2011 Nissan Leaf: Free Recharging At Dealers, Except When They Balk Page 2

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

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I rolled into Surf City Nissan's lot with about 25 miles to spare. The Leaf had done its job: It got me to Huntington Beach and the charging station. I spotted the pair of Level 2 chargers, right in front of the showroom.

However, the area in front of the chargers was occupied, by two non-electric-non-Leaf cars. They were Fourth of July specials looking for buyers.

A salesman waved me to a makeshift parking spot by the entrance, not a good spot but close enough for the charging cable to reach my Leaf's nose receptacle. I plugged in. Within five minutes, a second salesman came out of the showroom and said I couldn't just plug in and recharge, I needed to have a reservation. 

Reservation? You're kidding, right? I told him that when I bought my Leaf and did my research, I was assured that any Leaf owner could recharge at any Nissan dealership during regular hours of operation. The second salesman's lip curled. He was stumped. He'd check with the manager and get back to me.

My wife called and said she'd be arriving soon to pick me up and take me to the July 4th party. I got my bathing suit from the trunk, locked the car, and moved a dozen yards to the entrance to wait for her. Moments before she arrived, I was waved back to the dealership.

Surf City's Ken Heinsohn was standing next to my Leaf. "You can't park here," said Mr. Heinsohn. I realized the spot where I'd parked my Leaf wasn't the best, but they had two of their cars blocking the charging stations. 

2011 Nissan LEAF iPhone App

2011 Nissan LEAF iPhone App

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Mr. Heinsohn went on to say that I could park "over there." Over there was a parking space. A nice enough space, but no charging station. 

I have to admit I was more than miffed. I had just driven 70-plus miles with no air conditioning so I could drive a stake into the heart of "range anxiety." I informed Mr. Heinsohn that the spot "over there" was useless to me. I needed to recharge my Leaf. I asked him to move one of the cars blocking the charger access. 

Move his July 4th special, so a non-customer could recharge? Now Mr. Heinsohn was getting miffed. I could either park in the non-charging spot he offered, or get out of his lot. At this very moment my wife, daughter, and mother-in-law, drove up -- all pleased that my first Leaf extended trip had gone so well.

That's when Mr. Heinsohn and I got into it. I told him, you have two charging stations that aren't being used. I'm a Leaf owner in need of a charge. Can you move one of your cars? He didn't like my attitude. He gave me his card when I told him I'd be calling Nissan's customer service, and then invited me to leave his lot.

I did. Little Greenfoot and I drove off. I was a bit raw to say the least.

After leaving Surf City Nissan, I tapped the EV Charger Finder iPhone app, which pointed me to the Waterfront Hilton in Huntington Beach. When I arrived, the parking attendants didn't have a clue as  to the whereabouts of a charger. Finally, the chief attendant told me the charger had been taken out years ago.

Happily, Nissan's Carwings worked superbly and directed me to another Nissan dealership. The big question was, did I have enough juice to get there? Can you say "range anxiety"?

I arrived at Connell Nissan in Costa Mesa with 1 mile to spare in Eco mode. Several salesman happened to be standing near their Level 2 charging stations out front. The spots were empty.  No Leafs were recharging. I asked if I could charge up. Absolutely. No problem: Charge away. 

I tracked down Ted Eid, Connell's General Sales Manager, and told him about my recent experience at Surf City Nissan. He smiled and gave me his card. "Have a great 4th of July," he said. And I did. My sister-in-law makes great ribs.

Let's be clear about one thing: I love my Nissan Leaf. And I think Nissan should be applauded for being a visionary company.

It's just selfish and short-sighted dealer employees, like the gentleman who invited me to leave his lot, that I have a problem with.  

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Comments (13)
  1. This has happened before at other Nissan dealers. Nobody has accused the typical car store of being visionary or customer focused. We were told by Nissan that unimpeded access to Nissan dealers for charging was part of what we were getting with the Leaf.

    Nissan has an obligation to ensure this is the case or pull the Leaf model from a dealer.

