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Nissan set to fill Leaf orders by summer's end

Customers who preordered the electric car last year should receive one before fall as the carmaker ramps up production, Nissan says.

Customers registered to buy a Nissan Leaf electric car will take delivery before summer is over, the carmaker said yesterday.

Nissan delivered fewer than 20 Leaf cars in the first month of sales in December and another 89 in January. The company has had to assuage customers who thought they would be riding in an electric car by now.

Nissan's U.S. sales chief Brian Carolin said yesterday that increased production in Japan will clear the bottleneck.

"We're now in the process of ramping up. Production is going to be peaking up in March and April, so we're pretty confident we are going to satisfy all of the orders we are going to get" by the end of summer.

Nissan took 20,000 reservations for the Leaf as of last September. To secure a reservation, each customer put up a refundable $99 deposit

Nissan Leaf Nissan

So far, about 40 percent of those with reservations have carried through and bought a car, which would imply the sale of about 8,000 cars.

Carolin said that 40 percent purchase rate is likely to drop, but he cannot be sure. The number of people showing initial interest is as high as 270,000, Carolin said.

Once the preorders are taken care of, a similar sign-up process will take place. But Carolin said he doesn't know when that will happen.

So far, almost all of the Leaf cars sold have been delivered in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, he said. Nissan will expand sales after getting a foothold in the West.

"With a car so novel, we want to make sure that these people are happy and become advocates for the brand," he told Reuters on the sidelines of the National Automobile Dealers Association annual convention.

The Leaf gets up to 100 miles on a full charge, according to California regulators. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says its range is 73 miles.

Carolin said there are too few in the hands of customers to determine the result of real-life driving.

The Chevy Volt is out-selling Leaf by a wide margin so far, but Carolin said the Leaf and the Volt are not competing against one another because they are vastly different vehicles, although many consumers compare the two.

"We don't have a tailpipe," he said, referring to the fact that Volt is more like a plug-in hybrid than a fully electric car. "I don't see that we are in a race with Volt."