.

Gilbert said Drive Electric wanted the Government to boost EV uptake by making people pay more to buy or register "gas-guzzlers" and providing corresponding incentives for low-emission vehicles.

It also wanted the Government to set targets and a "road map" for EV uptake, both generally and within the government fleet.  

The delay finalising a package was not necessary bad, Gilbert said.

"We would rather they get it right rather than have a knee-jerk reaction. In some ways it is probably better to wait."

 - Stuff

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