Nissan To Boost Production of Battery-Powered LEAF

By · November 20, 2013

Nissan LEAF production

Nissan will boost its production capacity for the all-electric LEAF at its Smyrna, Tenn. plant in late December or early January, said Jose Munoz, senior vice president of sales, marketing, customer quality, and dealer network at Nissan Americas. Speaking to on the sidelines of the 2013 Western Automotive Conference in Los Angeles on Nov. 19, Munoz said Nissan hadn’t determined the size of the increase, but that it would be “an important increase, not just a little.” The decision to increase production was based on the results of a study currently being conducted.

Jose Munoz, Sr. VP Sales and Marketing, Customer Quality and Dealer Network Development, Nissan Americas

Jose Munoz, Sr. VP Sales and Marketing, Customer Quality and Dealer Network Development, Nissan Americas.

Many dealers in the U.S. are at a 20-day supply of LEAFs, said Munoz. The ideal inventory size is 60 days.

Nissan sold some 15,000 LEAFs in the first six months of 2013 in the U.S. compared to 5,000 last year, he said. It could sell more if it could produce more, according to Munoz. “Increasing capacity is key to growth of the product,” said Munoz.

He attributed the demand for the battery-electric vehicle to having a competitively-priced product. The LEAF can now be leased for a little as $199 a month.

Providing a better mix of LEAF models has also boosted sales, said Munoz. Nissan now offers three LEAF models ranging from an entry level model starting at $21,300 after federal tax rebates to a high-end version that comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, quick charge capability, LED headlights, and fog lights starting at $27,340 after federal tax rebates.

Selling more LEAFs has also boosted sales because owners of the electric tend to love their cars and talk them up to friends and neighbors, who then also buy a LEAF, said Munoz.

The LEAF is selling best in the western states, but also sells well in Atlanta, Ga., said Munoz. The crucial element needed to sell more LEAFs is the existence of a good charging infrastructure, he said. “The moment the infrastructure is built demand increases,” he said.

2013 Nissan LEAF

Customer Magnet

Even though the sales volume of the LEAF is not as high as Nissan initially expected, sales are growing and demand is there, said Munoz. The LEAF is also an important advertising tool for the Nissan brand in general, he said. The LEAF is the number one referral to the Nissan brand in the U.S., he said. That means more people come into a dealership to look at a LEAF than any other model. They then often buy some other Nissan model, he said. “The LEAF brings the most customers into Nissan dealerships,” said Munoz.

As for whether or not reports of batteries in the Tesla all-electric vehicle catching fire have hurt LEAF sales, Munoz pointed out that the electric car’s batteries use laminated battery cylinders rather than the flat batteries favored by Tesla. The Tesla battery fires haven’t had any impact on sales, he said. Also, he pointed out, “We haven’t had any real-life accidents” with the LEAF.

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