Report From Oslo’s Nissan Dealership: World’s Biggest Seller of EVs

MAR 1 2019 BY BRADLEY BERMAN 19

In 2018, the dealership sold 925 EVs. That’s 97 percent of the total vehicles it sold last year.

The turning point for Suleman Idris came on a Saturday in October 2017. The sales manager at the Birger N. Haug Nissan dealership in Oslo, Norway, couldn’t believe what he was seeing. “About 40 people were waiting for us to become available so they could buy the car — all for the Nissan LEAF,” he said. “It was madness. I will never forget that Saturday.”

Idris and his six salesmen continued a brisk business selling Nissan LEAFs. “We thought it would stabilize, but it didn’t,” he said. Idris believes that the Oslo dealership has “the most electric car experience in the whole world.”

Suleman Idris is the sales manager at Birger N. Haug Nissan in Oslo.

His claims are based on per-capita sales of EVs in this country of 5.3 million people. And the numbers back him up. Last year, the Oslo Nissan store sold a total of 951 vehicles. Only 26 of those cars were internal combustion – models such as the Nissan Juke, Pulsar, and Qashqai. The other 925 sales were electric cars: 851 Nissan LEAFs and 74 e-NV200 electric vans.

Sales Strategy

Idris has been with the Oslo dealership for seven years – since the introduction of the first-generation LEAF. In that time, he has developed a thoughtful, comprehensive approach to selling EVs. Idris told me that many dealerships from other countries visit the showroom to see how it works. “It’s not the same as selling a diesel or petrol car,” he told me.

The key is giving customers more time, according to Idris. In the early years, customers had a lot of questions of EVs, especially about range. “Sometimes we allowed the customer to have a test drive for two days, just to test it in their daily lives,” he said. “Every time they came back amazed because the LEAF feels like a normal car. And it’s fun to drive.”

EVs dominate the showroom.

The selling strategy also required a lot of honesty. Idris and his sales staff tell prospective buyers that the LEAF’s range could be reduced by as much as 50 percent in Norway’s frigid winters.

The second-generation 40-kWh LEAF’s official range on the WLTP cycle is 270 kilometers (or 168 miles). The salesmen at Birger N. Haug give a more accurate estimate of about 250 kilometers (155 miles) in the summer. In the winter, the range can drop to about 170 to 200 km (105 to 125 miles). “I don’t focus on the 200 kilometers. I’d rather focus on the 170 number.”

Idris knows what he’s talking about because he’s a long-time LEAF driver himself. “I have a lot of experience with the LEAF from the first to the second generation,” he said. “This experience is what I use when I talk to the customer. It’s easier to sell the car that way.”

By 2025, Idris said, “We will only have electric cars to sell.”

The Birger N. Haug sales staff explains the costs, incentives, range considerations, and details about public charging infrastructure – which is abundant now in Norway. Also, the sales package comes complete with a home charging station. “When they buy the car, they also buy the charging station and installation,” Idris explained. “Our partner calls them, makes an appointment, and puts up the charger. We make it easy for them.”

The Economics

My visit to the Oslo dealership dispelled a myth about electric-car sales in Norway. The purchase price of an EV is not cheaper compared to a petrol or diesel car.

The electric car is either about the same or even a little bit higher. That’s even after you subtract the 25-percent VAT (value-added tax) and CO2 fees not charged to zero-emission cars. For the $40,000 purchase price of compact combustion car like a VW Golf, those taxes can represent nearly $12,000 of the cost.

It’s hard to find an apples-to-apples comparison at the Nissan dealership. But Idris said that the current average price of a Nissan LEAF is close to US $40,000. The closest comparison, a Nissan Juke, can be had for around $37,000. What convinces customers to buy the EV are the other incentives.

EVs also figure prominently at the Hyundai dealership in the same showroom.

The dealership informs buyers that a Norwegian driver of a combustion car who travels about 10,000 miles a year can expect to pay about $2,500 in fuel per year. The price of gasoline in Norway is around $7 a gallon. So the $2,500 assumes that you’re driving a car that gets about 28 miles per gallon.

Now add the break that EV drivers get on tolls. “There are a lot of people who live outside Oslo but work in the city,” said Idris. A single-pass toll charge is about $6 for a gas car or nearly $7 for a diesel vehicle. The dealership pegs these toll cost for combustion cars at about $1,000 a year – or twice that for two trips a day. Meanwhile, EV drivers fly through at no charge.

However, I learned that EVs in March could start paying a modest toll charge of about a buck. So I asked Idris if he’s afraid of the potentially reduced incentives impacting EV adoption. “No,” he replied. “We will still sell a lot of electric cars.”

Getting to 100 Percent

To get a closer comparison of gas versus EV in Norway, we strolled a few feet to Birger N. Haug’s Hyundai dealership, housed under the same roof. All 200 units of the Kona Electric – the dealership’s entire annual allotment – are already sold. If you sign a contract to buy one today, you can expect delivery in the second half of 2020. Meanwhile, it’s a one- to three-week maximum wait for the 40-kWh LEAF. The new 62 kWh LEAF takes a little longer.

