Nissan Spends Big Bucks To Market LEAF While Chevrolet Neglects Volt


Nissan's Latest LEAF Ad - Paint Prank

Nissan’s Latest LEAF Ad – Paint Prank

Nissan's Kick Gas Ad Campaign

Nissan’s Kick Gas Ad Campaign

If you follow electric cars, even just slightly, then you’re well aware of the Nissan LEAF. That’s because Nissan puts dollars behind the LEAF. Lots of dollars.

According to AutoblogGreen:

“Nissan spent over $30 million promoting the Leaf on TV in 2014.”

iSpot CEO Sean Muller told AutoblogGreen:

“Nissan spent more then $400 million in TV advertising for its traditional fuel fleet, and $22 million for the rechargeable Leaf. It has since dedicated an additional $9 million on it its new Kick Gas campaign, which started airing November 3, shortly after news of the electronic sales slump broke.”

While Nissan backs its electric cars, General Motors has shown almost no signs of supporting the Chevrolet Volt, at least not at a level that’s even remotely close to Nissan’s LEAF marketing budget:

Soul EV Hamster Commercial

Soul EV Hamster Commercial

“Muller said iSpot estimates that GM spent just $2 million over the past couple of years to sell the plug-in hybrid on TV, despite offering 62 different Volt ads online.”

Most of those Volt ads online we’re first aired years ago.  There’s little evidence today that GM actively markets the Volt on any form of media.

Surprisingly, Kia is putting quite a chunk of change behind its Soul EV, according to AutoblogGreen:

“iSpot figures Kia has spent about $15 million on TV airings of that odd sexified hamster spot. That’s a lot of money for a car that just went on sale here in October, let alone one that isn’t available in most states.”

*Video flashback to perhaps Nissan’s best advertisement ever for the LEAF:

Source: AutoblogGreen

Categories: Chevrolet, Nissan

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48 Comments on "Nissan Spends Big Bucks To Market LEAF While Chevrolet Neglects Volt"

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Tesla neglects model S?

Not at all. Tesla is masterfully using social media to advertise nearly for free. They have no problem selling every car they build, so there really is no reason to spend on advertising.

By the metric of this article it doesn’t allow for alternative marketing.

Are you suggesting that GM have been the masters of alternative marketing with the Volt?

Or are you just trolling here to pass the morning?

Not spending on advertising is NOT equivalent to neglect. Tesla how put a lot of energy behind their Model S. Just not through traditional channels.

You’re right, and that energy they put behind social media marketing does not come from free labor. They are paying people to work smart.

Besides the social media, they also use the traditional press. #6 on this link:

What about all of those “galleries” they have in malls. Those are essentially a form of advertising.

So Nissan spent $30M in 2014 to sell 30,000 Leafs. That’s about $1,000 per car. That cannot be a sustainable rate for advertising. I would say they are pretty serious about pushing volumes higher.

The Leaf ads do more than sell Leafs. You have the halo effect, where auto companies like to paint themselves in certain lights.

True enough. I recently visited my local Nissan dealer to buy out my lease. They had lots of information on the Leaf on the showroom floor, including a demo EVSE. They also had shiny a new Altima, GTR and Juke on the floor. The only Leaf in stock was outside, hidden behind a snow bank.

Maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part. I really do want them to be serious about increasing sales.

The dealer attitude toward the LEAF varies greatly from dealer to dealer. Some locations 20% of their stock is LEAFs.

Unfortunately, Nissan doesn’t has significant influence over how a particular model is displayed at a particular dealership, as local state laws give dealers an edge in such negotiations.

Nissan may be spending money to market the Leaf, but the dealers in CT are not advertising them. Go through any newspaper in the region and I would challenge anyone to find a single ad for the Leaf.

… and taking that $2M over 2 years that GM spent on Volt TV ads, then dividing it by ~38,000 Volts sold over the past 2 years, yields about $53 spent per car.

Personally, I’m glad my Volt didn’t cost $1000 more. TV ads had no bearing on my choice; total cost was the driver.


Not to go negative on Eric’s article but:

Isn’t it just stating the obvious?

No, it’s providing hard numbers for what we all sense from the Volt’s non-presence in the public sphere vs. what automakers serious about pushing their EVs do.

The fact that lowly Kia outspends GM on this front by 7x or so, is humiliating.

“We’re waiting for Gen 2 for the real action” is hardly an excuse. Reminds me of the hilarious closing scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

While I don’t disagree with the just of the article, these are far from hard numbers.

