NEW YORK -- Nissan Motor Co. will pick up the pace for deliveries of the electric Leaf sedan in the United States, despite production headaches across Japan due to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and will begin accepting new orders for the car.
Acknowledging that only 500 Leafs have been delivered to customers since last December, Nissan Americas Chairman Carlos Tavares said today the company expects to go from “delivering cars in the hundreds to delivering them in the thousands.”
He said the Leaf’s assembly line in Oppama, Japan, is now nearing 100 percent full production speed. That should have occurred in March, but the entire Japanese industry was set back by the March 11 earthquake.
The precarious launch of the eagerly anticipated electric vehicle has drawn criticism from EV skeptics. Speaking at the New York auto show, Tavares acknowledged that customers have been frustrated by the lengthy wait for their cars.
Nissan officials have consistently said that they will roll the car out slowly, since it is the first purely electric mass-production car on the market and relies on a new battery module factory in Japan.
But Tavares said the process will now speed up. Customers who have been waiting four to seven months for delivery now can expect delivery 90 to 120 days after ordering, he said.
At the same time, Tavares said Nissan will move ahead with a second wave of Leaf reservations. That step was not scheduled to take place until the entire first model year’s allocation of 20,000 cars had been delivered.
Only 20,000 Leafs were available for U.S. customers in the car’s first model year, and another 20,000 for the second year.
Nissan sold out the first year’s allocation through an online reservation process. Buyers are required to install a home charging system before they can take delivery of the Leaf.
Tavares said today that Nissan will begin taking reservations for next year’s Leafs on May 1, even as this year’s vehicles are being delivered.