Shoppers Say Chevy Volt Expensive, Nissan Leaf Ugly in Study

Green carsDespite their small share of total vehicle sales, the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius garner a lot of attention from new-car shoppers, according to J.D. Power and Associates' 2012 Avoider Study.

The study finds that gas mileage is the most important attribute shoppers are looking at now, surpassing older key reasons such as exterior styling, reliability and price.

That puts the Volt, Prius and Leaf in a good position as each are among the most fuel-efficient cars in the country.

The Prius recorded about 140,000 sales in 2011, but the Volt and Leaf weren't particularly big sellers last year. There are a lot of reasons for that, ranging from startup issues, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and other supply constraints. However, there are other issues besetting the fortunes of these green machines, according to the study.

Consumers think the Volt costs too much and that's why a lot of shoppers avoid the plug-in hybrid, according to the study. When people decide to skip over the Leaf or Prius, the most cited reason is the styling is unattractive.

Other shoppers said the Volt's and Leaf's diminutive cabins and lack of cargo space as reasons to avoid the vehicles. Shoppers don't like the Prius' performance, either.

For people who like the Volt, the most cited reason is its impact on a person's image; that's a good shout-out to Chevrolet's successful marketing campaign. The most cited reason for buying a Leaf is its low maintenance costs, and for the Prius, its reliability.

Other highlights of the study show that few Americans are avoiding domestically built cars, with only about 6% of respondents seeing it as a deterrent. The opposite is true for imported vehicles; about 14% of shoppers avoid imported vehicles, the highest level ever recorded by the study. That's probably due to the economic recession and the loss of domestic jobs, says J.D. Power.

Overall, some 43% of shoppers say they'll avoid an entire brand based on its perceived quality and reliability despite whether a given model within the lineup is reviewed well by car experts.



Yes I do like the Volt, but it IS too expensive. If it were in the high 20s, I would own one now.


i would think hte number one reason for not buying the leaf is the battery only nature. I'm sorry but most people use their cars on long highway trips at one time or another and the leaf just won't work, and many can't afford to have one car for city and one for highway. Plus, like the volt, it is way too expensive.


mike, one of my brothers and his wife now live in Manhattan and own a Leaf. They use it more than the other two vehicles they own, a Camry and an F250.

Their Leaf cost them $27K. The Camry cost them $30K and the F250 $49K.

Although it costs them $50 a month to charge the Leaf in the parking garage of their high-rise, it has saved them more than $50 a month in not having to gas up the other two vehicles.


I like the s class mercedes, but its too expensive. If it was $15,000 i would own one today.


I agree that it is impractical having an extra car just for local driving - also the additional insurance cost will be high. Tesla seems to be more on point with that - all of their battery options have much longer ranges than anything available now. Pricey, yes, but useful for a primary vehicle (the S sedan).


If gas prices stay stable volt nor leaf will ever be more than niche cars. Its that simple. The volt is expensive compared the average family car. We've known that for years and its not priced to be a mainstream family car.

Troy S.

I really wanted to like the Volt especially when it wa being marketed as getting 268 MPG by the then CEO. Next, marketing made the car seem like it was an electric car until its true drivetrain was revealed. Finally, GM din't want to admit the Volt had a fire risk problem and instead of calling the problem a RECALL, they called the fix a "safety enhancement".
I guess my point is this. Dishonesty and lack of transparency from GM on the Volt since its inception combined with the high MSRP is enough to not only steer me away from the Volt but other GM products as well.


@troy s.

you're right, they shouldn't have called it a 'safety enhancement'. they should have called it an 'anti-stupid enhancement' to account for dumb ass technicians who don't follow instructions. this is the same reason we have 'caution hot' written in 50 languages on our mcdonald's coffee cups.


how can people think the volt is expensive but not the leaf?? the difference in msrp is only about $4k.

Volt: $39995
Leaf: $35200

people pay that much for crossovers, minivans, trucks, and sports cars every single day without feeling like they've spent too much...

if americans suck this badly at math then our math teachers are a collective failure. actually, given how many americans seem to think they can buy mansions and bury themselves in debt, maybe our math teachers do need a talking to.

however, i think the cause of this 'misunderstanding' is that americans have become intellectually lazy...which is weird given the ready availability of information...hell 'google' is now a verb. they'd rather let someone spoon feed misinformation to them (media, loud friends, etc) rather than research it themselves to learn the truth.

at any rate, i hope gm's ad campaign highlights the cost and the true difference.



gm's initial estimates for volt fuel economy were set using the epa's test for gas only vehicles because none existed for electric hybrids. once the standards were in place, of course the numbers adjusted. gm's estimate wasn't 268mpg, it was 230mpg.

it doesn't change the fact that you can check volt forums (or reviews) and find drivers going months without using gas.

however, if that 'deception' really bothered you, then i'm sure nissan's initial claim in 2009 that the leaf would get 367mpg really pissed you off...double standards stuck!

