While the auto dealers in the U.S. clearly are not too enamored with Tesla Motors and its direct sales model, using their lobbying muscle to try to block the Californian company from selling in many states, the National Auto Dealers Association (NADA) is also simultaneously becoming more interested in electric vehicles. They must see the writing on the wall and know that at some point this will become their main business. Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of history, which is why I think that eventually the attacks on Tesla will stop (my guess: When the more affordable Model 3 is released, many people will feel more directly annoyed by these tactics and there will be a bigger backlash against them).
So NADA has released its first report on what they call "electric car retention performance", or in plain language, how well do EVs and plug-in hybrids retain value over time. They compiled statistics for one, two, and three-year old electric cars and compared the average resale value with the average original price paid.
Here's the 1-year list:
The first thing to note is that Tesla is on top. This is no doubt partly because of the quality of the vehicle and the fact that demand is still higher than supply, so some would-be Tesla owners are no doubt looking at the second-hand market. But another important factor is probably the fact that the company, and Musk personally, have guaranteed that resale value will be the "highest of any premium sedan brand made in volume" and will buy back the car from owners at that price if necessary.
Another thing to note: There's a pretty big spread between the top and bottom of the list. Just being a plug-in doesn't seem to make a vehicle hold or lose resale value on its own, it depends on what model it is.
Obviously there are fewer models on the 2-year list because some from the 1-year list weren't on the market yet. Tesla keeps its pole position.
One thing that probably affects resale prices are incentives. If you get $7,500 from the federal government and a few thousands from your state, that money hasn't really been spent on the car, and so it'll show in the price that is expected by buyers.
Then we have the 3-year list, and once again, Tesla's performance is making Elon Musk proud:
Important to note that Model S resale value is also higher than that of gasoline cars— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 23, 2015
As you can see above, the Nissan LEAF has been having a harder time holding up its resale value, possibly for the reasons explained by TreeHugger Sami here:
So why are prices so low? That depends on who you ask. With original three-year leases on many LEAFs coming to an end, and with many customers holding out for the longer range 2017 model, the hugely popular LEAF is now in a kind of a weird no-mans land. Low gas prices may also be depressing demand, and reasonable leases on new models—combined with fat tax incentives—can't be helping the used LEAF market. With consumers still unfamiliar with EV technology, many buyers may also be concerned about battery life and other reliability concerns.