These are estimates by a company that looks at samplings of advertising activity and then assigns a cost that they think the company paid for that advertising exposure to the media company.

I, too, am mystified by the Volt’s disappearing act in GM’s advertising budget. I don’t know if they got tired of being hated on by the Fox no-nothings, or if they decided that it would be best to keep sales low for the first gen given the common assumption that they are losing money with each sale, or if there is some other byzantine reason that makes sense only to someone within the GM bureaucracy.

Regardless, for a supposed halo car, they sure are keeping that halo well hidden. Here’s to hoping that all those boasts about Gen 2 “knocking it out of the park” will be backed up by an aggressive ad campaign.

“The fact that lowly Kia outspends GM on this front by 7x or so, is humiliating. ”

The fact that GM spends 1/10 of what Nissan spends and sell more than 50% of what Nissan sells just shows how “ineffective” Nissan’s ads $$$ are…

The LEAF has outsold the Volt for a long time in the States and for the last two months in Canada. Volt sales are down year over year while most other EVs are going up. We will have to wait and see how many folks are waiting for gen 2 Volt!

Completely BS.

It is NOT a long time. LEAF outsold Volt in 2011. Volt destroyed LEAF in 2012. Volt barely beat LEAF in 2013 and now LEAF is beating Volt. LEAF barely beat Volt in Canada in the last 2 month and Volt has dominated the LEAF from the start.

This is despite the fact that LEAF is cheaper than Volt AND LEAF GETS FAR MORE DISCOUNT. Now, combined with heavier advertising, it sounds that Volt is holding its own.

In addition, the cumulative sales in the US is still favoring the Volt over the LEAF since the 2010 launch.

First of all the Leaf hasn’t been “outselling the Volt a very long time” and the numbers (for either car) are so miniscule and anemic you’d make a big deal out of 1000 cars difference which is nothing in the automotive market. Technically more Volts have sold in the USA and Canada since their simultaneous launches in Dec 2010 so get your facts straight!

The numbers aren’t so obvious. How much was specific to marketing the LEAF, vs. marketing Nissan Brand (the “innovation” theme that excites), how much halo car, how much to demonstrate Nissan is economically focused?

It is hard to the unless provided with more context. Perhaps, the $30 million is just accounting to sell the message that Nissan is trying harder to market PEVs more than any other manufacture?

I see your point, but the article confirms that the difference in advertising I see in my area must also occur in other regions.

Wasting money trying to sell this ugly car LOL

when you have to try and sell your product you know it isnt good so why not improve it instead of trying to really sell it?

“…ugly car…”

Says the driver of a Smart ED.

“…it isnt [sic] good…”

There are tens of thousand of LEAF owners who would disagree with you. 🙂

I would love to see a regional breakout of the ad spending by Nissan, as I haven’t seen a TV ad or heard a radio spot for the car in many months. I don’t doubt the numbers, but I think they’re highly localized in some markets.

I think this might help explain why where I live (Western NY State) sales of the Leaf are underwhelming. The level of ignorance and misunderstanding regarding this car locally is astonishing, especially after it’s been on the market this long. I routinely have to explain to people that my Leaf really (honest!) doesn’t have a gasoline engine, that it drives perfectly well on the highway, that it can handle snowy conditions without problem, etc.

The Leaf actually seems to be catching on a little east of you. Here in Syracuse, I’m seeing more and more Leafs on the road. I see far more Volts, but Leaf sightings are increasing faster lately (empirically speaking).

I have seen the Leaf advertised. I have even seen the e-Golf advertised (although I’d have to go to Utica to buy one). I have not seen an ad for the Volt.

Nissan builds Leafs in 3 plants on 3 continents, and has battery plants next door. GM builds the Volt in just one. If you advertise cars you better be able to build them when the orders roll in. I think right now Nissan is the only OEM in this position.

Here in central Illinois, I see a lot more Volts than Leafs. Probably a 5:1 ratio. Not sure where all the Leafs are selling, but they are definitely not selling here.

Probably selling in big cities w more people of which there are none in central IL

They are selling well in Georgia. Here in Northern Virginia I see way more Volts than Leafs (not counting my Leaf)

Eh, maybe if Nissan had a refreshed 2016 on the way they also wouldn’t be aggressively marketing what amounts to an outdated car.

I’m betting Nissan will have a facelifted Leaf for 2016/2017. However, their major refresh will come in 2017 as a 2018 model.

Wonder id we will see a drop in Leaf sales just before the Leaf refresh?

There is no reason for a drop in Leaf sales before the refresh. Just put a price premium on the extended range version and leave the standard version alone. Both will sell.

