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L.A. Auto Show: Are electric vehicle prices about to drop?

November 30, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch

Don't be surprised to see a decline in electric car prices over the next several months.

When Chevrolet introduced its Spark EV at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, it said the car will sell for less than $25,000 after a federal tax rebate. That would be lower than the prices of electric vehicles on the market now, although there are attractive lease deals.

The Leaf starts at $28,550 after the federal tax credit. California buyers get an additional $2,500 state rebate. Nissan also offers the Leaf through a 36-month lease for $199 a month with a $1,999 down payment in some regions of the U.S.

A week ago, Nissan disclosed that the version of the Leaf electric vehicle it sells in Japan will see a price drop and an increase in driving range per charge.

VIDEOS: 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show

In the first 10 months of this year, Nissan sold 6,791 Leafs, 16% fewer than in the same period last year. Sales of electric vehicles of any brand make up an almost immeasurably small fraction of U.S. auto sales.

Outside the West Coast, the limited support for electric vehicles and their required infrastructure have made Leaf sales more difficult than expected, said Brian Carolin, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Nissan North America.

Carolin said Nissan will reveal more details about improvements to the U.S. version of the Leaf at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January.

Mark Reuss, the president of General Motors' North American operations, expects to sell only a few thousand electric Sparks -- mostly in California, because that’s “where the interest and infrastructure is.”

“The range has to grow and the cost of the battery has to come down” for electric vehicles to catch on with consumers, Reuss said.

GM has yet to announce the range for the Spark EV, but the automaker said it would be among the longest ranges of the battery electric vehicles on the market.

The Leaf can travel about 73 miles on one charge. The electric version of the Honda Fit can travel 82 miles on a charge, according to the EPA. The Ford Focus electric has a range of 76 miles, and the Mitsubishi i MiEV has a range of 62 miles.

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