Ever since Nissan announced its entry into the electric car race, the company has dominated headlines with its bold pronouncement: Unlike GM's vaunted Volt at $40,000-plus, or Tesla Motors' six-figure pocket electric rocket, when Nissan puts the Leaf electric car up for sale, it will sell for no more than what a small family sedan will cost -- call it $25,000 to $30,000.
Nissan made good on the boast last week, pricing the Leaf at just $33,000, $25,000 after federal incentives, and as low as $21,000 in California and Georgia thanks to state "green" tax credits. The shockingly low price tag promises to drive a stake through GM's electric heart. But unlike GM, Ford's not going down without a fight.
In addition to announcing its electric charging partnership with Microsoft
Ford's pole position
Nissan's lowball price may persuade potential GM shoppers to delay purchasing a few weeks (the Volt is due out this November, the Leaf in December.) Ford, in contrast, isn't expected to have its Focus out until next year. But if price parity isn't enough to make buyers wait, Ford has one more trick up its sleeve. Before the Leaf hits the road, Ford will begin delivering electric "Transit Connect" delivery vans in the fourth quarter (including one batch that AT&T
Foolish final thought
Will fielding an electric van-guard pave the way for future Focus sales? And even if it does, can Ford afford to sell a "limited" run of electric cars -- sans scale-of-production efficiencies -- at only $30,000 a pop? For that matter, can Nissan? And can GM make a profit on these electro-buggies even at $40,000 apiece?
It doesn't matter. With the Obama administration mandating an average 35.5 mpg throughout automakers' fleets by 2016, production of zero-gas-usage electric cars becomes a necessity. Sell an "electric Focus" at 0 mpg, and you free up the road for F150's to squeeze past the mpg tollgate.
Never mind that these electric cars do use energy. (Not gasoline, per se, but Peabody
Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks named above. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Ford Motor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor choice. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.