Kinda funny that there is a Volt at the gas pump in that Leaf commercial.

It is actually the part that I think is the worst. Nissan could have chosen any ICE car, but it chooses another plugin car which average more EV miles than the LEAF.

It basically shows how threatened Nissan felt about the Volt…

Loooove that stupid commercial for the leaf 🙂

Well, I guess GM is getting a good deal then.

Despite that Nissan is out spending GM by a factor 11:1 (22mil vs. 2 mil). LEAF is only outselling the Volt about 2:1 at the best month..

So, I guess Nissan might be serious but the sales are NOT reflecting that…

GM would be nuts to dump tons of money into advertising their lame-duck 2015 Volt that is being replaced with a new model next year.

They are smarter waiting and spending that money on the GEN2 Volt roll-out. They are doing the right thing.

Now if we are right back here after the GEN2 Volt release with the same advertising dollars being spent, then there would be a problem. Not now though. Let’s check in again after the release of the new Volt, and then start talking smack.

I don’t understand the complaint. U.S. lifetime Volts sales are greater than Leaf (71,541 vs 69,201 according to InsideEVs), so it has been successful in its own right. But it was never profitable because it was over engineered to ensure reliability, which was essential to prove the concept was successful. The Volt 1 has done its job. RIP. What is lost in the discussion is GMs decision to invest in a huge cost reduction effort to make the now relatively low volume Volt as commercially successful in high volume as their other cars. That level of commitment is quite significant. By comparison, we haven’t seen any Leaf 2.0 yet. The Volt 2 advertising, which will be more mainstream focused, will follow because it is essential to achieve the high commercial volume needed to justify the investment. In the meantime, spending on Volt 1 advertising makes little financial sense. In fact it makes little marketing sense to advertise Volt 1 now because the old price could be a turnoff for the potential mainstream audience Volt 2 seeks. Let’s see how Volt 2 advertising proceeds as the product rolls out for sale. If it falls short, then criticism is warranted. But any… Read more »

Well said. I agree 100%.

And apparently GM is more effective in spending its ads dollar than Nissan. Spent less and sells more means higher efficiency.

Best post here. Totally logical what GM has done and will be doing with the Volt. Gen 1 did its job; it weathered all the criticism from the Right all the way to the Left – all the GM haters due to the bailout to those who can’t forgive them for ‘killing the electric car’. Gen 2 is now primed for the kill.

Nissan appears to be a positive force for EVs, but that comes from a shallow perspective. All the marketing bucks combined with their drastic price cut a year or so ago have bumped up their sales from miserable to promising, but at what cost?

The LEAF isn’t paying for itself. It’s purely a halo car for Nissan – that there is no whispers coming out of them that are specific to the coming existence of a Gen2 LEAF is telling. They are not making money on it.

But what they have done is establish a pricing level where nobody can make money. As a result, one can say that Nissan has truly caused damage to the movement towards electrification. It has cause other manufacturers other than Tesla to scale back their EV programs to compliance levels.

I agree completely with the logic not to advertise the current volt.

I think it would be a mistake to advertise the gen II as mainstream though. Its still an initial adopters car, and should mainly use the other media strategy for sales. For TV ads it should be considered a tech halo, to excite people about gm’s technology, which is a different ad. The only way tv advertising makes sense for the volt even gen II is if also sells other gm cars.

Looking at i.Spot the video counts are:

10 Ad videos for Chevy Volt, and

14 Ad videos for Nissan LEAF

On a $ per advert basis, seems Chevy is getting good production value. I’ll leave it to Eric to tally up air numbers and other stats. 😉

In the early days RCA lost a ton of money on their color tvs. Look at color now. They will make money as in all new tech, it will take time for electrics to catch on.

They just never got the memo to advertise the Volt as direct competitor to Prius and Prius-with-plug.

Side-by-side comparisons without all the cartoon, yuk yuk is what’s needed. Add some Volt customer kudos and feedback about saving gas and no smelly exhaust for family and fellow citizens to breathe ( cut the global warming stuff ) and bingo!

GM could hire me and save millions on wasted yuk yuk ads trying desperately to tell John Q Carbuyer how Volt works.

Conquest buyers from other hybrids is where it’s at. Name one thing besides drives over 100 miles that Prius does better than Volt. Volt handles better, drives better, feels better and looks better. Every knucklehead like me who bought a Prius wants a car that drives on electricity – something Volt does about 75% more of the time than the average Prius and 60% more than the average Prius-with-plug.