I grabbed price sheets for the manual gas-powered Kona 1.0 T-GTI manual and the Kona Electric. The combustion Kona sells for the equivalent of $38,000 versus the Kona EV’s $39,000 price tag. So, even with the EV’s tax exclusions, the all-electric Kona is slightly more expensive. But with the fuel and toll advantages, the Kona EV is a no-brainer.

A Hyundai Nexo and Ioniq EV display “Sold” signs.

Idris said that Oslo buyers these days ask less about range. Instead, they are cross-shopping the LEAF against the Kona EV, the VW E-Golf, and other competitors. He’s not concerned about the luxury EVs like Tesla and Jaguar that are significantly more expensive.

Idris welcomes the competition. Given his experience – as well as the new EV models coming to Norway – Idris believes that the country will achieve its national goal of 100-percent sales with zero-emissions vehicles by 2025. It will require steady growth from last year when more than 30 percent of all new car registrations in Norway were electric. But Idris believes it will happen.

“We will only have electric cars to sell,” he said. “That is what everybody is working for.”

Stay tuned for more posts from our recent trip to Norway and Denmark.

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19 Comments on "Report From Oslo’s Nissan Dealership: World’s Biggest Seller of EVs"

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Leaf lovers unite in Oslo.

If Kona can get production numbers ramped up next year, the Leaf should see some stiffer competition in Norway.

I can’t comprehend how anybody will be interested in EV which is not equipped with Self Diving hardware. It will loose value really fast when there will be software update available with Self Driving capabilities for cars which were equipped with cameras and sensors from day 1.

Interesting report, thanks

Kenneth Bokor (EV Revolution Show - YouTube)

That is a fantastic approach to embracing what is clearly the path customers have chosen to follow in Norway and it works great! I wish other dealerships for all the BEV producers (Tesla excluded) would do a better job at embracing this technology and providing a more patient and educated approach to consumer interest.

There are many who do, however the vast majority are still very ICEV-fixated and don’t have properly educated (or motivated) sales people. I some markets where EVs don’t sell well or are scarce, I can see this as a business decision to sell what is moving and what you can.

Hopefully with examples like this Norway dealership, we are starting to see a trend and shift towards a more EV-centric approach from manufacturers and their sales networks.

$7 gasoline helps too 🙂

That’s what it costs in the UK too, but it hasn’t had the same effect here yet; clearly more to it than just the price of fuel.

It’s all taxes and fees. ICE cars pay VAT and co2 taxes, fuel taxes and tolls that EVs avoid. The government makes EVs cheaper to own, so people buy EVs

Yeah, and comparable pricing makes a HUGE HUGE HUGE difference. Here in Canada, an EV is two times the cost of an EV. I can get a good gasser for $20,000, but EV’s start around $40,000 total.

I wish the gov’t here would simply add a $3,000 to $5,000 pollution tax on gassers, and offer a $10,000 to $15,000 subsidy on EV’s, then we would have closer pricing.

> an EV is two times the cost of an EV

Argh! An EV is at least two times the cost of a similar sized gas mobile!

Bad reporting: The price of gasoline in Norway is around $7 a gallon.
Gasoline / Petrol is sold by the litre / liter in Norway and the UK and for that matter most of the world.

Having a comprehensive DCFC infrastructure makes a huge difference, allowing lower range and slower charging vehicles to still be practical for long trips and city dwellers alike.

That’s great News, they will love their EVs. The LEAF is one of the most reliable family EVs ever made. IF they can use it in the 20-80% charge range like any other EV, and save 100% charges for trips to Grannys house, it might last a lifetime.

> …sold a total of 951 vehicles. Only 26 of those cars were internal combustion…

The real question is what were those twenty-six other people thinking??

Probably not much 🙂

Just have to mention that it says ICE cars cost the same as EVs.. that depends a LOT on what kind of engine it is in the car. He mentioned a car with a one liter engine.. that is closer to a scooter engine then a normal US car engine.. I have no problem finding an ICE car which cost $100K, where the same car would cost $30-35K in the US. Just add a powerfull thirsty engine – and you have to pay a lot. If you have a large familiy, or want room for extra kids to sport practice.. and you want to buy a normal VW Eurovan/Caravelle/Multivan size of van – which is super practical for families.. you have no problem paying $100K or more. But it’s a van.. which usually have much less equipment then a normal cheap car, and is updated only every 10 year.. but it’s heavy, and due to weight and engine size, the fuel consumption is higher. Both of which is taxed to hell and back in Norway. Also.. if you compare two cars (EV and ICE), that cost the same, expect the ICE vehicle to be much slower. BTW… you will not… Read more »

What a cool progressive country!

Bravo to Norway! Looking forward to knowing how they are going to resolve the Public EV Charging overcrowding for the next couple of years. Here in Quebec only about 9-10% of new cars sales are plug-ins. I rarely see folks use public charging. I am so used to having when and where I need it and never wait.

‘If you sign a contract to buy a Kona Electric today, you can expect delivery in the second half of 2020.’

This car is basically non-existant in the real world. Unimpressed by Hyundai.