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Nissan expands its free charging promotion as electric car competition from Tesla and others heats up

TechCrunch TechCrunch 5/07/2016 Mark Lelinwalla

To say that Nissan is watching Tesla’s every move would be an understatement.

The Japanese automaker started this month with a splash, announcing it is expanding its No Charge to Charge promotion to include 11 new markets, such as Las Vegas, Cleveland and the car capital of Detroit to name a few. The program offers new Leaf drivers two years of free public charging with the purchase or lease of the all-electric vehicle.

Nissan’s announcement comes a month after Tesla CEO Elon Musk broke the disappointing news to prospective Model 3 owners during pre-registration hoopla that the impending electric sedan will not offer free supercharging with its $35,000 base sticker price. That’s opposed to Tesla’s pricier Model S and Model X vehicles, which do include complimentary use of the automaker’s sprawling supercharging network. So, the Leaf’s expanded promotion is directly mashing the dash against Tesla one could say.

The Leaf’s starting price of $26,700 — after the federal tax credit of $7,500 — and now an additional 11 markets following the No Charge to Charge program’s initial 10 cities in July 2014, make Nissan’s electric program all the more intriguing. The Leaf has already enjoyed quite a bit of success, after all, with Nissan citing its global sales of upwards of 224,000, including 94,000 in the U.S., claiming it’s the “world’s best-selling electric car.” Now that Nissan’s charging network is offering two free years, the Leaf’s sales could see additional growth.

“We know that public charging is a key element in providing additional range confidence for electric vehicle drivers, and free public charging is a great way to make Nissan Leaf an unrivaled value for the average American driver,” said Brian Maragno, director of Nissan’s electric vehicle sales and marketing in a press release statement.

That being said, Nissan and Tesla will have to combat the overall decline of EV sales due to a slide in gas prices. According to a number of reports, two years of declining gas prices has led to Americans reverting to buying bigger cars, straying away from EVs and hybrids. In fact, Kelly Blue Book reported this past March that sales of hybrids and alternative-energy vehicles in the U.S. slid 13.2 percent last year in comparison to figures from 2014. Even the Toyota Prius — a poster car for bang-for-your-buck efficiency — has suffered, with sales dipping nearly 11 percent last year.

Within that, popular EV options such as the Leaf and Chevrolet Volt dropped 42.8 percent and 18.1 percent in 2015, respectively. Tesla, too, has felt the effects due to cheaper pump prices as its shipments from the first quarter to second quarter, which ended last month, dropped by 450 vehicles.

Let’s see if this Leaf promotion could spark a boost in sales and furthermore make Tesla re-think its Model 3 supercharging strategy.

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