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February 9, 2011

US: Nissan will meet Leaf orders by summer’s end

Nissan said that US customers who have registered to buy a Leaf EV will take delivery before the summer is over.

Nissan said that US customers who have registered to buy a Leaf EV will take delivery before the summer is over.

The company delivered fewer than 20 Leafs in the first month of sales in December and another 89 in January, following the slow ramp up of production in Japan, but US sales chief Brian Carolin said the assembly line bottle neck is clearing.

He said: “We’re now in the process of ramping up. Production is going to be peaking up in March and April, so we’re pretty confident we are going to satisfy all of the orders we are going to get by the end of summer.”

Nissan said it took 20,000 orders for the Leaf as of last September, with each customer paying a refundable US$99 deposit. So far, about 40% of those with reservations hae carried through and bought a car, which would imply a sales rate of 8,000 cars.

Carolin said that the 40% purchase rate is likely to drop, but once the current list is worked through, a new sign-up process will be set up.

So far, almost all of the cars sold have been delivered in Northern California and the Pacific northwest, he said. Nissan will expand sales after getting a foothold in the west.

Carolin told Reuters on the sidelines of the National Automobile Dealers Association convention: “With a car so novel, we want to make sure that these people are happy and become advocates for the brand.”

He added that too few vehicles are in the hands of customers yet to say what the result of real-life driving is. The company claims the Leaf  gets up to 100 miles on a full charge, however the US Environmental Protection Agency says its range is 73 miles.

The Chevy Volt is out selling the Leaf by a wide margin so far, but Carolin said the cars were not competing against one another because they are “vastly different” vehicles.

He said: “We don’t have a tailpipe. I don’t see that we are in a race with Volt.”

Carolin is also placing importance on social media ‘buzz’.  He added: “It’s either on or off. There is no in-between. That’s why customer satisfaction is the No. 1 priority. We’re not in a numbers race.

“We’re using the Leaf as a halo product” for the entire Nissan line-up.”

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