I’ve ordered my LEAF. Now what?
Yesterday we looked at the timing involved from Nissan’s side in delivering the LEAF to their customers. From start of production to turning over the keys to the new owner, the time needed can be less than two months – as will be demonstrated this weekend with the delivery of the first LEAF in the world to a retail customer. It was built in late October. In the future, once initial demand is satisfied, we anticipate that ordering a LEAF will result in delivery in less than 90 days from date of order. But it will take some time to reach that point – perhaps as much as two years. Coincidentally, keep in mind that LEAF will be produced in Smyrna, Tennessee beginning in late 2012. The Smyrna plant will have a capacity of 150,000 units per year for global consumption. Once this plant comes on line, we anticipate the purchase of a LEAF will become much like the purchase of any other Nissan. By this we mean that your local dealership will have a selection of LEAFs available for you to select from, with the capability to special order a vehicle in your color and equipment specifications available if you can not find one to meet your needs.
For now, availability is limited. And there are many anxious folk that have placed an order and the “dashboard” that Nissan provides to update vehicle status simply says “Pending” where the dashboard says “Estimated delivery”. Many early adopters that have placed orders in the early days of September are likely wondering when they might see their cars. With production capability of 50,000 LEAFs per year in Oppama, that breaks out to 136 units per day. But only half of these will come to the US. And ultimately 20% of those will go to Nissan dealers and/or fleet customers. Which means that right around 50 units built each day will make their way into US consumers’ hands. While eventually, this will be over 1,500 vehicles per month, we feel that initial production will not be at full capacity to ensure quality standards are met. So pare that number back a bit.
Now that we have an understanding of the process, when will we get our LEAFs? Here is a hint: In the Nissan “dashboard” providing information to you about the status of your LEAF, if you have already ordered, near the bottom of your dashboard it will say “Estimated delivery” and under that “Pending”. Click on the “Order your Nissan LEAF” dropdown tab. Within this drop down menu, click on the “order summary” button, which takes you to a summary of your order – LEAF trim (SV or SL), color, options and accessories. Next to the color, you have a small “edit” link. Clicking this link allows you to change the selected color of your LEAF. We feel that it is safe to say than once your LEAF is scheduled for production, this “edit” color link will disappear. When, exactly, we don’t know. But it is a certainty that you cannot change your color once your car is built. While we don’t know exactly how much time prior to production this “edit” link will go away, by definition, it will not be offered as your car nears production. Since every LEAF will have the same color interior, selecting the exterior color is as simple as changing one build parameter prior to production. We would expect that this will be one of the last changeable items prior to production.
We have had the opportunity to tour the Nissan Smyrna plant and found it pretty amazing the degree of flexibility of this facility. Different models run down the same assembly line being assembled as seamlessly as if every vehicle were identical. You might see an Xterra followed by an Altima, so we are talking about really dissimilar vehicles. In Japan, LEAF will be built along side the Juke, cube, and the Nissan Note. As vehicles pass through the paint and body area the processes are very closely monitored to ensure a quality finish. But one of the most surprising details is seen as vehicles emerge from this area. The technology has advanced to the point that each vehicle passing through the finishing booth can emerge a different color. But don’t take our word for it. Here is a link to a five minute Nissan LEAF production video. We found the whole thing fascinating, but if you are just interested in seeing the painting process and different color vehicles making their way down the line you can go about three minutes in and start there.
In a nutshell – when you can no longer change the color of your vehicle, you know it is getting close to production – and that much closer to your garage.