PORTUGAL: Nissan operates tough dealer policy for Europe Leaf launch

By Simon Warburton | 3 November 2010

Nissan says it will initially select only its best-performing dealers in Europe to distribute the new all-electric Leaf vehicles as the manufacturer gears up for major regional launches.

Production of the C-segment five-door model has already begun in Oppama, Japan, with European cars to be produced in Nissan's UK plant in Sunderland from 2013, but the automaker is remaining highly selective about which dealers will receive the model.

"For the start we are going to choose the very best dealers [out] of 3,500," Nissan sales and marketing Europe SVP Simon Thomas told just-auto at the media launch in Portugal.

"They will have to have a proven record of delivering excellent customer service - the majority of dealers want to be part of it."

In the UK this will mean around 10% of dealers will receive the car while all chosen outlets will have a dedicated training programme to explain the technology to customers - and to ensure the EV reaches the right customers.

"This is not a normal car," said Thomas. "It has a high level of technology [but that] technology is less complex than the internal combustion engine.

"[However] if someone in Stornoway [Scottish Hebridean island] wants to buy a Leaf that might not be the best thing because of the dealer coverage and topography.

"And if they are going down to Birmingham on a daily basis, they might consider an alternative Nissan - the customer owns some of that responsibility too."

Anxiety surrounding such new technology is a factor Thomas readily concedes will form part of any purchase decision, but to that end, Nissan will provide a recovery service for the first year.

"In the first year will offer recovery from either home or to a garage," said Thomas. "We will take an approach that that we recognise this is new to the customer."

Nissan has orders for 26,000 Leafs on its books worldwide.