2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

If you're one of the more than 16,000 customers who put a deposit down on the 2011 Nissan Leaf, you're in luck--you're among the first in line as Nissan begins checking out home installation issues before opening the actual order process to pre-registered shoppers.

And you're no newbie. In fact, you've already taken the first baby step to weaning yourself off Big Petroleum. According to Nissan's early peeks into its future orders, a staggering percentage of potential Leaf buyers already own...a Toyota Prius.

"Surprisingly--very good for us--90 percent of the reservationists own something else"--something other than a Nissan, says Mark Perry, director of product planning for Nissan.

Does that mean the Prius? "We would just say hybrids," he laughs.

It makes perfect sense, Perry explains. "Our initial hypothesis was that hybrid owners would make good surrogates. They're early adopters, and like new technology.

They're also ready for something new, he says. "Hybrids were the best technology of the day. That day was ten years ago. Now they're looking for zero [emissions]."

Since early this year, when Nissan opened up the reservations system for its new mass-market electric Leaf, the company's learned much about its future owners. Perry thinks the Leaf hand-raisers will be nearly a "perfect EV owner body." The majority of sign-ups have come from people who own their own homes, have access to a carport or a garage, and have a daily commute that can fit inside of the 2011 Leaf's 100-mile driving range.

"They've researched the car," he says. "They know what the car can do."

They'll also have a chance to experience the Leaf prior to laying out real money for one, too. Perry says Nissan will blitz the order lists in September and October, bringing Leaf prototypes to potential buyers for a final test drive to encourage them to convert into owners. By the time the cross-country sales blitz is over, Perry says Nissan expects to have conducted more than 40,000 test drives with prospective Leaf owners.