Nissan Sticks With 20K Leafs In U.S. By End Of (Fiscal) Year

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Steve Marsh's 2011 Nissan Leaf: 11 Months, 36,000 Miles

Steve Marsh's 2011 Nissan Leaf: 11 Months, 36,000 Miles

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Electric-car sales are actually doing better than sales of hybrid-electric vehicles were at the same stage of their launch, though you'd never know it from much of the media.

But the prevalent "electric-car-sales-are-disastrous" meme has caused carmakers to couch their predictions much more carefully.

Nissan, which sold 10,000 Leafs in the U.S. during 2011 and has long said it will sell 20,000 this year, is sticking by that prediction.

But there's a footnote.

As Bill Krueger, the vice chairman of Nissan Americas, told Bloomberg in an interview from Mexico, the company has every confidence it will sell 20,000 Leafs in the U.S. by the end of its fiscal year.

Unfortunately, Nissan's fiscal year ends in March, not this coming December.

But sales forecasts are customarily based on the calendar year from January through December, so Nissan may not actually sell 20,000 Leafs during 2012.

To do that, the company would have to average 2,500 sales a month from now to the end of the year. Through the end of May, Nissan had sold only 2,613 Leafs this year.

The holdup, the company says, is that it is supplying Leafs to markets all over the world from a single plant in Oppama, Japan, with a maximum capacity of 50,000 battery packs a year.

A Day In The Life Of A Nissan Leaf

A Day In The Life Of A Nissan Leaf

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The Leaf sells for less in the U.S. than in just about any market, but the Japanese yen is close to historic highs against the dollar--meaning the U.S. market is probably the least profitable place it can sell Leafs.

And the Oppama plant is now supplying battery packs to a range of Renault ZE electric models as well--the Fluence, Kangoo, and Twizy--meaning that there are fewer packs available for Leafs.

That problem will end this fall, when Nissan's lithium-ion cell plant starts producing batteries. In December, the adjacent assembly plant will start building Leafs among Altimas, Maximas, and the other vehicles it already assembles.

So 2013 is likely to be the year when we see how many Leafs the U.S. really wants to buy--since the U.S. plants can assemble up to 150,000 Leafs a year, plus an additional 50,000 battery packs on top of that.

Meanwhile, though, it's increasingly likely that Nissan is not going to sell 20,000 Leafs by the end of December.


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Comments (8)
  1. It would help sales if they produced an electric that could take the place of their current vehicle. And having style would be a plus as well. Now let's see what happens in 2 days when the Model S starts delivery - Musk is determined to produce a car that people actually think is worth the extra money. I think he has succeeded. I predict that you won't need to make excuses anymore for the rather drab, ugly, slow selling EVs that are currently on the market. Just because a car is electric doesn't mean it's worth a damn.

  2. I'd say that a viable electric car from an established car company dedicated to making electric cars is worth a damn. Once you start driving a Leaf the funky look grows on you. Yes the Tesla is one nice looking car but the market size gets pretty thin at the price.

  3. Let's not be too quick to assume LEAF sales will shoot upwards when the domestic battery plant comes online. LEAF owners are already encountering battery degradation, so what difference will it make with domestically produced batteries if the overall battery design is feeble to begin with?

    You reporters really ought to quit allowing Nissan to spoon feed you with their wonderful sounding spins. Pretend they are GM, and be skeptical of what they say and promise.

  4. Well, I see plenty of unsold cars here in the SF Bay Area Nissan dealers. If they have a shortage, then it is certainly NOT a California thing. Also, the California State Rebates of $2,500 per Leaf is running low. There is only enough money for about 1,200 cars (that includes all EVs and PHEVs). I doubt the sales will pick up once the California State rebates are gone.

  5. There is a lot of speculation that when Nissan says "sales will pick up when domestic production comes on line" they actually omit to add "...and there will be a substantial price cut".

  6. I think Leaf sales would be better if it had either better styling or better performance. Because the Leaf as it is now isn't strong in either category.

  7. I saw five LEAFs at my local dealer the other day. No one is even looking at them. The shortage must be so acute that people just don't expect them to be there at all, so they don't think twice and pick the Altima instead.

  8. I think Nissan can and will get the sales. I would like to thank Nissan for putting heated steering wheels on the Leaf. My hands are going to love that in the winter time.I would like to make another suggestion for Nissan to help with sells.I sometimes have to park my vehicle in high crime areas, and it has been broken into several times. Can you put, and hide, a high resolution-motion activated camera in the mirror on the windshield, that can take pictures in three different directions, and the same camera in the taillight on the back glass? And can you make it where the pictures the camera takes would be sent to my home computer or iPhone?

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