Weird Dealer Stunt Offered Almost-Free Nissan Leaf With New Titan

Illustration for article titled 99-Cent Nissan Leaf Lease With Titan Purchase Reminds Us Of The Pitfalls Of Weird Dealer Stunts

Photo: Nissan

Many people are still reasonably skittish about electric cars. But what if you could lease one for almost nothing for two years as side-benefit of buying a new pickup? That’s probably at least worth considering, right?

Hart Nissan in Springfield, Virginia recently offered this deal with the Nissan Titan and Leaf. The dealership was offering the Leaf for two years at 10,000 miles annually for 99 cents total as long as you also purchased a 2020 or 2021 Titan, according to journalist Dan Carney. The special even covered the long-range Leaf Plus models, which are rated at up to 226 miles, and still granted buyers the $7,500 federal EV tax credit.

Unsurprisingly it seems like Hart Nissan has sold out of its Leaf inventory in the past couple days, so the offer appears to be dead even though it was valid through June 1. Still, it’s worth talking about these absurd promotions that random dealers flirt with every now and then.

Many of these “free car” offers are riddled with fine print that quickly devalues the whole charade — like monthly fees, or a stipulation that you must pay sticker for the car that you have to buy to make the deal. Hart’s proposition appears to have been a comparatively more compelling one as it didn’t involve any recurring monthly fees, though the terms and conditions highlighted by The Drive state that all rebates and incentives go to the dealer and, of course, the buyer still has to pay tax, tag and license charges, in addition to a $800 documentation or “doc” fee. So, yeah — still a good deal if you want to lease a new EV on the cheap, but far from truly free.

Funny enough, when our car buying expert Tom McParland published a PSA six years ago warning against dealers claiming to give things away for free, that article also highlighted a free Nissan Leaf promotion. “No one pays sticker for a Leaf” Tom wrote at the time — sage advice that appears to be equally relevant now if Nissan dealers are still inclined to give the damn things away.

Earlier this month, I received many tales from Leaf owners when I published a story about how the batteries in our readers’ old electric cars are holding up. The Leaf still lacks active thermal management unlike many other EVs today, meaning their batteries are likelier to overheat and therefore degrade faster.

One Leaf owner said their 2013 car was sitting at 85 percent of full capacity; another who has owned four Leafs over the past decade had better luck, though their 2011 model fell to the 70 percent range before they sold the car. Both readers told me they were careful never to use fast charging or top the battery up completely, steps often recommended to extend the life and peak performance of EV batteries.

I’m not arguing that the cooling issue is why Leaf sales are slowing and dealers are keen to pull 99-cent lease stunts like Hart’s. But I am saying that Nissan better hope the Ariya is a more attractive package.

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