Edmunds.com's Phillip Reed used to drive a Nissan Leaf and now drives a Toyota Rav4 EV (2014 model), but he did not own the Nissan and does not now own the Toyota. Reed says leasing is often a better decision than buying in the EV market, for multiple reasons.
"Most people I talk to in the EV market are leasing," Reed told CNBC recently.
Tesla does promote leasing on its website, but the impetus is more likely the popularity of leasing among luxury car buyers, the market which Tesla existing models target, and the fact that Tesla buyers are also typically early adopters and tech fanatics, always wanting the newest and best technology. Leasing a car — and not just a Tesla, but any luxury high-tech car — allows Tesla enthusiasts to benefit from the technology cycle at the end of a lease term. Tesla leasing payments, though, will be significantly higher. The company's estimates that a monthly payment for a Tesla Model S with a base price of $75,000 leased in California would be more than $900.
Tesla declined to provide leasing details citing its policy of not breaking down sales data for external use.
Anil Goyal, vice president of automotive valuation and analytics at Black Book, a vehicle appraisal data company for the automotive industry, said Tesla just began leasing last last year and there are signs it is growing — Tesla was able to bring in U.S. Bank to be its partners on lease financing, where previously it had to handle leasing on its own.
"In the beginning no bank was coming forward to do it but when the market started growing they could get a partner," Goyal said. He said an educated guess of how much of Tesla's sales are leased would be 30 to 40 percent. That's based on the fact that it's a luxury car (where leasing penetration is 50 percent) but an EV that does not face the mileage concerns of all the other EVs having the range of a conventional gas vehicle (where leasing is at 27 percent). He also said unlike most EVs, where retention value is very low, retention on Teslas has been strong. "Teslas don't behave like other EVs," Goyal said.