Ken L.

If you looked at all three of these vehicles, the best option for many drivers would easily be the Prius. Most shoppers in this category see the Volt as expensive since it uses premium gas, seats only four, and you'd have to plug it in ever night to get the optimal fuel economy. The Leaf is ugly (looks like something that jumped out of a pond), plug in only, extremely limited range, and expensive compared to America's most popular hybrid, the Prius -With a starting price in the low 20s, you don't have to plug it in every day, it's a midsize car that seats 5, the technology had a head start of over a decade, and it uses regular unleaded. To make matters worst, Toyota will be coming out with a slightly smaller and cheaper (starting price in the high teens) Prius in the coming months. Like Shet said, the Volt and Leaf will forever be niche vehicles unless the price of gas skyrockets and we start seeing mass infrastructures for charging stations. Even then, we currently have gas only cars that get 40 mpg, and that is already good enough for most as well.


yeah, gm should provide battery options, allowing for lower priced volts with shorter battery-only range, and DI for the gas engine to increase fuel economy when it is running.

I drive a Volt.

My lease is $160/month more than the new version of my old car (Impala). My Volt is a clear upgrade over an Impala in terms of the car itself.

I save $125/month in Fuel (even including electricity costs).

I drive almost 60 miles round trip per weekday. If, I my commute was more like 45 miles or if I could charge at work, my savings would be approaching $160/month. Of course, if gas gets over $4/gallon soon, the number will approach $160/month as well.

Bottom line: More to lease payment. Less to Exxon and BP. Almost break-even.


cody, you can buy a Leaf for under $30K. They don't last long because they are sold right away.

You cannot buy a Volt for under $40K. And unless you pay more than $7500 in income taxes, the tax credit does not apply.

Nearly half of all employed Americans do not pay any income tax at all.

That's why the tax credits only make sense for the corporations and wealthy.



msrp listed on nissan's website is $35,200. that's the base price, and i seriously doubt nissan is selling these vehicles for over $5k under msrp.

maybe that's some marketing hype that already factors in the tax credit, but as you pointed out, it only affects tax's not like uncle sugar cuts you a check for $7500.

Troy S.


GM has over promised and underdelivered on every single GM product I've owned over the last three decades whereas Nissan has not so double standard. Nice attempt on your part to bolster GM's perception though.

critics critic

So which manufacturer has built a better plugin hybrid,Troy? Stop knocking people who have accomplished way more than you. Maybe gm will check with you before releasing their next new car.

Troy S.

critics critic,

I don't know who builds a better hybrid. Maybe you can research sales numbers and post the results here.

You should also consider following your own advice on knocking others.


I am completely amazed at peoples' inability to calculate TOTAL ownership costs of a car which include GAS. I have owned my Chevy Volt since July and have saved almost $1100.00 in TOTAL ownership costs verses my previous gas guzzling car. I have redirected about $3200.00 away from foreign oil exporting countries to either Detroit or my local electric utility keeping that money in the USA.

Yes... my car payment is huge, but my gasoline/electricity costs are about $24.00/mo. (Hello!)

I am charging my Volt using electricity produced at our LOCAL hydroelectric dam. (True ZERO emissions)

And performance? This car freaking moves! I will say it's more FUN to drive than any other car I've ever owned...including my souped up 65 Chevelle.

What is wrong with this country that we cannot support a brilliant new marvel of engineering that simultaneously benefits our personal/collective economy and the air we breath? Leave politics out of it.

Leaf Driver

I drive a LEAF. It saves me about $200 a month in gas alone. 12K miles in and I can only say: Debate on. I'm saving money. Every day.


cody, one of my brothers bought a Leaf last year in California for $27K before tt&l.

He put it on a U-Haul flatbed and towed it with his F250 to Manhattan, NY, where he and his wife now reside.

His approach to buying the Leaf was simple. He told the Nissan salesmanager, "tell me what you need to sell it for and I'll either buy it or decline."

He thought $27K plus California tt&l was reasonable, and wrote them out a check. It stickered for more than $27K.

Nissan is not going to publicize that they want to move every Leaf they have, even if they have to discount them to an interested buyer. The name of the game is to sell and get them out there on the roads to be seen.

The trouble with website prices is that much of the time they don't reflect real-world transactions.

We recently bought a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit V6 4X4 in Arizona, that stickered over $48K.

We didn't pay near that for the vehicle, but the extra stuff that I ordered from the dealership (skid plates, running boards, sill guards, etc) and had UPS deliver to my house in New Mexico almost put us over that amount.

Only the Volt cannot be discounted because they are already selling them at a loss to GM and the tax payers in the hopes of generating an interest in the buying public. It's not working.

