Nissan To Reboot Leaf Effort, Asks Electric-Car Fans For Help

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nissan leaf ev 007

nissan leaf ev 007

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This is a tough period for Nissan and its Leaf electric car.

Sales have been stagnant, averaging 500 cars per month this year. More recent concerns by owners in Phoenix over unexpected battery-capacity loss raise the specter of a plug-in car with limited lifespan.

Some observers feel that Nissan hasn't adequately communicated the car's capabilities and expected battery life to prospective buyers, nor engaged Leaf owners adequately when they have had complaints.

Now Nissan is making several changes to its U.S. Leaf operation, and last week it surveyed "hand-raisers"--those people who indicated an early interest in the Leaf.

Recipients of the e-mail request--including both those who went on to buy a Leaf and those who didn't--had previously asked Nissan to be kept updated about the battery electric car.

Questions in the online survey asked about what they looked for when buying a car, how those people viewed the Leaf, what they might use it for, and what they felt would be a reasonable price.

Green Car Reports was contacted by two separate readers, one in the Northeast and one in the Southeast, who had taken the online survey.

From our reader in the Northeast, last week:

I got a survey request from Nissan America on the Leaf today.

The questions make it clear that they are wondering what has gone wrong with their sales, and why so many people who have expressed interest (like me) have not made the purchase.

From our reader in the Southeast:

I was sent a Nissan Leaf consideration survey on September 25th.

It asked about things like price point, battery capacity, the most important things when considering the car (sticker price, cost of fuel, insurance costs), and my top concerns when buying the car (range, battery capacity, etc).

One of the questions was about a car-sharing program. It said Nissan was considering a car share program for Leaf owners to be able to borrow a conventional car for occasional longer trips. It asked how often I would use this service.

From what I'm hearing about the Leaf and its battery woes, I'm not sure I'm interested. The city I live in gets pretty hot. I have a short commute (6.5 miles), so I'm considering a short-range plug-in hybrid as well as a Leaf.

2011 Nissan LEAF prototype

2011 Nissan LEAF prototype

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The lesson I've learned as an early hybrid adopter was to wait.  I've had to have both transmission repairs and a replacement battery, thankfully under warranty.

We suspect that deeper engagement with its hand-raisers is one of several new initiatives Nissan will take to kick-start Leaf electric car sales, before the mildly updated 2013 Leaf is launched later this fall.

Job One for Leaf assembly at Nissan's Smyrna, Tennessee, plant is scheduled for December.

That plant can build up to 150,000 Leafs per year, but with just 4,228 sold through August, some radical action will be required to "move the metal."

In the short term, Nissan is offering heavily discounted lease rates of $219 a month on 2012 Leafs.

New staff will also be working on the Leaf in the U.S. after the long-planned retirement of Leaf product manager Mark Perry and the promotion of PR manager Katherine Zachary to run Leaf communications in Europe.

Nissan has already announced that it will launch a Leaf Advisory Board, to be led by respected electric-car advocate Chelsea Sexton.

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

Enlarge Photo

More staff announcements are expected this week.

Meanwhile, here's the text of the note Nissan sent to its Leaf hand-raisers, asking them to participate in the survey:

In the past, you have shown interest in the 100-percent electric, zero-emission Nissan LEAF.

Nissan is looking to understand if you continue to have an interest in the Nissan LEAF and whether you have any concerns regarding the LEAF and or electric vehicle technology in general.

If you already own a Nissan LEAF we would appreciate your feedback on a potential offer to current owners.

The information you provide will assist in directing how Nissan communicates with consumers and helps us build and improve upon our vehicles.

Most importantly, the information gathered from these surveys allows us the opportunity and privilege to serve you, the consumer, with the best experience possible.


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Comments (23)
  1. Shouldn't that be done before they design the car?

    But I guess it is better to be late than "never". Especially with all major auto makers ramping up Plugin Hybrids. There will be significant threat and market competition from Ford, GM, BMW, VW and Toyota...

