Nissan plans to lift production levels for the battery-electric LEAF, the world's best-selling fully electric car, at its Smyrna, Tennessee plant in order to meet rising demand for the vehicle. When it was first introduced, the LEAF was dogged by production lags and delays as demand far outstripped production levels, beating even the best estimates the company had for the car's sales. Many customers got in line and waited to take delivery of their cars, buying them sight unseen in pre-order and often waiting months for their LEAF deliveries.
Demand has continued to pace itself uphill, rising continually, and Nissan has taken many steps to keep up with that. The latest is to lift production quotas at its Smyrna, Tennessee plant, where the current LEAF for the North American market is being built. Battery capacities at the plant are already above production levels, say Nissan insiders, so improving production was merely a matter of changing quotas for the production line.
Jose Munoz, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing for the Americas at Nissan, spoke to a group at the NADA/JD Power Western Automotive Conference in Los Angeles during the LA Auto Show. "From a purely attraction and branding point of view," he said, referring to the LEAF, "it's already a good car." Munoz went on to say that the car is profitable for the company, despite the recent price decrease, which came about largely because of production moving to the States, allowing the company to avoid the import fees associated with Japanese manufacture.
Details of how much of a production increase the company plans were not given, but it's likely that they will move towards the 2,200-2,500 unit per month mark given the current sales of around 2,000 LEAFs per month average year-to-date. That rate is about double last year's sales, which were hindered by supply restrictions. Current dealer supply, says Munoz, is around 20 days - over a month below the preferred 60-day supply Nissan normally keeps for its models in dealer stock.
Munoz did give a time frame for the increased production: "We will start producing more LEAFs probably by the end of this year - so December, January time."