John Duncan takes delivery of one of the first 2011 Nissan LEAF EVs, near Portland OR, 12/15/2010

John Duncan takes delivery of one of the first 2011 Nissan LEAF EVs, near Portland OR, 12/15/2010

The 2011 Nissan Leaf, at first glance, looks a whole lot simpler to service than conventional gasoline cars; there's no flammable liquid in the tank, no motor oil, no complicated multi-speed transmission either.

That said, some dealers are probably feeling a little daunted by the idea of taking a dealership that's configured to sell and service gasoline cars and trucks, and upgrading it to sell and service all-electric vehicles, like the Leaf.

Wouldn't there be some expensive equipment required in the transition? A lot more training required?

Turns out it's really not much in the cost of a dealership operation; the total cost of the dealership upgrades Nissan is requesting doesn't add up to much more than the price of a single Leaf.

According to Mark Perry, Nissan's director of product planning and strategy, and the hands-on executive who's seen the Leaf project through in the U.S., dealerships become certified to sell and service the Leaf if they comply on three main points:

  • Publicly available charging stations. Stores have to commit two of them to be available to the public and out in the parking area; two more are required for back-of-shop.
  • Training. They had to have two of their technicians trained to deal with the battery packs, high voltage, and EV repair issues.
  • Equipment. The Leaf's battery packs weigh 600 pounds. So special lifts are required to take the battery down and roll it around. Special high-voltage gloves and flash suits are required for some tasks.

Just like home charger installation, the total cost to the dealership could vary quite a bit, estimated Perry, though he said we're certainly not talking hundreds of thousands. The total cost for most dealerships would to equip themselves for Leaf will fall in the vicinity of $25,000 to $75,000, he estimated. Or in the same order of magnitude as the cost of one new 2011 Leaf (base price $32,780).


2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

So, tools and equipment, technician training, sales training, public charging stations, those are the things we're asking our dealerships across the country to be able to do," outlined Perry. "It's a bit of an investment, but it's an investment in the future."

Nissan is currently launching the Leaf in seven states (with first deliveries taking place this week), but the company hopes to have techs for nearly all of its dealerships trained and ready well before the Leaf is available in all 50 states about a year from now.

Perry says that so far, nearly every store—about 97 percent of dealerships—has agreed to take on the added training and upgrades to sell Leaf. "You always have one or two that maybe don't, and that's okay, but we're very excited that the dealers see this is the future, and we're just taking the first step."