Nissan expects Leaf EV sales to double when American plant opens
Through the first five months of 2012, just 2,613 examples of the Nissan Leaf have been delivered to customers around the United States and because of the pre-order program that ran in 2010; Nissan is actually just delivering vehicles on old orders and not selling new models. This means that a prospective buyer of a new electric vehicle can walk into a great many Chevrolet dealerships around the country and drive out with a brand new Chevy Volt but someone who wants to buy a new Nissan Leaf can only hope to make a deposit and put their name on a list with the hopes of getting a chance to buy a Leaf in the next year or so. Early on, Nissan wasn’t even accepting orders but now some American buyers in select markets can place in order for a 2013 Leaf – although with an average of just over 500 units per month this year, it could be a good long time before you get that new electric vehicle.
The problem plaguing the Japanese automaker is that with the Nissan Leaf being sold in markets around the world – the company is obviously having a hard time meeting the demand. The company is working hard to ship Leaf EVs to the US to fulfill those 2010 pre-orders as quickly as possible but there is no question that the lack of immediate availability can be a turn off to some buyers. However, Nissan plans that there will be far less problem with meeting the demand for the Leaf in America when their new production facility opens in Tennessee later this year.
The Smyrna, Tennessee plant is expected to begin production by December 2012 and once up to full speed, this new assembly line will be able to produce around 200,000 examples of the Nissan Leaf each year while the battery plant on the same property will produce around 150,000 examples of the Leaf’s high voltage battery annually. Based on those figures, the American Leaf plant should have no problem filling the pre-orders very quickly and once those early reservations are out of the way, the company can begin getting Leaf EVs in dealerships for walk-in customers.
Nissan expects that the outcome of the increased production capacity of the Leaf EV via the new Tennessee plant will allow the company to double monthly sales but it is unclear as to exactly what figure will be doubled. Even if the company is able to double the delivery rate seen through the average rate seen during the first five months of 2012, Nissan will only be in line to sell about 12,500 units of the Leaf in a given year. This is a far cry from the 20,000 Leafs that Nissan expects to sell each year in the US and even in doubling the Nissan Leaf sales figures for 2012, it would still trail the Chevrolet Volt by some 1,800 units on the year.
Chevrolet has sold 7,057 Volt electric sedans through the first five months to Nissan’s 2,613 Leaf EVs so with the pace of the Volt, Nissan is going to have to do more than double Leaf sales to have a real shot at being the topselling EV in the US market. Potentially making things worse for the Nissan Leaf is the introduction of more all-electric models like the Ford Focus Electric, the Fiat 500 Electric and the Coda Sedan. These vehicles are all expected to offer better range than the Leaf and with a great number of American consumers already facing the facts of range anxiety; things could get tougher for all electric vehicles as more competition enters the segment.