  2. Nicer exterior styling, longer range and improved battery reliability are three obvious things they need to address in 2013. A lower price and 6.6K charger will help a lot. Most important, they needed to quickly acknowledge and remedy their customer's battery problems, since this car's technology is completely new.

  3. Opening communication with EV enthusiasts for feedback is great, but Nissan needs to evaluate it's customer experience at point of first interaction with Leaf. Dealers have limited staff, both knowledgable and enthusiastic toward EVs. Ford also has this hurtle of dealers offering one EV model on a lot full of umpteen non-EV model choices.

    Getting behind the wheel is critical to experiencing the Leaf's value as an EV. More focus on "try" vs. "buy" will lower barriers to discovering and learning. Short term rentals, & car-sharing encourage "try" without risk of a mismatched ownership.

    I'm confident Nissan will continue to refine and introduce more customizable options. Looking forward to the day when dealers offer more than one EV model.

  4. I think a very important thing that Nissan needs to do is stand behind their EV's 100%. The consumer needs to know they are covered no matter what happens. As soon as there is the feeling that the consumer is not protected, why would they take a 'risk' with their car?

    I bought a 1st gen Prius and Toyota was fully behind the car. The warranty was strong and when a problem came up, they did WHATEVER it took to make it right for the customer.

    For a 1st gen car, and especially a EV, Nissan needs to leave no doubt in the consumers mind that they will be there and the car will not fail. The battery warranty needs to cover some loss of capacity. It's that simple.


  5. I am much less likely to recommend the car to my friends and family if there is a chance that the car could lose half it's range in the first few years.

    That would put me in a real bad place. Nissan needs to assure it's potential customers that the car is dependable. If the capacity falls faster than a specified curve (and wasn't damaged or neglected by the owner), Nissan will fix the car.

    Sorry Nissan.. but I think you need to step up on that issue. And then as you improve the car, people will be confident that the car can meet their needs and many (not all) will buy it.

  6. @prberg; I think you've got it mostly right. Once the early adopters saw Nissan go all "corporate" when serious battery issues arose, they felt betrayed. Nissan lost their cheerleaders when they needed them most. It's a new world, full of electronic communities, you can't keep reality in the closet.
    Bear in mind though, the LEAF had flagging sales well before the battery issue. Perhaps it's styling, range, cost. The JD Power survey probably stems from Nissan's failure to convert non-early adopters to EV buyers back in early 2012.
    There's a variety of directions for Nissan to go from here. I also own a LEAF and feel the fun aspect of EV driving is not emphasized enough. The LEAF converted my wife as well.
    Next stop Tesla.

  7. the leaf's falling sales are a result of low mileage on trips. What were the Phd's thinking ?? they missed the most important step...trip distance !!!!

  8. I wonder if it is too little, too late. Nissan thus far has dodged the mainstream media bullet, but has burned its bridges to much of the EVangelist community.

    Perhaps the best product move they could make is to dump the LEAF and start over. It shouldn't take too long or cost too much to badge engineer the Renault Zoe EV into a Nissan EV.

  9. Zoe looks like a solid winner to me. If I'm not mistaken, Renault plans to use different batteries, and not the AESC cells we know from the LEAF.

  10. @Kent: Look for our Paris Auto Show live photo gallery on the Zoe coming later today.

    But I'd argue that while the Leaf is a compact hatchback, the Zoe is a subcompact hatch--and compacts appeal to a much larger potential U.S. audience than do subcompacts, if you look at the segment sales numbers for each category. In Europe, the numbers are much more balanced between the 2 sizes.

    More than that, I rather suspect the Zoe was not designed to Federalize, which would mean 2-3 years and hundreds of millions of dollars of redesign cost.

    I look at it this way: The Renault Zoe occupies the slot in Europe that the Leaf does here--it's an all-electric entry in the smallest high-volume segment.

