Nissan: Leaf sales to lag until U.S. plant restocks supply
NASHVILLE -- Nissan expects sales of its Leaf electric vehicle to sag through March, until a new American assembly line can fill a near-empty dealer pipeline.
The problem is purely logistical, Nissan says. Dealers have almost sold out of their inventory of 2012 Leafs, and the new factory source will take at least a month to fill the pipeline with 2013 models.
The company estimated last week that only about 200 2012 models remain.
Though it is a small-volume product so far, the Leaf has been closely scrutinized for the past two years as Nissan attempted to spark consumer interest in battery-powered cars.
Nissan was selling just a few hundred Leafs a month for much of 2012 and then managed to lift the sales rate to about 1,500 a month in the fourth quarter.
But the company says that it doesn't expect to reach sales at that level again until the car's new production line in Smyrna, Tenn., can refill the pipeline, which could take until April.
The Leaf has been imported from Japan in small numbers since it first went on sale in December 2010. Sales from the new Smyrna source will begin in February.
Brendan Jones, Nissan director of electric vehicle marketing and sales strategy, says the depleted pipeline should actually help dealers launch the new U.S.-made Leaf, which offers enhancements over the imported version.
Nissan has created a low-end trim package for the 2013 model, giving it a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $28,800, excluding freight fees, which have not been announced.
The base price of the 2012 model, not including freight, was $35,200.
You can reach Lindsay Chappell at email@example.com.