Nissan LEAF records 579 sales in March
With the introduction of the Nissan LEAF to the remaining states this month, making it the first electric vehicle (EV) from a major manufacturer available in all 50 states, one might have expected the sales numbers to jump up dramatically this month. That is, unless one is familiar with the process that Nissan is using to sell the LEAF.
LEAF sales in March were 579, up from 298 in March 2011, and up from 478 the month before. A nice improvement, but perhaps not one some would have expected. But then again, the distribution method must be taken into account. The LEAF is still a special order vehicle in the majority of the country. Which means that one orders the LEAF and waits for its arrival in 90 to 120 days. So, in other words, all of those folks across the country who got to order their car this month, will see it arrive at their dealership in June or July, or possibly even later than that, which is when we will see the impact of these new orders. That is when they will be tallied as sales – not on the date that they are ordered. We expect this special order system to remain in place until the Smyrna, Tennessee LEAF plant comes on line later this year. Even then, it will take six months or more to get any sizeable LEAF production out of the plant. If the ramp up schedule is anything similar to that experienced in Oppama, currently the only plant to produce the car, look for an excrutiatingly slow ramp up as each and every car produced is looked at closely to prevent any lapse in quality. Once Nissan is producing the car in the United States, and has a better understanding of the demand for the vehicle, look for dealerships to start stocking the LEAF in inventory just like any other new car. We expect this to happen sometime mid next year. Until that time, your choices are to order one and wait patiently (or impatiently) or call your local dealership to see if they have any orphans – cars ordered but never delivered for whatever reason. In all of the new markets just opened this month, don’t look for any orphans until July or August, if then. It’s not too likely that the early adopters in any state will leave their LEAF unplucked.
On a side note, according to industry sales figures, Nissan passed Honda in the United States in March to become the fifth largest automobile manufacturer behind the domestic big three and Toyota. Why does this matter? If you are considering buying a new technology vehicle, you do want to buy it from a going concern, don’t you? Also, Nissan corporation sales in the United States for the month of March were the greatest in any single month in Nissan’s history. Congratulations Nissan.