PALO ALTO, Calif. (Bloomberg) -- Nissan Motor Co., aiming to be the world's largest seller of electric vehicles, will deliver a record volume of Leaf battery cars to U.S. drivers this month as the company ramps up output and works to ease customer delays.
"We're going to have 1,500 cars delivered in the month of June, which is going to be the largest amount we've delivered in the United States," Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan, told reporters here Monday. "This should help, a little bit, restart the enthusiasm."
Some customers have waited longer than they expected when Nissan began taking orders in April 2010, said Ghosn, who also heads France's Renault SA.
"The last thing we want to do is frustrate them," he said.
Leaf sales, averaging only 113 a month in the first four months of U.S. deliveries, have been rising since April and reached 1,142 in May. Production of the car in Japan was disrupted by the nation's record earthquake and tsunami on March 11, which damaged parts factories and caused power shortages.
The disaster may also push back the start of U.S. production of the model and the lithium-ion batteries it uses. Nissan has invested about $6 billion in electric-car technology and production, Ghosn said. The carmaker's battery production line in Smyrna, Tenn., scheduled to open in September 2012, may be delayed due to the March 11 quake, said Hideaki Watanabe, Nissan's vice president of zero-emission vehicles. The carmaker also aims to begin Leaf production in Smyrna by December.
'Not giving up'
The earthquake "is putting us in a very difficult situation, but we're not giving up yet," Watanabe told reporters at a briefing in suburban Detroit. "Is there a potential to delay? There may be. We're assessing right now."
Nissan aims to deliver at least 10,000 Leafs to U.S. customers this year after securing 20,000 reservations in 2010. The reservation program was restarted in May. The Leaf costs about $33,000 before a $7,500 U.S. tax credit and is rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as traveling from 60 miles to more than 100 miles per charge.
The car is currently available only in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. From late this year, customers in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama will also be able order the Leaf, the company said Monday.
The goal in the initial phase of Leaf sales is to make sure customers are satisfied so they'll generate positive word of mouth for the car, Ghosn said.
"When you introduce a new technology, solving all the problems before launching the technology is an illusion," he said. "You have to listen to customers and solve the problems as they appear."