Impatient about Getting Your Nissan LEAF? Chill Out Says Paul Scott

By · January 06, 2011

Paul Scott

The first three Nissan LEAFs were delivered yesterday to Santa Monica Nissan, where former EV activist Paul Scott now works as an EV sales consultant.

In August, Paul Scott made an unlikely personal transition from electric car activist to car salesman. “I never in my life thought I would work at a car dealership,” Paul told me this afternoon. “But I’m selling a car that’s changing the world. It will improve the lot of millions of people. And that makes me feel really good. Plus I’ve got an income.”

Warm and fuzzy feelings notwithstanding, Paul probably didn’t realize how useful his skills as a rabble-rousing EV activist—he’s one of the founding members of Plug In America—would become when he decided to work for Santa Monica Nissan. That’s because he’s once again in the eye of the EV storm—the latest tempest is about how long it’s taking Nissan to make its first deliveries of the LEAF. His customers are angry.

On one hand, Paul sympathizes with folks waiting for their Nissan LEAF. “It not easy, because these are people made the decision to buy an EV months, if not years ago. There’s a process of putting a deposit down, and then you wait and wait and wait,” Paul said. After placing an actual order, there’s more waiting, and finally you get the word that Nissan will start selling the car in December. “And then you’re told in December that Nissan is not going to be delivering as many. It’s understandable that people would be frustrated and a little upset by that.”

The Long Night Before Christmas

Paul coined a new phrase to describe all the worries about waiting for an electric car to arrive: Delivery anxiety. And like range anxiety, the syndrome of worrying too much about the 100-mile driving range for electric cars, Paul thinks it’s overblown. “The cure for delivery anxiety is sure,” Paul said. “Take one LEAF and call me in the morning.”

Santa Monica Nissan has 103 people who have placed orders and 250 beyond that waiting to put down a deposit and choose their desired color and trim options. That makes hundreds of potentially impatient customers. “It’s like a kid waiting for Christmas. You want to hurry it up and be here, but we have to be patient,” Paul said.

Impatience about a months-long wait for an electric car seems petty to Paul. After all, he’s been fighting eight long years to bring about the electric car revolution now under way. Santa Monica Nissan finally received its first three LEAF yesterday. Paul expects the pace of delivery to ramp up to 20 or 30 a month by summer—not enough to quickly burn off the list of customers, but a flash in the pan in the bigger picture.

Paul said that he’s learned from Nissan officials that the slowdown is part of the company’s painstaking process to make sure that every car is perfect.

“It’s all a matter of perspective. A lot of these people who are bitching and moaning about Nissan’s rollout being so slow, they should take a pill and chill,” Paul said. “They should go back eight years in my shoes and stand out there on the sidewalk in Burbank in the pouring down rain to stop GM from crushing some cars. Where were they when we were fighting that fight? I didn’t see these guys out there. They didn’t even hear about electric cars until we did a lot of the legwork to get the word out.”

Gouging for a Higher Cause

When he hears people criticizing Nissan about the timing, it’s Paul who grows impatient. “They really need to get some perspective and not bash a company that’s doing the right thing,” he said. “There’s no point in bashing Nissan. Nissan are the good guys. If you want to bash somebody, go bash Chrysler. Go bash Mercedes. Name all of them, except for Tesla, Nissan and General Motors, because those guys are delivering electric cars. Nobody else is.”

I asked if he was concerned that some of those 103 who placed orders would give up or decide not to buy when the car does arrive. Not at all. “That’s a good thing for us. Instead of selling at MSRP, we mark it up and we’re going to sell it for whoever pays the most for it. We have a long list of people willing to pay way over MSRP.”

Paul has no concern about those markups. “You can call it gouging, but it’s the way the world works. It’s called capitalism and I am a capitalist,” Paul said. “I worked for free for eight years in this industry. Now I’m getting paid for doing what I’m doing.” He believe that it’s important for companies making and selling electric cars to be as profitable as possible, so they will continue to make and sell EVs. High demand will continue and grow, according to Paul, when gas makes its inevitable climb back to $4 a gallon and higher.

Even with the markup, Paul believes the Nissan LEAF is a tremendous deal. He once again embraces his inner activist when he hears people comparing the LEAF to a small gas-powered car like a Toyota Yaris. “If you don’t value human life at all. If you don’t value a strong economy at all. If you don’t care about your own kids’ health at all. If those things have no value to you, then you can compare a Yaris with the LEAF, and say it doesn’t pencil out for me,” he warns. “But you’d have to be a selfish individual, a real selfish human being, to not value that stuff.”

Whether it’s standing up to G.M. to prevent the EV1 from being crushed, or taking the higher ground against ill informed or impatient car buyers, Paul Scott is not giving up his fight for the electric car. Sounds like somebody I’d like to buy an EV from.

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