Most people realize that you can buy two Cruzes for the price of one Volt and are opting to buy at least one Cruze instead.

And there will be plenty of gas available for the next hundred years, albeit at a price. But you can buy a lot of gas with the money you save not buying a Volt.



your response is ridiculous. your initial post had inaccurate information, and when confronted with the proper information, the reason for the change in numbers, as well as the highly overblown nissan leaf numbers from the same period, you resorted to the tried and true gm lies response. your bias is showing.


i think your brother's definitely the exception, but good on him if he got that deal. i did a little research and found a u.s. news article from a while back that did verify that cali dealers were discounting leafs in a little price war, but the discounts were about $1500, not $8200.

you can buy a conventional compact gasoline car from either of these manufacturers for about half the price and get good mileage to boot. that's not the point of either one.

unfortunately, gm released this car after the bailout, and because of that the haters as well as the media have been telling everyone who will listen or can read why it sucks....which is simply untrue.

i test drove a volt the day i bought my cruze eco and was extremely impressed with it. i am a former prius owner, and i can tell you that it drives much better than that car, although it doesn't have the interior space. i'd be willing to bet that the majority of these 'experts' who post dribbling hating the volt have never even sat in one, much less driven one.

honestly, it's almost laughable to compare the volt and leaf. with the volt you get a plug-in hybrid with electricity as the primary propulsion that can take you anywhere you want to go. with the leaf you get basically a golf cart on steriods that is extremely limited in range....if a person can't see the reason the volt costs $4k more than they're either blinded by bias or extremely stupid.

if it had a toyota or ford badge on it....

Amuro Ray

@ Cody,

It's absolutely "possible" to get a LEAF, PURCHASE, for less than $20K if one does his/her homework, esp if that person has excellent credit.

It's done through 1 time payment leasing. Tier 0, I think. Basically, you negotiate a lease, but make a 1 time payment on the entire lease on the 1st time. You can also opt to buy out the entire vehicle immediately afterwards.

By doing so, you get $7500 credit directly thanks to Nissan. That makes a MY12 LEAF 28K.

If you live at those EV rebate states, you'll qualify some 2K-5K rebate. Now LEAF is like $23-$26K.

If you work for certain companies, you get a max of $5K rebate (e.g. Google, BofA, I think).

$17-21K on a LEAF.

Some municpal gov't has $2K+ rebate too!


Now, if you purchase from one of those dealers that offer $1-2K off, then that means $13-17K on a LEAF.

Thus, in reality, if a person does his/her homework, he/she can get a LEAF cheaper than a Prius, same price as an Insight Base, and possibly cheaper than those loaded Versa/Fit/Yaris/Sonic/etc.

I did my homework. My MY11 LEAF is cheaper than a Honda Insight Base, WITH factory rebates (year-end closeout model).

If you apply the same token to Volt, then this won't work. The best one can get is around $30K as I've seen. Maybe in MY12 late production it will, but Volt has "dirty" emission (it's not AT-PZEV yet), so no rebates from state/local gov'ts. Same applies for the company rebates too. In addition, I "heard" that only Ally bank allows the $7.5K credit to go into down payment, not the US Bank one. In either way, the difference between price of Volt and LEAF is HUGE once someone has done his/her homework. Way more than $4K.

Amuro Ray

1 time lease payment = pre-paid lease = $0 interest (i.e. pay no interest for entire lease term).

Oh, and btw, Cody, you obviously don't know anything about the LEAF, or EV. If a LEAF is a golf cart on steroid, then Volt is a golf cart that still uses Clean gas to do most of its work...oh wait, there's no such thing as clean gas...

There are many reasons why it's ridiculous to pay at least $4K more for a Volt, then a LEAF. It's has nothing to do with bias or body condition.

The ability to not use a single drop of gas for that 95% of the population (drive less than 70 mi per day): PRICELESS.

Oh, and if you surf both LEAF's owner forum site vs Volt owner's forum site, you will see that more and more mechanical problems are surfacing with the Volt too.


Don't argue with the Expert.

Amuro Ray

Why are you talking to yourself and contribute nothing useful?

That's not what an EXPERT like you usually do, WTF?

Wait, I misspoke. You do that ALL THE TIME.


I think that all EVs, PEVs, PHEVs and Hybrids should be available on the US market for anyone who wants to buy whatever works for them.

The problem is that the EV/PEV/PHEV/Hybrid niche is such a miniscule portion of the overall market that the manufacturers can't always make money on them. Without the tax payer bail out money GM would not make any money on the Volt.

Tesla may be the exception because their entire production run for the next few years has already been prepaid and spoken for. A very select group of well-to-do buyers.

The Prius continues to have its following and is well on its way to its second million in sales. But the Leaf and the Volt, not so much.

