Two new, completely different high efficiency cars entered the American car market earlier this year – the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt – and AutoPacific set out to find out how different the owners of those cars were from owners of hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight. We also are looking at how satisfied buyers are with the cars and what they would like changed.
Think of these four cars as being purpose-built for their technology. They did not simply adapt their new powertrain technology to an existing vehicle such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid or the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The Chevrolet Volt is an Extended Range Electric Vehicle. The Nissan Leaf is a pure Battery Electric Vehicle. And the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight are pure Hybrids.
Based on AutoPacific’s annual New Vehicle Satisfaction Survey which has a total of almost 73,000 new car and light truck owner responses to a comprehensive questionnaire about the car buying and ownership experience, the comparison finds some interesting and insightful results.
Leaf and Volt Owners are Dramatically Different from Prius and Insight Owners: Volt owners paid $43,000 for their new car. Leaf owners paid $34,500. Prius and Insight owners paid $25,000 and $21,000 respectively. Given the price points, Volt and Leaf owners are the most affluent with incomes of $150,000. Prius owners have an income of $100,000 and Insight owners have an income of $80,000.
Leaf and Volt owners are much more likely to be male and much more into the technology of their new car. They are very similar to early buyers of hybrids who were enamored with the new innovative technology of their vehicle. The Leaf and Insight owners are the youngest of the group at 53 and 54 years of age respectively. Owners of the much more expensive Volt are 58 as are owners of the Prius.
Leaf owners have the highest level of education. About 90% have a college education. About 70% of Volt, Insight and Prius owners have a college education. Leaf owners are much more likely to be retired (almost 50%). Only 17% of Insight owners are retired. About a third of Leaf owners are in a technical profession as are 20% of Volt owners.
Leaf owners are most likely (24%) to have owned a hybrid before. Prius owners are almost as likely to have owned a hybrid (23%) as Leaf owners. Volt (8%) and Insight (8%) owners are newcomers to the world of alternative fuel vehicles. Volt owners are most likely to have previously driven a compact car (18%) or mid-size car (14%), Insight owners were most likely to have previously driven a compact car (23%) or a mid-size car (23%).
Satisfaction – Volt Wins: About 86% of Volt owners are very satisfied with their vehicles compared with 80% of Leaf owners, 70% of Prius owners and 54% of Insight owners. Among these four cars, Volt owners are most satisfied by a substantial margin. Leaf and Prius owners are about equally satisfied. Insight owners are the least satisfied among the four cars. Out of 48 satisfaction categories in the research, Volt owners are the most satisfied in 38 of the categories… an overwhelming win.
There are no bad cars. It’s been years since I’ve seen a really bad car to be sold as new in the USA. Maybe the not lamented Chrysler Sebring came close before it evolved into the Chrysler 200 for 2011. So, as the new V-Platform Nissan Versa is poised to be launched for the 2012 model year as the lowest price new car available in the USA you wonder if a new car priced so low is a bad car? The answer is a resounding no. But with the Versa and new Hyundai Accent arriving almost concurrently on the market it begs brief comparison.
2012 Nissan Versa Sedan
2012 Hyundai Accent Sedan
The fourth generation Nissan Quest launched for the 2011 model year, marking a dramatic departure from the prior model. The last Quest was developed and conceived specifically for North America (and built here too), riding on a version of the Altima sedan’s platform. While a very able minivan, it never truly caught on. Perhaps its was styling, both inside and out, that was too aggressive or avant garde for traditional minivan customers.
With the latest Quest, Nissan stepped away from the traditional American minivan template and moved production back to Japan, commonizing it with the Japanese-market Elgrand people mover, albeit with revised front and rear styling more in line with American tastes.
As the owner of a 2011 Murano, I was very skeptical of the Murano CrossCabriolet and the ability to deliver on the ‘cross’ bit of the name with only two doors and four seats. After a brief test drive in Del Mar, CA, I realized that the word crossover was being redefined right before my very eyes.
Long ago, back in 1991, Nissan launched what many thought of as the spiritual successor to the BMW 2002: the Nissan Sentra SE-R. It was a lightweight and tossable compact car that was inexpensive and an absolute blast to drive. Since then, Nissan has kept the SE-R name alive in subsequent generations of Sentra, but each one has gotten less and less thrilling.
Fast forward to 2011. Around the world, automakers are bringing small and sporty crossovers to the marketplace, addressing younger and more style-conscious consumers’ need for entry level vehicles with space and standout style. Nissan has jumped into the fray with the Juke, a product designed first and foremost for the European market. The U.S., which seems to prefer its crossover products big and bulky, is a secondary market. However, given that today’s younger Americans are expressive, enjoy technology, often accept miniaturized products, and value standout design, Juke has found its way across the pond nonetheless.
