Car Culture

Nissan's Leaf back on track

The Japanese automaker says its first mass-produced zero-emission car will make the original delivery deadline despite last month's earthquake and tsunami.

Despite setbacks from last month's earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Nissan says it will be able to deliver its all-electric Leaf cars on time and is ready to take more U.S. orders, the company announced today at the New York Auto Show.

Originally, the Japanese automaker planned for an introductory sale of 20,000 Nissan Leaf cars in the U.S. and 6,000 in Japan for 2011. The Leaf is Nissian's first mass-marketed zero-emission car.

Once Nissan reached its goal of pre-selling 20,000 cars in the U.S. in September 2010, it stopped taking orders. Nissan Americas Chief Carlos Tavares then announced in January 2011 that all 20,000 U.S. customers would have their Leaf by this September.

Nissan had begun making deliveries in December, with Bill Markevitch of Hawaii becoming the first U.S. Leaf owner.

But the original delivery schedule--which had already received complaints of slow delivery from eager consumers--was thrown into jeopardy following the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Japan in mid-March. Among the massive destruction, many automotive assembly plants and parts manufacturers temporarily shut down, disrupting worldwide production and distribution.

As of today, however, Nissan said it is back on track and will deliver all 20,000 Nissan Leaf cars to the U.S. by the "end of the summer."

"Nissan is pleased to report that the first vessel carrying post earthquake-produced Nissan Leafs is scheduled to arrive to U.S. shores April 27," Tavares said in his keynote address today at the auto show.

The Japanese automaker says it's also ready to expand its U.S. sales, though it did not announce exactly how many units it could deliver in a specific time frame.

Nissan simply said it will reopen Leaf reservations on May 1 to people in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington who have already registered on the Nissan Web site as interested potential customers. Nissan says about 340,000 people have registered, and it will give those people preference.

In conjunction with the announcement, Nissan also released data on its first 500 Leaf drivers in the U.S. who, as part of their agreement to purchase a Leaf, also agreed to take part in a data-sharing program.

"The average trip length of these early adopters is 7 miles; most charge on a Level 2, 220-volt charger at their homes; and the average charging time is 2 hours and 11 minutes. Nissan Leaf owners are a combination of conscientious environmentalists and tech-savvy individuals. They are highly educated, have excellent credit, and are in the nation's top 15 percent for household income," Nissan said in a statement.