Nissan's LEAF Point Man Retires
In the wake of the Arizona range-loss debacle, Nissan has announced the retirement of one of the key figures in reintroducing EVs to the American market. Mark Perry, Director of Product Planning and Advanced Technology, has been central to the LEAF program from the beginning. Though Nissan spokesman Dave Reuter said yesterday that the retirement has been imminent for several months, the move appears to signify the company’s eagerness to open a new chapter in the car’s existence in the United States.
Prior to working on LEAF and Nissan EVs, Perry was a director of corporate brand management and market intelligence for Nissan and Infiniti in North America. He also led the global development of retail dealership facility designs for the two brands. During 25 years with Nissan, Perry held a variety of other marketing, planning and sales management positions in both national and regional sales offices.
PluginCars.com’s Brad Berman interviewed Perry about the LEAF in November 2008, back when the car was still in the early stages of planning. The LEAF was Mark's baby, and his excitement and devotion to the vehicle were apparent from the beginning. Still, lithium-powered mass-market EVs are a new technology, and the challenge of selling the LEAF’s potential while educating the public about its intricacies and shortcomings has proven difficult. Mark recently referred to the introduction of the LEAF as "the launch that never ends."
Nissan’s troubles with the LEAF extend beyond Arizona. Sales for the car have been slumping for nearly a year, and a class action lawsuit has been filed in California claiming that Nissan oversold the car’s range in promoting the vehicle.
The question now is how much the LEAF's woes will impact the broader EV movement. Will other carmakers be reluctant to release battery-only vehicles in light of Nissan’s problems marketing theirs?
As in the beginning, the best hope for EVs lies in an honest dialogue with the public about what they are, how they work, and what to expect from them. Nissan’s decision to convene a panel of LEAF owners, led by Chelsea Sexton, to enhance communication between the carmaker and the EV community underlines just how crucial early adopters will be to the long-term outlook for the market. Hopefully, Nissan will take the necessary steps to improve its relationship with the community of owners. And with the perception of EVs mended in the near future, Mark Perry's contributions to kick-starting the modern era of electric cars can be put in the positive light they deserve.
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