Nearly 400,000 people have given Tesla Motors a $1,000 deposit on the Tesla Model 3, an all-electric sedan that is not yet being built and that won't be ready until late 2017 at the earliest.
This irks Nissan, which has been making the all-electric Leaf sedan at its Smyrna, Tenn., plant since 2010. The Leaf sells for as little as $22,360 after a $7,500 federal tax credit. The Tesla Model 3 will sell for about $35,000.
Nissan is trying to turn Tesla's unceasing hype against it with a series of ads that began today in major newspapers.
“No one should have any reservations about getting an electric car today,” trumpets the Nissan ad. "And why drop $1,000 to stand in line when you can get $4,000 cash back and best-in-class range?"
While the ad tries to make points at Tesla's expense, it no doubts results at least partly from the angst, remorse, and downright frustration that Nissan, General Motors, and other electric pioneers must be feeling about now.
Nissan has invested $5 billion around the world to produce battery modules and electric cars and vans. General Motors, of Volt and Bolt fame, has also spent billions and, by some estimates, was at one point losing $49,000 on each Volt it sold, based on a construction cost that industry obervers put at $89,000.
The Volt includes a gasoline engine that functions as a back-up generator and gives the car a range of more than 300 miles. The all-electric Bolt is expected to have a range of about 200 miles.
But for whatever reason, electric cars have just not caught on with consumers. The current slump in gas prices has reduced the economic incentive to pay an extra $10,000 or so for an electric car and not too many consumers are sufficiently fervent to subject themselves to a small, somewhat cramped electric car when they could be riding around in a ridiculously obese, unstable, and unsafe SUV.
Leaf's U.S. sales were down 43% last year to just over 17,000 deliveries, barely 10% of the 150,000 annual sales Nissan had expected. Chevrolet sold just 2,114 Volts in December.
Maybe Nissan's ad will deliver a jolt to sales. Then again ...