Nissan CEO Admits 2012 Leaf Sales Goal Won't Be Reached

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2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

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For many months, Nissan has said it would sell 20,000 Leaf electric cars in the U.S. by next March.

Sales rates didn't seem to support that, and now Nissan has conceded that it won't happen.

CEO Carlos Ghosn said that number "would not be reached," in an interview on Bloomberg TV in Mexico City yesterday. The Detroit News reported Ghosn's remarks.

Nissan sold 9,674 Leafs in the U.S. during 2011, and had long planned to double that number this year.

But from January through October, it sold 6,791 Leafs--15 percent fewer than in the same period last year--although October sales spiked to 1,579, its second-best month ever.

Just last month, Nissan executive Andy Palmer told a small group of reporters that the company had not abandoned its plan to double U.S. Leaf sales this year.

At the time, he conceded that the car's sales number weren't meeting internal expectations.

Nissan still has by far the most aggressive plans of any global automaker to design and sell several different pure battery-electric vehicles.

It has already shown a concept version of the 2015 Infiniti LE electric compact luxury sedan, and it is likely to offer the e-NV 200, an electric version of its compact delivery van as well.

Recently, the company has made several shifts in its executive ranks to attempt to manage its global electric vehicle effort better.

Among them were appointing Billy Hayes as global electric-vehicle sales chief, and reorganizing some of its U.S. communications functions.

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

2011 Nissan Leaf SL

Enlarge Photo

A media event that was to have been held today to show off Nissan's lithium-ion battery cell fabrication plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, was abruptly canceled last week.

Yesterday, reports emerged that the U.S. Department of Labor had won almost $800,000 in back pay for contractors on an unnamed plant expansion project in Tennessee who had been underpaid under Federal work rules.

That plant is very likely either the cell plant or the associated expansion of Nissan's production lines in the adjacent Smyrna assembly plant where the company will start building 2013 Leafs next month.

That work was funded by low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Energy. Nissan was originally granted $1.6 billion, of which it ended up using $1.4 billion.


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