Everybody's talking about the competition between the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt (Detroit News, AutoBlog, GM-Volt, etc...). But really, does it matter all that much that the Volt outsold the Leaf this past month? Does it matter that the Leaf has been outselling the Volt since May? Does it matter if either company makes their 10,000 sold in the first year? Not really.
The difference between the two cars is profound. GM may call the Volt an extended range electric vehicle, but the Leaf is all electric. That means they are very different. The Leaf does not have a gas option, meaning it can only go 70-100 miles on one charge. The Volt can go only 30-40 miles on electric before switching to gasoline (to charge the battery, but still it's running on gas at this point). The Volt is $5-10 thousand dollars more than the Leaf. But when you can get 1000 miles on 11 gallons of gas, maybe that's worth the extra money to those people who can afford the $35 thousand just to be able to choose between the two.
In their first year, the Volt and Leaf are depending on similar buyers; very financially sound; environmentally minded; and risk-minded individuals. These people are willing to take a risk on something new, something they want to support. They know there will be issues, but they are OK with being the guinea pigs.
The real question isn't how many of these people either company gets to buy (although I will say the more that buy, the better off the company is). It's how, or even if, they are going to transfer to the more general public. At these prices, maybe they won't be able to. But if they don't, that 10,000 sold maybe the best they can do every year. And considering both companies are planning on ramping up production to 5X or more, that's what really matters.
In order to sell 50,000 of these two cars a year; in order to make these cars ultimately profitable, and not just green flags to wave; in order to help transition our gas powered vehicle fleets into something a little less dependent on oil; that's what matters.