Steve Marsh's 2011 Nissan Leaf: 11 Months, 36,000 MilesEnlarge Photo
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 LeafEnlarge Photo
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.