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Suddenly, it’s a three-car race for electric-powered dominance

Tesla joins Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt in the race for electric car sales. After a record-breaking March for the Nissan Leaf, sales of electric cars dipped in April.

The race for acceptance of electric vehicles has gone from a two-car competition to a three-car free-for-all.

For the second month in a row, the Nissan Leaf beat the Chevy Volt in sales and could soon take over in sales year to date. Now, luxury carmaker Tesla Motors is joining the fray. Even though sales of electric cars cooled in April, the appearance of Tesla is livening up the competition.

“It’s a neck-and-neck race for those three,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book, in a telephone interview.

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Leaf sales dip after a record month. Nissan sold 1,937 Leafs in April, a 423.5 percent increase from a year ago, but down from March 2013’s record sale of 2,236 Leafs. March is always a strong month for Japanese manufacturers because it marks the close of their fiscal year, Mr. Gutierrez noted. So it’s no surprise that Leaf sales growth would slow a bit in April, which is typically a slower month for the industry overall.

Price is key to the Leaf’s recent success. In January, Nissan cut the Leaf’s price by $6,000, to $28,800. That’s significantly less than the roughly $40,000 price tag for the Volt. A $7,500 federal tax credit makes those numbers more appealing to consumers.

“With a strong April building on a record-breaking March, Nissan LEAF sales are now up over 160 percent year-to-date,” said Jose Munoz, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Nissan Americas said in a statement. “The wider array of trim levels and lower price driven by the start of U.S. LEAF production at our Smyrna plant are bringing more new customers to our showrooms every day.”
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