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Nissan Leaf Battles Supply, Recall Issues

Posted by Dale Buss on April 19, 2011 12:00 PM

Remember last year, when Nissan was creating lots of buzz around the imminent debut of its Leaf all-electric vehicle? Auto electrification had become a cause célèbre — and celeb, with VIP endorsers.

Nissan's first Leaf TV commercial, which debuted in September, also sparked consumer interest, featuring a polar bear's journey to thank the buyer of a new Leaf, creating a pronounced feel-good moment in brand marketing in 2010.

OK, so where’s the car?

Only about 500 Americans have been able to purchase a Leaf so far as Nissan slowly ramps up production not only for the US market but also for Europe and Japan. That means very few North American consumers are actually seeing them on the road, making it easy to forget about Leaf before it’s even upon us.

Meanwhile, General Motors already has sold more than double that number of Chevrolet Volt, its extended-range hybrid that is the closest competitor to Leaf.

GM also has chosen to put some advertising muscle behind Volt to keep it – ahem – current, and so far Volt seems to be leading Leaf in every significant category including culturally relevant conversation. (Of course, some of that talk now revolves around a Volt and a suspicious garage fire in Connecticut.)

Making matters worse for Nissan, now comes word that the Leaf has a software problem causes the car not to start after an instrument-panel warning light illuminates. It’s easily reprogrammable at a Nissan dealer, and it’s certainly a plus that the company can notify Leaf owners of the problem via the car’s on-board telematics system.

But a glitch is a glitch, and a recall is a recall. And recalling a car before it's even fully available is not what Nissan's marketers had in mind — particularly if it causes potential buyers to reconsider Leaf.

There’s only so much that $4-a-gallon gasoline can do for an EV if it isn’t on the road. Maybe Nissan is waiting to see what $5-a-gallon gasoline can do.

Meanwhile, check out the latest ad for the 100% electric Leaf, below, by TBWA\Chiat\Day in Los Angeles.

The spot "shows the impact of a no-emissons car by embracing zero, not as an absence, but rather as a means of preservation and independence from foreign oil," as TBWA's Nicholas Bordas puts it:


Houstondav United States says:

Enough with the volt is outselling the Leaf.  You can't sell what you don't have, there are still plenty of volts on lots waiting to be sold.  Every Single Leaf being made right now is SOLD before it is even made.  If you say volt has sold more than leaf be sure to specify in US ONLY.  World wide sale has to volt beat, pants down, over 8000, to the measly 1500 world wide sales of volt....oh wait they don't sell world wide and have only sold in US.  If looking at homeland of car in Japan 7000 Leafs sold, Volt = 0.  Who is out selling who.  In the next couple of months, Leaf will even take over US sales.  By the way, why are you comparing sales of an electric car with that of a Hybrid which by definition is what the volt is (two sources of fuel, electric and gas thus hybrid).  So compare the Volt with the Prius not the Leaf. Thank You very much.
About the glitch:  Every car made comes with glitches, but its how the manufacture handles them that makes the difference.  Case and point my brand new grand voyager spent the first 3 months in  and out of the shop with a/c problems, then fuel line problems (needed the whole gas  tank replaced) followed by a repeat of A/C problem then door window problems, get the picture.  Even the new traverse had problems with windows not rolling down and A/C button not activating.  So with software I expect a few bugs, just look at Windows OS, but at least they are quick to respond and repair.

April 20, 2011 04:20 PM #

Houstondav United States says:

Heading is wrong.  They are not recalling the Leaf's.  Recalls are for safety issues which must be addressed like Toyota gas pedal problem which caused accidents.  What Nissan is doing is conducting a "service campaign." Though only a few have had this problem, they want to be sure no one else does and are just upgrading the software.  The only safety problem with the "glitch" is turning off your car in a bad neighborhood/area and it not starting back up.

April 20, 2011 04:35 PM #

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