Home » Nissan Screwed Up With The Leaf And Chevy Succeeded With The Bolt: The Loyalty Data Proves It

Nissan Screwed Up With The Leaf And Chevy Succeeded With The Bolt: The Loyalty Data Proves It

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There is not always glory in being first. The Betamax famously beat the VHS to market, but the VHS format prevailed. The Nissan Leaf went on sale before the Tesla Model S and, yet, people who buy Leafs seem to want little to do with Nissan next time they buy a car according to recent data. At the same time, Chevy Bolt buyers seem to love the Chevy Bolt and want to keep buying them, which makes GM’s (now reversed) decision to kill the model extremely shortsighted. Of course, Tesla buyers love Tesla and seem to want nothing else.

On paper, the Chevy Bolt and Nissan Leaf are strikingly similar vehicles. Both are entry-level electric hatchbacks designed to offer decent range for most people at a reasonable price. Looking at return-to-market data (I’ll explain more on that in a bit) I was struck by the notion that the Nissan Leaf would have been better off with no second generation and the Chevy Bolt badly deserves one. This isn’t a crazy idea as many rational* people probably feel this way, but it’s always nice to have data to support a feeling.

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Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day, y’all. On this episode of The Morning Dump we’ll dive deep into electric vehicle loyalty data, take a lap through the UAW’s recent strike moves, dip our toes in Hyundai’s tactical retreat in China, and skim the surface of Renault’s move across the pond.

*rational means they agree with me.

Loyalty Data Shows How Much Nissan Screwed Up With The Leaf, GM Succeeded With The Bolt

2023 Bolt Ev Side Profile While Driving On An Urban City Street

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It’s remarkable how far the Nissan Leaf has fallen from grace. It was the first true mass-market electric car and, though its sub-100-mile range was not ideal, it had the general idea correct. It was affordable. It looked pretty much like a car. It had a lithium-ion battery. Then the Tesla Model S came out with three times the range and everyone quickly realized what an electric car could be. Still, the Leaf had the advantage of being the only other competitor to Tesla for a while and of being significantly cheaper. Not since the 1993 Houston Oilers has a group of people blown such a huge lead.

Last week I attended a virtual summit on vehicle loyalty held by information services provider S&P Global that used a mix of its own data and data from credit reporting firm TransUnion. The company allowed me to share this data. A lot of the topline information was not a huge surprise (you can read about it here), with loyalty for automotive brands holding fairly steady:

The industry’s brand loyalty rate of 50.6% was identical to the same period in 2022, despite a 7% increase in return-to-market volume among consumers. The lack of change in loyalty is a positive sign for the industry, which had been facing sharp decreases in loyalty due to pandemic-related inventory shortages.

[…]

“The last few years have shown that if a consumer has a need for a certain type of vehicle, they are not going to wait for their preferred brand to supply it,” said Tom Libby, associate director for loyalty solutions and industry analysis at S&P Global Mobility. “This has opened the door for more brands to capture market share from traditional leaders. Years of investment in quality and technology among the industry has evened the playing field, and we are seeing some of the smaller brands take advantage of that.”

A quick review of terms is probably necessary here. Loyalty in this sense refers to a customer buying another car/replacing their car and either buying the same model, make, or manufacturer (e.g. a Toyota Prius owner who next buys a Lexus RX is not model or make loyal, but is loyal to the manufacturer). Return-to-market is pretty much exactly what it sounds like with buyers coming back to buy vehicles.

Tesla is the overall leader, both as a brand and with their models. Tesla buyers come back 68.4% of the time, with Model 3 owners having a 74% loyalty rate (because they mostly upgrade to Model Ys). Here’s the first chart I want to show because it gives you a great idea of what kind of vehicles are popular (trucks) and how well they do:

Screen Shot 2023 10 09 At 9.02.56 Am

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There are two standouts to me here. First, Bolt buyers (especially when changes to Inflation Reduction Act rules made them suddenly cheaper) come back to the Bolt. Second, Lincoln owners seem to buy Lincolns again when they return to the market, but I’m going to focus on the Bolt. This data is through April 2023 so the Inflation Reduction Act likely explains some of the Bolt’s advantage.

