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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