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The Nissan LEAF's Achilles heel exposed

The LEAF is the world's best-selling battery electric car with more on the road than any other mass produced EV in history. Yet it has one huge Achilles Heel that holds it back perhaps as much as inventory problems did a year ago.


The Nissan LEAF is a great car. Those who dismiss it also dismiss the fact that it is the best-selling battery electric vehicle on the road and thus has converted more buyers than any other car (ever) to electric driving. It outsells everything despite its having had low inventory (and often waiting lists) for its first year or so of production, bad PR from battery issues in Arizona, and nay-sayers of every stripe who either hate on EVs or think another model is far superior.

With all of that, the Nissan LEAF is still the most dominant BEV both globally and in the U.S. But it still has one big Achilles Heel it must overcome.

Nope, it's not range anxiety, battery issues, or styling. It's not price or efficiency either. It's not even lack of infrastructure.

Nope, it's problem is parts availability.

You see, the LEAF has now been on the market for three years. Owners who originally leased the car in 2010/11 are now beginning to trade them in for new models, but some are abandoning the car because of this issue. In trolling forums, I've seen countless complaints about how long a car can sit and wait for the simplest of parts from Nissan. Why?

Because for all their production capacity, Nissan still cannot keep up with demand and has thus allocated nearly all of the parts being built for the LEAF to go into new cars, not dealer inventories for replacements.

This means that even the slightest ding or wreck can mean weeks, even months waiting for replacement parts. One Nissan LEAF owner recently posted in a forum about her accident and the FOUR MONTHS of wait just to get a simple wiring harness replacement for the charge port that had been crushed. Another had three months of repairs, most of which was waiting for body panels after a stop light run-in. Yet another owner had two months of waiting for a door panel replacement for a broken side mirror from an errant bicyclist.

This is uncalled for. On an ultra-premium vehicle like a Lamborghini, Ferrari, or Aston Martin, perhaps an owner will not mind having to wait weeks for parts replacements. On an "everyday" car like the LEAF, though, it's unnecessary and an instant turnoff.

It's a problem that will plague the LEAF until Nissan does something about it. Don't you agree?


Jason Lancaster (not verified)    January 7, 2014 - 5:48PM

This is a good post, but the problem isn't all that least in my experience. It's nearly universally the case that brand new vehicles (i.e. first-year models) have very long wait times for replacement parts.

Now I admit that parts availability shouldn't be an issue on vehicles 3 years old, and I agree that it's a bad situation, but again I'd argue it's not uncommon. When Tundra owners had problems with their air injection pump system (another FUBAR situation like this one), even owners of vehicles five years old had trouble getting parts. Wait times could stretch to weeks or even months.

These are just anecdotes, but ask someone at your friendly dealership about parts shortages. I'd guess they could rattle off a dozen stories just like this one.

Aaron Turpen    January 7, 2014 - 7:48PM

It's usually a product of two things: manufacturing speed/availability and parts exclusivity. The first is a problem that Nissan should definitely not have, as they have one of the largest and most flexible manufacturing infrastructure in the world and no capacity stretch (unlike Toyota, who's in the near-opposite position). The second is something that happens because the vehicle is all-new and after-market makers are not yet around (often due to patents or other protections, but usually due to newness).

kary (not verified)    January 8, 2014 - 2:46PM

Nissan Leaf is now where my 2001 Prius was 14 years ago. I remember a lot of nay-sayers back then. Today Prius passed the 3 million mark (in June 2013).
Waiting for my 2013 SL.