Here’s another chart that tells a similar story, this time comparing when buyers of five popular models dispose of their vehicles, i.e. they aren’t buying a second vehicle but replacing their original vehicle. You can also see how many (in blue) vehicles are being disposed of and where buyers go:

Screen Shot 2023 10 09 At 9.06.54 Am

If you own a Bolt and are getting rid of it, the odds are great that you’re buying another Chevy product. That’s true for Mach-E buyers as well. The Nissan Leaf, though? Ouch. An owner disposing of a Leaf is almost as likely to purchase a Tesla, even though S&P data shows that they were increasing their monthly payment by 71% to buy a Model Y and 36% to buy a Model 3 (by comparison, the average Bolt buyer saves about 1.1% getting a new Bolt and only pays a 58.2% average premium to step up to a Model Y). I have a feeling this is going to be even more pronounced as Tesla continues to cut prices.

Here’s another way to look at it below. This chart shows that non-Tesla EV owners are generally a little less likely to purchase another product from the same manufacturer than are non-EV owners of that same brand. This is extremely true for Nissan, which is purging Leaf owners and losing them to other brands. The Chevy Bolt is the exact opposite. Bolt owners are more likely to buy another Chevy product, though just slightly less likely to defect to another GM brand than the average Chevy owner.

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Screen Shot 2023 10 09 At 9.11.51 Am

Again, none of this is hugely surprising, though the extent of the problem for Nissan (and the opportunity for GM) is greater than I’d have imagined. We purchased a $2,000 Nissan Leaf in good shape, mostly because its battery is so bad. I can’t wait for us to go deeper into the design of the Leaf.

What does this ultimately all mean?

The Nissan Leaf Should Have Been Scrapped Or Replaced Earlier

The Nissan Leaf was not a bad attempt at an electric car and had a significant first-mover advantage. Even with Tesla debuting a superior product, Nissan’s huge price advantage (a Model S was almost twice as expensive when it debuted) left a lot of the market available to them. Though the Leaf saw many upgrades over its lifetime, it could never close the gap with other products and left room for the Model 3 and Bolt to enter the market and conquest buyers.

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Additionally, while the Nissan Ariya seems like a fine electric car (I haven’t driven it yet), it debuted way too late to capture Nissan Leaf buyers and offers no obvious advantages over the competition. Leaf buyers have clearly stayed in the EV market, but when they do they tend to buy anything but a Nissan. The Leaf is dead and Nissan is probably better for it.

Sunsetting The Bolt Name Would Have Been A Huge Mistake

Hindsight is important when judging GM’s decisions related to the Bolt. The company correctly predicted that there would be a market for cheaper EVs with better-than-Leaf performance and built a very good product with a flawed battery pack that had a bad habit of catching on fire, necessitating GM to replace basically every Bolt battery (or upgrade software). Did the association of the Bolt with fires convince some C-suiters that it would be better to leave the name behind? Maybe. At the same time, GM thought it would be back in the market soon enough with Ultium-based products like the Equinox to capture Bolt buyers. That didn’t happen.

Instead, Ultium-based vehicles have seen production delays and Congress out-of-nowhere passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which suddenly lopped the price of the Chevy Bolt significantly (GM had run out of old tax credits) and made it an extremely attractive alternative to the Model 3 on price alone. GM has learned its lesson and un-cancelled the Bolt, but it’s not clear when an Ultium-based Bolt is going to actually make it to the market.

UAW Rejects Mack Trucks Contract, Pauses Other Strikes

Screen Shot 2023 10 06 At 2.18.01 Pm

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The above is a real screenshot from Friday’s strike update that I took because, frankly, it made me laugh. I think that Shawn Fain is partially trolling here, but the degree to which he’s trolling is extremely debatable.

Either way, here are the most important updates on the UAW strike from a couple of sources:

Automotive News: UAW declines to expand strike, citing major movement in Detroit 3 bargaining

Three weeks into its strike against the Detroit 3, the UAW signaled for the first time that contract talks with all three automakers had achieved major progress and chose not to send more workers onto picket lines.

