Just days after pulling the wraps off its prototype Leaf electric vehicle in Japan, Nissan says it has committed to an early U.S. launch of 5,000 units late next year. That's two years ahead of the schedule outlined by CEO Carlos Ghosn.
The first 5,000 U.S. Leafs will take part in a five-market study of electric-vehicle driving habits. The markets: Oregon, Seattle, San Diego, Phoenix-Tucson and Tennessee. Nissan, public utilities and government agencies want to make sure they understand how consumers recharge their vehicles.
"We're moving fast," says Mark Perry, Nissan's director of product planning and strategy. "This is not a test to determine whether or not it's going to work. This is the beginning of mass marketing."
Customers will buy the cars from dealerships, but they must agree to have their recharging habits monitored through an onboard black box for two years. The price hasn't been announced.
Perry says Nissan will make sure the first 5,000 Leafs are purchased by people who can provide meaningful data. Says Perry: "We don't want these first cars going to somebody who commutes 150 miles a day or who lives a great distance from a recharging station."