Is this a backhanded compliment?

After Nissan reported – again – that monthly sales of the first mass-produced U.S. electric vehicle continued to disappoint, our friends at Plug-in Cars realized something: the Nissan Leaf is kind of like the original Honda Insight.

Introduced to the U.S. in late 2010, the Leaf might be falling out of favor with the U.S. public because it's too ahead of its time and because it doesn't quite have the combination of attributes – i.e., range, cost, size – needed for car buyers to take the leap into EVs. This is pretty much how the first-gen Insight – the first hybrid sold in the U.S. – was received. Debuting in late 1999, that Insight was rated at 70 miles per gallon and was what Plug In Cars called a "wonderfully inventive first attempt at something new." The model also sold just 17,000 units before being discontinued in 2006. Originally, Honda had hoped to sell 6,500 units a year.

This week, Nissan announced that it sold 395 Leafs last month, down from 535 in June and down sharply from the 931 units sold a year earlier. It wasn't until the second-generation Toyota Prius arrived in 2004 that hybrid sales took off. The big question, if this analogy is correct, is whether or not we someday get a "Prius" from the all-electric world.