Mark Perry on LEAF delivery status
We had an opportunity to attend the first Southern California LEAF delivery party in San Diego held at Nissan Design America and weren’t disappointed. While trying to find a proper link for you for information about the design center, we found that Nissan is about as secretive about the design center as they are about a new Nissan design. But this will give you a little background on it.
The first San Diego LEAF had been delivered to Tom Franklin earlier in the afternoon at Mossy Nissan Kearny Mesa in San Diego. We had a chance to speak with Mr. Franklin briefly before he was asked to make some comments to the assembled masses, which included media representatives and early LEAF order holders in San Diego. We learned in our conversation with him, and during his remarks, that he is an electric vehicle (EV) advocate. A Toyota Prius owner, Mr. Franklin told us that he was going with the first commercially viable electric vehicle that met his needs. LEAF just happened to be the first that fit the bill. We also learned that Nissan vetted several candidates for LEAF deliveries subsequent to the first LEAF delivery in the Bay Area. While we gained no remarkable additional insights into the process, all candidates were early reservation holders. The more interesting part of the evening came next.
After Mr. Franklin’s remarks, Nissan offered a nicely catered affair to those in attendance. One of those in attendance happened to be none other than Mark Perry, Nissan Director of Product Planning. We had met Mr. Perry many years ago and after reintroducing ourselves, asked about the remarks made by Mr. Tavares in San Francisco on Saturday. Specifically, how is Nissan going to handle the continuing rollout to the remainder of the country.
Currently public knowledge is that Nissan holds 20,000 reservations – from all over the country. Mr. Perry acknowledged that over half are converting to orders, with most converting from reservations to orders within the first seven days after being offered the opportunity to order, or
“Request a Quote” (RAQ in Nissan parlance). Conversion rates vary based on geography, but San Diego, for instance, has an extremely high conversion ratio. Based on current conversion rates, and current orders, all current reservationists – that live in the seven initial launch states – will have their LEAF by the end of the summer of 2011, even if you haven’t placed your order yet.
This next bit will make some unhappy, but is based on the realities of business. Current reservationists not in the seven rollout states – Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee or Washington, with Hawaii and Texas closely following – will not be open to orders until infrastructure is in place in their states. What this means is that if you reserved on day one (April 20, 2010), but do not reside in one of these seven states, you will not be able to order for awhile. While this may seem unfair to those that live in any states other than these seven, Nissan has made this clear as far back as July of this year, and likely prior to that as well. Certainly there are EV (and LEAF) advocates in many states other than these. Nissan wants to ensure that a viable infrastructure is in place prior to making the LEAF available. Following the initial seven launch states will be North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina and Alabama. No matter how passionate you may be about the LEAF, if your state is not in those named above, there is not a strong enough commitment yet (in Nissan’s eyes) to warrant sales in those states. Keep in mind that Nissan is about profitability. Nissan is going to put the LEAF where the infrastructure is. And currently that infrastructure is being primarily supported by the EV Project and ChargePoint America. The states that you see highlighted on their maps mirror Nissan’s launch states for the most part.
Look for the current reservation/order system to remain in place at least until Smyrna comes online in late 2012. Even then, Nissan is going to closely evaluate demand as well as supply and review whether a change in the ordering structure would be needed or not. LEAF owners in many cases will need a charging dock installed, so buying an electric car will not be like buying an internal combustion engine (ICE) car possibly for years to come. Will there be other alternatives available by then? Absolutely. Will they likely be working through the same issues that Nissan is working through now? Quite possibly. One advantage they will have is that, largely because of Nissan’s efforts with the LEAF, and working with municipalities throughout the US, they will have existing infrastructure already in place. In 2013, Nissan will be capable of supplying 200,000 vehicles on a global scale. Volt is making 15,000 vehicles this year and 45,000 targeted for 2012. Our take is that availability from all other makes will be significantly less than what Nissan will be able to bring to the table. There is a price to be paid for being first. There is also a price to be paid for waiting.