Ford Motor Co. has increased its wage increase offer to 23 percent, which would bring workers near $40 per hour by 2027, and offered to give new hires top pay after three years instead of eight. Both Stellantis and Ford have agreed to reinstate a 2007 cost-of-living adjustment formula.

General Motors, according to the union, has agreed to put electric vehicle battery production under the terms of the national contract — a key priority that has so far tripped up talks with Ford.

Reuters: UAW workers reject Mack Trucks contract, will strike

Union workers at Volvo Group-owned (VOLVb.ST) Mack Trucks overwhelmingly rejected a proposed five-year contract deal and will go on strike at 7 a.m. (1100 GMT) on Monday, the United Auto Workers said late on Sunday.

About 73% of workers voted against the deal covering 4,000 workers in Pennsylvania, Florida and Maryland, the UAW said.

The proposed deal had included a 19% pay hike, a $3,500 ratification bonus, improved retirement benefits, additional vacation for some employees and a reduction in the time needed to get to top pay.

Automotive News: Strip club, weed shops offer UAW discounts

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A Michigan strip club and several cannabis dispensaries are offering big discounts to UAW members while they’re on strike against the Detroit 3.

Dream Girls Detroit, which bills itself as the “Motor City’s premier topless entertainment mecca,” is admitting UAW members age 21 or older for free as long as the strike lasts.

“We’re built on the blue-collar working man. The middle class is the bread and butter of the United States,” owner Holly Johnson told Fox 2 in Detroit. “As a local business owner I’m happy to be one of the first to step up and say we have to do something, we have to show a little bit of respect back.”

Pure Michigan.

Anyone Want To Buy A Hyundai Plant In China?

Elantra China

The dream of non-Chinese automakers being able to print money in China is pretty much over. It was a good run folks. Other than Tesla and certain premium/luxury/exotic manufacturers, automakers have been beaten up there as of late.

Another sign it’s not a desirable market to enter: Reuters just reported that Hyundai had to drop the price of their Chongqing plant by about 30%.

Beijing Hyundai Motor is selling the land use rights, equipment and other facilities belonging to its plant as the South Korean automaker rejigs its strategy in China amid fierce price competition and slowing demand. The original asking price was 3.68 billion yuan, and the statement did not give a reason for the reduction.

Hyundai did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The Chongqing plant started production in 2017 with an annual capacity of 300,000 cars, and the decision to sell it came after Hyundai said in June that it would further restructure its China business to focus on profitability.

As the poet wrote: The world never goes back to the way it was, that’s just not something the world does.

Renault Has Just The Car For Struggling Brits

Small 20882 Newclioe Techfullhybrid

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The economy in Britain right now is, uh, real bad. Now there’s a war in the Middle East and all sorts of uncertainty. Who is coming to the rescue? France! Renault just revealed a cheaper, pure-petrol Renault Clio that’ll start at just $22,000 (pictured is the hybrid version).

The new Clio TCe 90 is powered by an efficient three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine capable of returning up to 54.3mpg. Priced from just £17,795, it’s not only some £1,300 cheaper than the model it replaces, it’s also up to £3,000 less than its direct competitors.

In response to its enhanced quality levels and generous specification, industry specialists CAP have calculated that the new Clio TCe 90 will retain up to 58% of its value after 3 years/30,000 miles, a significant uplift over its predecessor.

For even more efficiency, customers can opt for the new Clio E-Tech full hybrid, which emits as little as 96g/km CO2, returns up to 67.3mpg (WLTP) and provides a range of up to 550 miles. The petrol/electric version is available on Personal Contract Hire at £229 per month.

Thanks, France!

The Big Question

If you’re the CEO of Nissan, what do you do with this information?

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Dar Khorse
Dar Khorse
9 months ago

I don’t have anything to add to the excellent advice the other commenters have for Nissan. But I do have a serious question about mpg numbers from Britain: are those imperial gallons or US gallons? If they’re imperial gallons, then the Clio really only gets about 43 miles per US gallon, which is still pretty good, but doesn’t break that magical 50 mpg level.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
9 months ago

It’s Fall: time for a Leaf burning party.

