January sales fall to 676 from 954 in December
The Nissan Division of Nissan Corporation had a good January 2012 as sales overall improved 12.5% over January 2011 sales numbers. This compared favorably with Japan’s two other main producers – Toyota gained 9.0% and Honda gained 9.3% year over year. Still, LEAF sales fell from December’s 954 to 676 in January. Why? That’s the question.
Before we continue, it should be noted that the Chevrolet Volt sold 603 units in January 2012 vs. 1,529 in December 2011. Certainly all of the negative press has done the Volt no good, and Chevrolet’s production by plant report shows zero Volts produced in January as they modify its design to protect the battery. We mention this only because many media reports always seem to compare LEAF sales with Volt sales. That said, the question remains – why the fall off in LEAF sales?
Word is that LEAF sales are supply constrained and that these sales numbers will improve as supply improves. We would really like to believe these reports, but the fact of the matter is that Nissan does not provide monthly production reports as GM does. We can go in and find out today, for instance, that in January 2012 the GM Bowling Green plant built 793 model year 2012 Corvettes. There is no way for us to see what Nissan’s production is until some executive somewhere makes an announcement. If that announcement never comes, we must draw conclusions based on what we do know.
Last year was not a good year for Japanese manufacturers – automotive or otherwise. The tsuanami hit in March and Thai floods impacted Honda more seriously than either Toyota or Nissan. This report shows Honda’s exports from Japan dropped 23.0% in calendar 2011 from calendar 2010. Toyota exports fell 10.3%. But Nissan’s exports from Japan jumped 6.8% from 2010. Clearly, all three were impacted by the Asian natural disasters, but Nissan seemingly less so. In fact they were positioned to actually improve year-over-year performance. This makes us wonder – if LEAF demand is strong, why are LEAF sales numbers down? If exports from Japan in 2011 were greater than exports in 2010, why were more of these exports not new LEAFs? The answer would seem to be that Nissan expected to sell more of whatever else they exported than they expected to sell LEAFs. With exports from Japan in 2011 totalling 716,000 units and this being 6.8% greater than 2010 exports, exports in 2010 would have been roughly 670,000. That’s a lot of room to make some LEAFs it seems to us. So while current LEAF sales may be supply constrained, it could be because Nissan is choosing to build other models. We just don’t know as Nissan does not release production numbers by vehicle or by plant. Also, keep in mind that LEAF production is predicated on demand (pull), not pushed out to the dealer network as is done with the rest of the lineup. Nissan may just be producing vehicles to meet current orders. And we don’t know that because Nissan does not provide order data either. More transparency would make it easier to understand the process and its progress.