Crossovers are all the rage these days. What’s not to like? Car-like handling, decent fuel economy, room for the kids? One trend I’ve noticed in crossovers is the move towards limited visibility. Beltlines have gotten so high that kids have trouble seeing out of the windows and backing up requires an extensive use of all three mirrors and a NASA satellite to see what lurks behind you. And if you don’t have a back-up camera you can pretty much count on hitting something at some point in time. Well, how refreshing the 2011 QX56 was to drive. The QX56 isn’t a car-based crossover. It is Infiniti’s truck-based answer to the Escalade. Based on the Nissan Patrol, which has been a huge sales hit in the Middle East because of its rugged construction and reliability, the QX56 can shuttle you around in the same comforts as a cash-stuffed Saudi oil mogul. With 20 MPG on the highway, you won’t need to personally know a sheik either.
Nissan is poised to launch a full electric vehicle, LEAF (Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable, Family car), in the United States that it plans to sell in very high volumes. Does the product stand up to its high volume plans?
Styling Just Short of Weird Nissan North America Director of Product Planning, Mark Perry responded to a question concerning the styling of the new Nissan LEAF as “unusual without being weird. Our stylists wanted a distinctive car but not one that was so weird looking it would put off people.” Finally, a company admits that people driving an alternative fuel vehicle want to be noticed. They want for their friends and neighbors to give them credit for being on the cutting edge, being environmentally conscious and taking an innovative risk.
Huge Pricing Incentives to Stimulate Sales Offsetting the risk is the price of the LEAF. Starting at around $32,500, early buyers qualify for a government tax credit of $7,500. If you lease the LEAF (more on that later), the tax credit goes to the lessor and effectively becomes a cap cost reduction. If you buy the LEAF, you get your tax credit the next time you file your income taxes. If you live in any one of several states, you get a tax rebate. In California, for instance, you get a $5,000 rebate – they’ll send you a check in the mail. If you are lucky enough to live in Fresno, you can get another $4,000. That brings the price of the down to around $16,000 – about the price of an equipped Versa. You end up getting the battery system, navigation system, etc essentially for FREE.
When the Nissan Juke was unveiled on the Internet, blogs, Twitter, and even Nissan Fan Boys used words such as “Aztek” to describe it. In pictures, many might revile the Juke as unique, busy, or even downright ugly. On paper one might write the Juke off as being too small or “econobox-like” because it is based on Nissan’s B-Platform and measures up to be smaller than Ford’s 2011 Fiesta sedan. We recently spent a day with the new Juke, just outside of beautiful Vancouver, to try to figure out if it is the new ‘joke’ of B-segment vehicles.
The King is DEAD, long live the King. Very appropriate for the all new Infiniti QX56 being launched in the USA later this year. But first, we have to set the stage for the review itself – not the vehicle. Infiniti hosted small groups of journalists at the 21C Museum Hotel in Louisville. The hotel itself was worth the trip. Quirky, quaint with 42 plastic red penguins to entertain the guests. Penguins with bibs at dinner. Penguins with a shower cap in the tub. The “museum” part of the hotel’s title relates to the art on display – all by artists alive today and produced during the 21st Century. When an artist dies, their works are removed to a private gallery in the owners’ quarters on the 4th floor of the hotel. Oh, yeah, THE BOOK – found in the bar with a plain cover is worth the price of a martini.
The great drive in the QX56 through bourbon country and horse country from Louisville to Frankfort (Kentucky’s capital) was picturesque and the roads were great. Not much traffic. Rolling hills. Perfect for the large sport ute. Major surprise, however, was that the historic mile-after-mile of white fences Kentucky horse country is known for has transformed into creosote black fences… lower cost and longer life. The drive through northern Kentucky is highly recommended. Hopefully you have more than a stock rentacar. Don’t forget to stop at Choctaw Jim’s general store in Campbellsburg. They make a mean peanut and jelly sandwich with peanut butter bread. Yum. The only blemish is that the authentic American Indian artifacts mostly are made in China.
Intiniti QX56 Formidable Competitor in Premium Luxury SUV Class Now, about the second generation Infiniti QX56. As you probably know, the first generation QX is based on the Titan pickup and assembled at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi assembly plant. The new QX is based on the Japanese market Nissan Patrol and produced in Japan.
The Nissan Maxima has a long history of success in AutoPacific’s research, scoring class-winning VSA wins in 2004, 2005, and 2007. This year’s Maxima took the segment crown back again, with the 2010 Maxima winning top honors in the Luxury Mid-Size Car segment. The Maxima was particularly highly rated with respect to driver’s seat comfort, exterior and interior styling, power/acceleration and being fun to drive.
While seemingly minor changes, Nissan moved Bluetooth and XM satellite radio to standard equipment for 2010MY, as well as upgrading from an aux jack to a USB port for MP3 players, the end result brought Maxima back to the top.
Once again, the Maxima shines!
For a complete list of winners and description of the Awards, click here.