Chartreuse Bison
Chartreuse Bison
9 months ago

I’m sure the CHAdeMO port didn’t help at all. Doesn’t matter how much you liked the first car, you’re not gonna buy another if you can’t charge it.

Frackle
Frackle
9 months ago

I have a really easy story for the autopian: Juneau, Alaska has an absurd amount of Nissan Leafs. Like, all over town. Until recently, they had one of the highest EV ownership rates in the country. They have minimal road, and a temperature range that’s very friendly to batteries (never above 80, never below 15). A lot of people will own a big ol truck to prove their Alaskan credentials and use a Leaf for everything else. The crumbling chademo infrastructure elsewhere is a boon to Juneau, they buy up old chargers and get them installed locally (chademo charging is free in Juneau). Get David Tracy on a plane up there, or at least interview people from the relevant facebook groups. It’ll be fun.

David Tracy
David Tracy
9 months ago
Reply to  Frackle

Will you drive me around?

Frackle
Frackle
9 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

Moved to the lower 48 last year, sadly… knowing Juneau’s EV community though, I’m sure you’d find an escort

Ben
Ben
9 months ago
Reply to  Frackle

His girlfriend might object to him finding an escort while travelling on business. 😉

Gunnar Gissel
Gunnar Gissel
9 months ago
Reply to  David Tracy

No joke, if you want someone to drive you around juneau Alaska, and you want to talk with one of the folks that has set up a lot of the charging infrastructure, I could probably help.

3WiperB
3WiperB
9 months ago

Yet another reason that the Bolt shouldn’t be killed off. I bet the Volt had similar numbers. Volt owners were super loyal and were then left with nothing similar to buy from GM after 2019.

Defenestrator
Defenestrator
9 months ago
Reply to  3WiperB

There’s basically no Volt equivalent today, even. The new Prius PHEV comes close, but it’s still sort of primarily parallel rather than basically electric-with-range-boost. The ICE has to kick in for full acceleration.

3WiperB
3WiperB
9 months ago
Reply to  Defenestrator

Yeah, we replaced ours with a 330e X-Drive, but it’s not as efficient on electric as my 2014 Volt was, and it only does 20-25 miles on full electric. My wife only has a 1 mile commute to work and a couple 5 mile trips to get my son to and from school, so it works fine for us and we still go 700-1000 miles between fill-ups. I will say that, even though the EPA ratings don’t agree, the 330e sips gas at highway speeds and I typically get 45-50 mpg on long trips. It’s a more engaging car than the Volt was, has more creature comforts, and does a lot of things better than the Volt, but the Volt still had better efficiency and range on electric, which just says how ahead of it’s time the Volt was.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
9 months ago

The Leaf was the best selling EV for 10 years until the Model 3 overtook it.

Nissan’s biggest mistake is not having a cooling system for the battery. The result is a severe reduction in range over the years. So if I ran Nissan, I’d add the cooling system, and also, a factory sunroof would become available.

Also, they need to bring more Renault and Dacia models over here. Perhaps they can captive import them as Mitsubishis and Nissans. Mitsubishi Sandero. Nissan Twingo. etc.

The real reason GM is still making the Bolt is because the factory they make it in is intended to be for their new Ultium cars, but they’re having trouble procuring the parts and supplies to make them, so rather than idle, they decided to keep making the Bolt in the mean time.

JDE
JDE
9 months ago

At this point if intelligent you take the good stuff from the current gen Leaf, use it to make a decent Hybrid Sentra and ditch all the CVT’s. Basically they must start over from a failure reputation. The newer leaf batteries are better, but nobody believes Nissan that this is true, also Nissan CVT’s still have a massive Failure rep from Nissan, so they can basically never use them. But if they follow the old Volt and make a plug in hybrid Sentra for Leaf money where they thing use the petrol motor to power the electrical bits, so the Electric motor basically become the transmission, that would be a good thing to sell cheap while they work on a decent battery set up for full electrics again.