  11. OK fine, how about the Renault Fluence? Seems like a nice car. Does it have the same battery pack issues?

  12. John, agreed. I grew up in Europe, and I'm intimately familiar with that market. I'm confident that Zoe will do better than the Leaf there, perhaps even substantially so. I wouldn't expect to see it marketed stateside, I share your view on that.

  13. From what I'd read before, I should expect 80% of 80% over the long haul. That is, only 80% battery capacity will remain after the pack sees some {unknown} amount of usage, followed by trying not to consistently exceed 80% of the battery capacity on a regular basis. With an EPA guesstimate of 73 miles, 80% of 80% gives a long-term range expectation of 46.72 miles. My commute is exactly 40 miles round-trip and there will be no charge at work option. Winter driving to work and back, if the wipers, heater and lights are all required makes that commute uncertain. When the EPA rating goes to 100 or more miles, 80% of 80% is 64 miles. Problem solved for me. I think in many minds, 100 miles is the magic number.

  14. I received via mail a survey by JD Power and associates and completed it online. They gifted a fresh new dollar bill in the mailing. It seems the survey is for LEAF owners. Clearly Nissan are trying to get input from their customers. The were several open ended questions where one could write small paragraphs noting things you did or did not like about the LEAf. It took over 30 minutes to complete. My hourly rate wasn't too good for completing it :-)

    Hopefully they will make genuine strides to improve what is basically a great car with a few drawbacks, the most worrying is of course the battery durability in warm/hot climates.

    For me the car has been great. An extra 30 miles range would make all the difference. I.E. EPA range of 100 miles

  15. I got one too... Probably for my Volt...

  16. I'd like to see a guaranteed dealer back program, with an adjustment to the resale value for the Leaf. Reasoning: it will not have any value without a working battery. Currently, all the resale loss is on the customer that was given bad information at the purchase for the expected battery life.

  17. Hi Nissan it's 2013 and you want our opinions? Go back over the community of enthusiasts opinions from the last 30 or 40 years or so. Then meet us online at some point. We'll be here!

  18. I would be interested in trading my 2012 for 1 2013 or 2014 if I could get a fair lease. when I bought mine the dealer was a jerk and wanted nearly $150 more than the standard lease from Nissan (didn't pay that much). So screw their Nissan dealers who began this approach to screw their customers. Until Nissan itself offers us a fair trade-in were no longer interested in buying another Nissan period.

  19. I own a leaf and I love it. I charge it at night and get the off use rate using a 110 volt. I couldn't be happier with the car.
    Michael Teply Chico , Ca.

  20. I have had a similar experience. I charge on 110 and I love the car. The 2013 model is definitely improved. It is really fun to drive. I love not having to use gas!

  21. I really like the Leaf, I think it's amazing new tech and the future, but, here's my take
    1) A set of Modular hooks, so I can order different versions and different ranges at different price points. There is no reason to not have a SR or XR or LE version that allows customers to buy 50, 75 or 120 Miles of range, rather then One size fits all, let us the customers decide what we want.
    2) A plug in battery extender, so i can pop the rear seats out and add 20-30 Miles of range.
    3) Demo that Vehicle2Home technology, you are leading there, push it.
    4) A small trailer hitch, so i can tow a short trailer, nothing big, but say an electric wheelchair, or a festival show setup, or a food wagon.
    5) an extra charging port on the back end,

  22. I am very interested in the Leaf. However, I need more range. My business is 90 miles roundtrip from my house. If I could get a clear 100 miles this car could work for me. Most other trips I can easily do with the lower range, but I can't buy one car for one set of trips and another for the other set of trips.

  23. DO NOT BUY THIS CAR! I can only drive my car 60 miles on a charge after 15 months and 15,000 miles. My battery pack will be below 70% (relpacement capacity) when the car is only 30 to 36 months old. I'll still have 24 to 30 months of payments on it at that point. I am stuck with a $40,000 Lemon and Nissan isn't helping me with this disaster.

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