Both Nissan and Chevrolet have a lot riding on delivering their first electric cars before the end of December, meaning during calendar 2011.

Now it looks like Nissan may squeak by with just a few early production cars delivered to a handful of dealerships, because the company  has significantly delayed the dates for deliveries of 2011 Leaf electric cars to both dealers and buyers.

As reported on, dealers have been informed by Nissan that Leaf deliveries previously scheduled for December are now slated for January.

Nissan North America's director for product planning and advanced technology, Mark Perry, told us last month that the first shipment of production Leafs was now "on the boat" from the Oppama, Japan, factory to the United States.

Those cars may end up being spread very thin indeed. Dealer demonstrator vehicles, in fact, have been pushed back as far as April, which Nissan says is to let the company prioritize its paying customers. speculates that the paying customers who are being prioritized are those in Japan, who pay more than $45,000 for a Leaf, against a U.S. list price of just $32,780 before Federal and local incentives.

For the next two years, Nissan has a firm production cap of 50,000 Leafs a year, which it must allocate among markets in Asia, Europe, and North America.

Not until early in 2013, when new factories in Smyrna, Tennessee, and Sunderland, England, have come online will the company's production capacity jump to as many as 250,000 Leafs per year.

Meanwhile, the Leaf electric car is still coming to the States. It's just coming more slowly than dealers had been led to believe as late as a few weeks ago.