Chad L
Chad L
9 months ago
Reply to  JDE

Nissan already did this with the Note e-Power. It basically has the Leaf drivetrain, but powered by a small battery which is fed by an ICE generator engine. They did a NISMO version which got awesome reviews, but of course we can’t have it in the US.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
9 months ago

I would be interested to understand loyalty trends among self-described enthusiasts. We seem to be one end of the spectrum or the other — either driving around with “I’d rather push a [fill-in-the-blank] than drive a [whatever]” bumper stickers or constantly being distracted by everything on the market like a golden retriever puppy walking down the toy aisle at Petco.

Hoonicus
Hoonicus
9 months ago

To focus on the positive news today, The new Clio TCe 90 looks good, we need more affordable 50+mpg cars for people that buy new. Restores my faith in humanity to hear Holly Johnson shining the path to respect.

Goof
Goof
9 months ago
Reply to  Hoonicus

That might be 54.3mpg in Imperial Gallons (what’s used in Britain) instead of US Gallons. If so, 54.3 imperial gallons would be 45.2mpg in US Gallons.

Considering it’s press copy intended for the British market, it likely was in Imperial Gallons.

MrLM002
MrLM002
9 months ago

Nissan Should have given the leaf an ACTIVELY air cooled battery pack. If I was in charge of Nissan now I’d focus on more budget minded BEVs like the Leaf, eNV200, etc, give them actively air cooled battery packs and preferably actively air cooled motors and computers, though I suppose oil cooled ones using the “transmission” oil would work too.

I’d make an eNV200 Pickup, put it and the regular eNV200 in production in the US.

The Airya is one of many subpar Tesla Model Y copies, Noone wants a Nissan knockoff of a Tesla. The only people I see buying Tesla knockoffs are people who hate Elon and or Tesla so much that they willingly chose a worse vehicle with a worse charging network and hardly any dealers that’ll service said knockoff.

Stick to what you’re good at Nissan, cheap, reliable BEVs

MrLM002
MrLM002
9 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

Also adopt NACS for the North and South American Markets.

Cheats McCheats
Cheats McCheats
9 months ago

Screw the Bolt and the leaf, Please start bringing the Renaults here. I would take one of these Clio’s today.

Robert L
Robert L
9 months ago

They built the Leaf as a standalone entry-level product and never suggested they were going to do anything else for the longest time, right? So if I buy a Leaf and love it but want to move up to a nicer model, what am I supposed to do?

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
9 months ago

Nissan: kill the Leaf. Then focus on getting the better EV’s up and onto dealer lots. Emphasize value. Also emphasize how they learned their lesson from the LEAF and now have a competitive EV for a similar price.

PresterJohn
PresterJohn
9 months ago

Well, if I’m the CEO of Nissan, there’s not much I can do with this info. It doesn’t appear there’s a way to make good, cheap BEVs profitably at this time (yes that includes China as they’re massively subsidized by the government). It also includes the Bolt which by all accounts lost money hand over fist near the end. I’ll keep making the Ariya and maybe a few other models for rich buyers.

With that in mind, I’m begging my buddies at Renault to allow me to take a bunch of cheap hybrid crossovers from overseas and bring them to America where I can sell a shitload of them to regular people. I’m also replacing my dealer network entirely as it’s trash.

Angel "the Cobra" Martin
Angel "the Cobra" Martin
9 months ago

The Leaf has lost the battle with the Bolt and Model 3, with a bunch of others coming soon. Nissan offers nothing new or compelling with this vehicle, so they need to either kill it or make it into something people need. How about a 2 door bench seat, or X-tra cab small pickup. A lot of these vehicles are commuter cars that sit around on the weekends. If they were to make something that fills another use they might have something on their hands. Of course I heard that Chevy was going to make the Bolt it’s own thing by offering the platform in a small van and small pickup. Instead all we get are 4 door hatchbacks that all offer the same functionality.

Derek van Veen
Derek van Veen
9 months ago

What Nissan should do is make a long-range EV in a station-wagon (not crossover) body style. Something about the size of a Golf Sportwagon or 3-Series wagon. That’s an EV niche that has been woefully neglected.

FWIW, my wife has had multiple LEAFs over the years – first yearly leases, then purchased a 2018 model – and she absolutely loves them. Then again, she doesn’t do much freeway driving and we have a charger at home.

