You’ve seen the adverts, been to the test-drive and placed down a $99 deposit for Nissan’s all-electric Leaf. Of course, there’s something you probably weren’t told about at the time of reserving a place in the queue. Patience.
Save for a few hundred lucky individuals, the Nissan North America roll out of the 2011 Leaf has been a bit of a disaster.
Maybe we’re being harsh. For the earliest of the early adopters, Nissan has delivered on its promise. A reliable family car which seats five and realistically delivers at least 73 miles per charge.
For those unlucky enough to be fast off the block with pre-orders however, the wait is agonising and doesn’t show any immediate sign of getting better.
Worst still, Nissan’s initial hopeful prediction that all of the Leafs ordered last year would be in owners hands by the summer has now slipped back to the start of fall, with many would-be owners not even knowing who their dealer will be or when their car will arrive.
First 2011 Nissan Leaf delivered to buyer, San Francisco, Dec 2010, photo by Eugene Lee
Chevrolet, in contrast, has moved into top gear, filling orders of its 2011 Volt plug in hybrid even faster than it initially predicted. In the race to the garage, Chevrolet is well and truly winning.
So what’s going on? And why are would-be owners left in the dark waiting for answers?
Here’s just two possible reasons: Either Nissan has become a victim of its own successes, with Japan sucking in 981 of the 1,100 Nissan Leafs delivered through January, or someone just didn’t do the math right.
For an international automaker, neither excuse is particularly acceptable. After all, one of the key jobs for any automaker is to understand the market, taking into account demand and production facilities when planning an international launch.
Nissan’s delay to produce vehicles isn’t the mistake of a major automaker with years of sales under its belt: It’s the mistake made by a fresh-faced startup company keen to jump on the electric vehicle bandwagon.
Or an automaker so scared not to be first that it decided to bet the house on the hope that by some miracle it could produce enough cars to satisfy initial demand in one factory before production plants opened in Europe and the U.S.
John Duncan takes delivery of one of the first 2011 Nissan LEAF EVs, near Portland OR, 12/15/2010
If Nissan truly has sent nearly more than 90% of its production volume to domestic customers then why did it promise to rollout in other countries so quickly? After all, Toyota’s Prius was confined to Japanese sales for some time before being introduced worldwide, and we all know how successful the brand turned out to be.
Whatever its reasons, perhaps Nissan has just spread itself a little too thin.
Do we like the Leaf? Absolutely. It drives well, fulfils Nissan’s claims and is a car we’re keen to spend more time with. So much so, that this author and our Marty Padgett both have one on order. So far, the U.K. rollout has appeared much more ordered and informed than the U.S. one, meaning so far less stress for me, but not my U.S. counterpart.
But the U.S. rollout of the Leaf has been little more than a shambles. Other automakers take note: being first isn’t always best, especially if you can’t come up with the goods quickly enough.