The Race To 100,000: Will Tesla Model 3 Or Nissan LEAF 2.0 Get There First?

Anton Wahlman profile picture
Anton Wahlman


  • This is the time to lay your cards on the table and provide your estimates for Tesla Model 3 unit sales in 2018 vs Nissan LEAF 2.0 unit sales.
  • I provide the reasoning for my estimates, which are 100,000 of each of these two cars, for 2018.
  • The geographic distribution will likely be extremely different: Tesla almost 100% of sales in the U.S., whereas Nissan spread more evenly across three continents.
  • Nissan’s risk-mitigation also flows from its three factories, located in Japan, U.S. and U.K.  This compares to Tesla’s sole factory, in the U.S.
  • Nissan provided a video of its LEAF assembly line in Japan. When will Tesla show the sustained pace of its Model 3 production line?

The best-selling electric car to date is the Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY) LEAF. Nissan says it’s sold over 283,000 to date, starting in late 2010. This compares to Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA), which had sold approximately 233,000 cars since inception - all models combined, Model S, Model X and the Roadster - through 2Q 2017.

Of course, Nissan as a brand and even more so as a group/alliance (which includes Renault and Mitsubishi) has delivered way more than 283,000 EVs in total. Still, the LEAF remains the electric car sales leader to date for a single nameplate.

Now that the LEAF 2.0 has been introduced, and sales are beginning in Japan on October 2, it is therefore of greatest interest to forecast how this car will perform versus its closest competitor from Tesla, the Model 3. Which of these cars will sell more units in 2018?

I know what some of you are saying: How can you compare these two cars? The Tesla Model 3 is more expensive, starting at $36,200 vs. $30,875 for the LEAF 2.0. Also, the Model 3 comes with a choice of two larger batteries than the initial version of the LEAF 2.0, whereas it will be a year from now until the LEAF 2.0 will be available with a more direct-competition 60 kWh battery version (base Model 3 is somewhere between 50 and 55 kWh, and the higher-end version is close to 75 kWh).

In other words: I know, the Model 3 is a more expensive car, and it’s also longer and wider than the LEAF. The average Model 3 selling price from Day One will likely be at least around $50,000, as it can be optioned to approximately $60,000. Nissan LEAF will likely average below $35,000 - and that’s before you take into consideration retail discounts that can often run well above 10%, sometimes 20% or more, making the price discrepancy even

This article was written by

Anton Wahlman profile picture
I am a former sell-side analyst -- UBS 1996-2002, Needham 2002-2006 and ThinkEquity 2006-2008. These days I review automobiles and other technology products, as well as analyze the automotive and technology industries, and coming up with long/short ideas. I also continue to write (less frequently) on macroeconomics and politics.

Disclosure: I am/we are short TSLA. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: At the time of submitting this article for publication, the author was long FCAU and GOOGL, and short TSLA. However, positions can change at any time. The author regularly attends press conferences, new vehicle launches and equivalent, hosted by most major automakers. Nissan hosted a product introduction event and provided the car for test drive.

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