Heads roll at Nissan as LEAF sales fail to reach half the projected goals

2013 Nissan LEAF

When Nissan unveiled the LEAF in 2010, CEO Carlos Ghosen expected the all-electric flagship to be a smash hit.

It wasn’t.

Although Nissan has just passed the 50,000 mark for LEAF sales, it’s a far cry from the initial expectations. The Japanese automaker hoped to sell twice that number in the same amount of time.

Only selling 9,819 LEAFs in 2011, Nissan still aimed to sell 20,000 for 2012. It fell just shy of half that goal in spite having slashed prices and increased the LEAF’s driving range.

In light of these less-than-spectacular sales figures, Nissan has moved the corporate vice president of electric cars, Hideaki Watanabe, to senior vice president of Nissan parts supplier Calsonic Kansei and replaced him with former Nissan chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga.

“Chief Operating Officer Shiga is taking direct responsibility of zero emission efforts because the business is Nissan’s top priority which requires global and cross-functional efforts,” Chris Keeffe, a spokesman for the carmaker said speaking to Bloomberg.

We’re a bit surprised Nissan hasn’t backed off its lofty goals for the LEAF. Clearly, the technology hasn’t caught on. Extended range electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt seem to be much more appealing to customers. Chevy sold 23,461 Volts in 2012, more than double that what Nissan was able to achieve with the LEAF.

With more plug-in hybrids hitting the market every day, it seems even less likely for the all-electric LEAF to pick up a bigger market share.

Customers just don’t seem willing to give up the luxury of taking a 300-mile drive for the comfort of driving emissions (and gas) free.

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