Mrbrown89
Mrbrown89
9 months ago

I am part of the statistics of the Chevy Bolt, we leased one during 2021 but the battery recall fiasco made us change the lease for a Chevy Blazer keeping the same residual and monthly payments, I got some money back too based on MSRP difference. Just last month we decided to finance a Chevy Bolt EUV, what an improvement, we don’t use fast charging so the 50KW rate is not an issue

Better driving, better interiors, I love the good balance of buttons and screen options

We still have the blazer since now we have good equity on it (2023). I may flip it to Carvana or CarMax at the end of the lease lol

Arch Duke Maxyenko
Arch Duke Maxyenko
9 months ago

Well, the first gen Leaf looked like it was designed by Dr. Seuss, then the second gen looked much more generic (and better for it), but then Nissan kept with the CHAdeMO, then you have Nissan dealerships, which boy howdy is a different topic, but then on top of everything Nissan being severely cash strapped put Zero resources into updates or new platforms for the Leaf

A. Barth
A. Barth
9 months ago

Dream Girls Detroit, which bills itself as the “Motor City’s premier topless entertainment mecca,” is admitting UAW members age 21 or older for free as long as the strike lasts.

I’m assuming there’s no sex in the shawnfain room.

Chronometric
Chronometric
9 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

No food either.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
9 months ago

Nissan Screwed Up With The Leaf Everything

Man With A Reliable Jeep
Man With A Reliable Jeep
9 months ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

Carlos Ghosn: “Leaf me outta this!”

Brian Ash
Brian Ash
9 months ago

I never believe loyalty data, like all metrics it justifies what they want it to. Many people are lazy and stick with a car model or brand, especially when trading in a car you are gonna get the “best” deal from the same manufacturer. A lot of times people choose and stick with the closet car dealer. Its not loyalty, its convivence. Around me the closest car dealer within 5 miles is a Kia dealer, wanna guess what car brand I see the most? Next closest is Chevy, can you guess the #2 car brand in the neighborhood?

Last edited 9 months ago by Brian Ash
Ottomottopean
Ottomottopean
9 months ago
Reply to  Matt Hardigree

I’d also like to see a comparison of this data with the number of people that lease the vehicles.
It’s more difficult to get out of the lease if there’s any sort of minor damage or anything the dealer wants to charge you for etc. But in my experience they waive those fees when you buy with them again. And generally there are a lot of people that simply resign themselves to leasing a new car every 3 years and they just stop in and pick it up on schedule.

With rising prices and interest rates I’d bet these types of buyers with their faux-loyalty actually increase.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
9 months ago

CEO? Two words: Golden Parachute.

It is now some else’s problem.

Data
Data
9 months ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

DB Cooper, is that you?

Drew
Drew
9 months ago

If you’re the CEO of Nissan, what do you do with this information?

Aggressive marketing of the Ariya seems to be the current move, but I’d drop the price on it as much as possible and pivot the advertising from the current attempt to make it desirable and over to reminders that Nissan has been the company pushing affordability in their EVs. At a time that GM is disappointing people with promises of 40k electric pickups and Blazers turning into yet more expensive EVs, Nissan should be trying to pull those Bolt buyers back from Chevy.

Alternatively, you could improve the Leaf enough to pull the same trick, but that’s probably going to take longer.

Regardless, emphasize Nissan’s role as the affordable EV brand and offer value. They aren’t going to be the tech leader, the most engaging vehicle, or the status symbol. Most Nissan customers go to Nissan because they can finance a reasonable car (with a certain reputation, of course). Embrace that for EVs.

FloridaMatt
FloridaMatt
9 months ago

Start building Lincoln clones.

Data
Data
9 months ago

The Big Question: Put it in a cello case and send it to Lebanon.

Is anyone else waiting for Kurt Russel to reprise Snake Plissken in Escape From Tokyo?

10001010
10001010
9 months ago

If you’re the CEO of Nissan, what do you do with this information?

Well if this info is being delivered via Nissan Leaf they may not have gotten it yet.

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