  2. What should be made clear by this incident is that the leaf is only practical for very short commutes. The owner of his leaf was using the car for something it was not designed to do. The fact that Surf City Nissan located their charging stations in their favorite promotional spot shows that the charging station and the promise of dealer recharge idea was just a gimmick to entice new buyers, nothing that the dealership had seriously bought into.

  3. @tlushnia Nissan Leaf was designed for the majority of commutes in this country, with twice the EV range of a Chevy Volt, which at 40 miles, is adequate for most commuters as well. With the continuing roll out of L2 chargers and hopefully L3 chargers, there is no reason why the author shouldn't be able to accomplish the round trip distance he sought to achieve--it should become more and more doable, even if not as reliable currently as home charging.

  4. The Leaf has a stated range of approximately 100 miles. How is a 70 mile trip exceed the design criteria of the car? If the dealer had charging stations installed they should expect that someone would want to use them. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. The sales manager that chased this gentleman off the lot should be shown the door by the general manager if he has half a brain. A stretch, I know! Nissan will be not be pleased to hear about this. Thanks to social media stories such as these could kill the leaf before it even catches on. I'm sure Nissan is smart enough not to let that happen as there is too much riding on new technologies like the electric car.

  5. Unbelievable. We all need to spread this around!

  6. Good article!!

  7. What a POS dealer - I wouldn't expect any more or less from these guys though.

  8. This is an interesting article.I have read the article and some of the responses below.Some of the responses logical and some not so much.Im a Sales manager here at Surf City Nissan and was present at the time when Mr.Schwartz drove his Leaf onto the lot.Seems like some miscommunication lead to a frustrated customer.We are Leaf friendly here ofcourse and anyone is more than welcome to come use our charging station.Just come in politely and ask us.We will assist you as best we can to get your car charged in a timely manner.We can also assist in parking your vehicle next to the charger so that it isnt blocking any entrances or exits.Any questions contact Ken,Tristan or Tam we are the Sales managers in the store.

  9. Tristan: Thanks for your response. Good to have it here associated with the story.

  10. Know what I'd have done if this douchebag left us hanging? To the chagrin of my spouse, I'd have told him I need a charge so I'm not leaving. That way (hopefully he'd call the Cops. Now THAT would haver REALLY shown off the dealership's douchery ... as even ICE drivers would get incensed at that level.

  11. It is an unfortunate course of events that happened to you Bill and I hope it will generate positive changes in the future. I wish to share one of the best practices I have seen with Nissan dealers. Last week,the NorthBay CalNissan dealer of CA inaugurated the public access to a Schneider Electric dual Level 2 charging station for free charging, open to any electric car owner. Volt, Tesla, i-Miev owners and others are welcomed as much as Leaf owners.

    The local community got engaged in the event: Petaluma Mayor David Glass, Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbit, NB Nissan owner Greg Dexter, Mike Calise, Dr of EV Business at Schneider Electric, Dale Miller, President of the GG EV Association, Marc Geller, PlugIn America(...) see posting 2

  12. (...) Steve Atwater, founder of EvolvElectric and Maltby Electric Supply. In addition, a few Leaf owners came to the lot to support the initiative and share their experience of driving electric vehicles in the bay area of San Francisco.

    The initiative demonstrated the common goal of supporting alternative transportation in a region sensitive to green solutions and thought leader approach. As we witness deployment of more charging stations in the field, the range anxiety issue simply disappears.

    No wonder why this Nissan dealer is listed as the multi-year winner of the Award of Excellence for outstanding customer satisfaction and the #1 US dealer of Nissan Leaf sales in 2011.

  13. No doubt there are enlightened Nissan dealerships. Nissan of Thousand Oaks welcomes all EV drivers as well. Santa Monica Nissan had a terrible record and closed their doors only a few months. Don't know if customer service was a reason but it wouldn't surprise me. All in all, true success for EV driving will depend on increasing public awareness to the benefits, and I suspect, good word of mouth from EV drivers will be very helpful.

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