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USA: Price war on leasing plug-in cars

Though popular in Europe, the Chevy Spark EV will have a limited release in California and Oregon in 2013. It can be leased for $199 per month with $999 down. (Chevrolet)
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May 28, 2013, 8:11 a.m.

By Robert Duffer, Chicago Tribune

Do you pay more than $200 a month in gas? Would you lease a new electric vehicle if it cost less per month than filling up your tank? Automakers hope so.

Last week, Chevy added the Spark to the low-cost lease war for electric vehicles. The Nissan Leaf and Fiat 500e, as well as the Spark, can be leased for $199 a month. The Spark and the 500e require $999 down, while the Leaf costs $1,999 at signing.

The low rates across the EV board are meant to kickstart interest in the segment as a whole, which is still less than 1% of auto sales nationally. The interest is there, however. Over 100,000 EVs have been sold since late 2010; sales of EVs tripled in 2012, and analysts are expecting those numbers to double again.

Still, as with any nascent technology, the market has reacted with as much interest as reluctance. How do they work? What are the costs? How inconvenient is it? Am I going to be stuck with the next Beta video? Automakers are hoping to answer those doubts with lease offers that can end up costing them money, according to Brian Thevenot in the Los Angeles Times:

“They’re all going to do it – it’s the only way they’re going to move them,” said John O’Dell, who analyzes the green car market for auto information company “It’s affordable to the buyers, but only because the cars are being heavily subsidized by the automakers.”

It all adds up to tantalizing offers for consumers on the automakers’ dime, O’Dell said. “If you’re looking at $199 a month, and you look at what other cars lease for that, certainly they’re not making a profit,” he said.

The rush to sell the new slate of electrics, even at a loss, results from a complex set of regulatory and market incentives.”


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