It’s no secret that sales of the Nissan Leaf have been falling seriously short of the company’s expectations. But it’s difficult to fault Nissan for its ambitious attitude towards the electric car market, and for jumping in so wholeheartedly. When the Leaf debuted two year ago, the hype surrounding electric cars was massive. Nissan projected it would sell 25,000 Leafs in 2011, but ended up moving only 9,674 units off the lot in the United States. To date, Nissan has sold 18,000 units in the U.S. and 50,000 Leafs worldwide. While the Japanese automaker has undoubtedly fallen short of its target in the U.S., with no other mass-produced EV on the market prior to the Leaf, it was always going to be a difficult task to project realistic sales numbers. Nevertheless, Nissan is now having to admit it may have bought a bit too much of its own hype.
In an interview with Automotive News, Nissan’s vice president of sales, Al Castignetti, said “We were a little bit arrogant as a manufacturer when we went to the 50-state rollout. We had assumed that there were people just waiting for the vehicle who would raise their hand and say, ‘Give me a Leaf, give me a Leaf, give me a Leaf.” He went on to say that dealers weren’t prepared for the car either, and that finding Leaf buyers was different from finding customers for any of their other cars.
Cost has, of course, been one of the big problems for the Leaf, and Nissan has announced that, in addition to rethinking its sales strategy, it will be finding ways to lower the car’s price point. Part of this reduction strategy will revolve around shifting production of the Leaf to Nissan’s new state-of-the-art facility in Smryna, Tennessee, as well as making current standard equipment optional in future models. These moves should improve pricing somewhat, but issues regarding range and charging times still remain major stumbling blocks for the potential Leaf and other EV customers.