And when you consider that you can get a Camry Hybrid, Sonata Hybrid or a Fusion Hybrid for less money and greater interior space, it adds to the dilemma.



i couldn't disagree with you more, but welcome to the conversation. the leaf is a golf cart on steroids because essentially you get an electric motor driving the drive wheels directly (no multi-speed transmission) and a battery pack. what justifies the extremely high cost of the leaf?? the batteries??? and just like a golf cart, once you've run out of juice you have to plug it in for hours. maybe you don't know anything about golf carts...

as for you buying a leaf for cheaper than a base insight...forgive me but it seems pretty hard to believe. you did say lease though, so did you 'buy' the car or are you 'leasing' it?


"the leaf is a golf cart on steroids...and just like a golf cart, once you've run out of juice you have to plug it in for hours. maybe you don't know anything about golf carts"

So are you "blinded by bias" or are you "extremely stupid"?

Amuro Ray

@ Cody,

It isn't hard to believe. Higedesertcat's relative has done it. I've done it. Someone else also have done it (search in forum). I explained how. In short - lease, pre-paid entire thing almost immediately. Option for you to buy or not in 3 years. It's doable.

You do need to know the in-and-outs of leasing though, so not for the "who cares" crowd.

Last I check, gasoline vehicles run out of juice too. Refill process takes about 10 min (from entering to leaving gas station). Can EV refill quicker? How about 3 min? Check out for detail.

So what else can ICE vehicles do that EV can't?

The only thing I can think of is: POLLUTION.



you left out the middle part of the comment. leaving it in explained the statement...which is probably why you left it out. unless you work for msnbc or fox news, you shouldn't be taking comments out of context to attempt to prove your point. at any rate, stating a limitation is not bias.


@Colin Bird,

i've tried to post three times (no profanity and i took out the url to the other website) but it keeps getting erased. what gives???


University of Minnesota Extension has a decision tool that helps prospective alternative vehicle buyers organize the various factors. It calculates differences in costs of ownership and operation and differences in greenhouse gas emissions:

Michael McDonald

I agree that the EV models are "blah". To overcome price sensitivity, I am amazed that the Mini Cooper and Volkswagon Bug haven't EV options! People are already paying up for the model-cache, and my guess is that the waiting list to buy the two models would be quite long!


I would think the number of people who avoid domestic cars would be higher. I wouldn't dream of buying an American-built car because of their reputation.


All numbers and statistics aside - I'm sure there are many more stories, apocryphal or proven, to support anybody's ideology - There is also the fact that the American economy is in the dumper, and buying a Chevy Volt or Tesla S can help to reverse that. Unfortunately if it doesn't put extra dollars into the buyers pocket RIGHT NOW, most are too ignorant to see the long term wisdom in supporting American made products.


I purchased a Volt. First GM car I have bought since 1978. Why. Its about Energy Independence which we have been giving lip service to for decades. Cars like the leaf/volt/hybrids give us the chance to make it a reality without sacraficing quality of life. We have yet to use any Gas as the battery range covers my wifes driving needs. Of course the engine is available for a longer trip if needed. Its a shame that many try to tie the volt to some far left plot. GM could care less about your politics. We are the worlds 3rd largest oil producer yet we still import a billion plus in oil a day to fuel our driving needs. Switching to cars like these allow us to use our many other energy sources and reduce our oil dependency. Can you imagine the impact if they were widely adopted. We would be a member of OPEC (A positive Trade Balance?), Wouln't care about securing the flow of oil (Big DoD savings), and experience a economic boom (That billion a day in oil would flow into other spending. Our existing refinery jobs would keep right on with the export of refined oil. Think about it a while and then decide if these benefits arn't worth pluging your vehicle in when parked at home.


The survey is correct.

The Leaf is ugly, and it whines when it drives, plus when you run out of battery you are stuck.

The Volt is too expensive. I considered buying one but the price differential to another car, even with the $7500 rebate meant I would have to drive on battery for 16 years to make up the cost difference.

The Prius is hesitant at stops and the mileage is not impressive when you have the Buick eAssist vehicles available that pretty much do the same thing with better performance.

If the Volt was $35K and had a rebate, I'd own one.

andrew christopher

This car is way too expensive for the average middle class american, if gm wants to sell cars like these they need to learn how to produce them and sell them cheaper id say theyd be a lot more successful if it had a sticker price of 25k or less, i know id probably invest in one at that price


Just wait until early adapters go to resale their Volts. Nobody is going to buy a used car with a battery life that is a HUGE question mark and $10,000 to replace.

I purchased a used, 2011 Nissan Leaf EV and have been keeping a diary / blog about the experience. Come along for the ride! (Start at the bottom and read your way up!)


I signed up with GM to buy the Volt when it was a truly sexy prototype car. The current Volt is an ugly car and so is the Leaf. Both have weird proportions and childlike styling.
I am still looking for a decent looking electric car at a reasonable price.

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