Nissan plans panel to advise Leaf owners
Editor's note: A print version of this story on Page 14 of the Oct. 1 issue mischaracterized the role of an independent global panel Nissan is planning. The story should have said the panel would review Nissan engineering data regarding complaints from some Leaf owners who say their batteries are aging too fast and would aid communication between the company and those owners. This story and headline have been corrected.
NASHVILLE -- Nissan Motor Co. plans an independent global panel to review data on its electric Leaf batteries and help advise a small group of owners in Phoenix who believe their batteries are aging too fast.
The automaker believes there is no problem with the lithium ion batteries, but it has asked electric-car advocate and former General Motors marketing manager Chelsea Sexton to form a worldwide advisory group to help improve communications between the automaker and Leaf owners.
The move was announced in an open letter published on the Leaf owner Web site, mynissanleaf.com, by Carla Bailo, Nissan Americas senior vice president of r&d.
"Members would be selected by Chelsea, not Nissan, and they would recommend their own mandate," Bailo's letter says. "But our hope is that they would hold up a mirror to us and help us to be more open and approachable in our communication and to advise us on our strategy.
"We at Nissan stand by our product, and we also stand by our customers."
The alleged problem has been a small but vexing distraction for Nissan as it prepares to launch a $1.6 billion project to mass produce the Leaf and its batteries in the United States starting in December.
Only about 14,000 Leafs have been sold to U.S. consumers over the past two years.
Nissan has repeatedly reminded buyers that -- as with cellphone batteries -- the car's lithium ion battery modules will lose their ability to hold a charge with age.
But Nissan maintains that they should retain an 80 percent charging capacity after five years of use.
Seven Leaf owners in Phoenix say that their batteries are losing capacity after only a couple of years.
You can reach Lindsay Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.