At first, the Leaf noticed sturdy curiosity from tech-savvy, enthusiastic early adopters, primarily on the West Coast. It garnered “thousands and thousands” of preorders, the manager recalled.
“There was nothing like it on the market at the time,” he stated. “It had more torque than Maxima and a Zen-like driving experience because it was so quiet.”
But as soon as Nissan met that early demand, gross sales hit a wall of ambivalence from the mainstream.
“The marketplace just didn’t care,” the manager stated.
Nissan had projected U.S. gross sales of 20,000 Leafs in 2012 however delivered fewer than half that for the 12 months, as electrified opponents arrived. Leaf gross sales peaked in 2014 at 30,200.
Inside the corporate, “there was this massive amount of pressure because Ghosn had just bullied through these billions and billions of dollars of investments,” the previous exec recalled.
To transfer Leafs, Nissan leveraged state and federal EV tax credit to supply clients low-cost leases. In Atlanta, Nissan famously provided a $199-a-month lease on the automobile, which finally led the Georgia Legislature to yank the state’s wealthy $5,000 EV tax credit score.
But the aggressive leasing hammered Leaf residual values, requiring Nissan to prop up new gross sales with incentives.
The former government stated that at its peak, the Leaf represented about 3 p.c of Nissan gross sales but accounted for greater than 10 p.c of its incentive spending.
As an EV pioneer, Nissan confronted challenges in commercializing the Leaf, which additional ballooned outlays. Without an ecosystem of battery suppliers to faucet, Nissan needed to develop and construct its personal batteries.
“There was a ton of trial and error, with early batteries getting thrown in dumpsters,” the exec stated. “We were going through a massive learning curve on battery technology.”
And all of the whereas, the Leaf’s lopsided economics made the concept of recent investments within the automobile tougher to justify, particularly as Nissan’s bread-and-butter fashions, such because the Altima, additionally required redesigns.
“You couldn’t with a straight face say, ‘Hey, I need another billion dollars to update the Leaf,’ ” the supply added.