Nissan's marketing tour of the Nissan Leaf kicked off in Los Angeles.  The tour, which will bring the Leaf to 22 cities in advance of its release date late next year, is a marketing campaign put on by the company to help determine interest and buying mindset.

Nissan expects to sell only 10,000 to 20,000 of its first EV by the end of 2011.  Then the Leaf will see its widespread global launch that the company predicts could generate sales in the hundreds of thousands.  However, uncertainty remains surrounding marketing aspects of the vehicle.

According to both Mark Perry, Nissan's Director of Product Planning and Brian Carolin, Nissan's Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, the company is uncertain how the buying public will respond to buying a vehicle such as the Leaf without the key powertrain component (the battery) included in the purchase.  Nissan would like to sell the vehicle, but lease the battery separately.  However, Nissan's market research has shown that Americans may not be keen of this plan.

According to Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, Nissan would like to lease the battery separately to relieve the customer of any concerns over battery longevity and to open up the possibility of offering upgraded batteries as technology becomes available.  According to Ghosn, the company is already working on 2nd and 3rd generation batteries that could increase the range and power of the vehicle, reduce the weight, and cost less to the consumer.

The first generation batteries in the Leaf are rated to last at least 10 years, but the possibility of leasing an upgraded battery could be optioned to the customer at a later date, making the Leaf an evolving EV over the course of its life.

General consensus does not seem to support the idea of leasing a battery here in the U.S. market.  But if the plan is to offer constant upgrades throughout the life of the vehicle, buyers may be open to the idea.

A option program that allows Leaf buyers to decide what battery they want at a later date may be intriguing.  For example, if you are satisfied with the 100 mile range of the first gen. battery, then you simply elect to keep that battery.  But if you decide you would rather have 200 miles of range at a later date, you upgrade your battery selection.  Perhaps you could even chooses a similar battery with the same output at a later date that costs less per month to lease and weighs less thus increasing the range.

Nissan is open to many possibilities at this point.  They will gauge customer interest in the battery leasing option and make decisions about the program at a later date.  They could even elect to cancel the leasing option and instead combine the battery with the vehicle.  Consumer consensus will help guide their decisions in this unexplored area and hopefully they will offer options that consumers want.