YOKOHAMA, Japan -- Pre-orders for Nissan's Leaf electric vehicle have climbed to 19,000 in the United States and Japan, surpassing the planned global capacity for the car's first year. Leaf orders start in four European markets next month.
About 13,000 would-be customers in the United States have plunked down the $99 deposit to get in line for the zero-emission vehicle, said Andy Palmer, head of Nissan's EV division.
The U.S. tally comes on top of 6,000 pre-orders in Japan.
The combined total is nearly double Nissan's targeted production capacity of 10,000 cars for the current fiscal year, which ends in March 2011. The company's Oppama plant south of Tokyo will begin production this year. Capacity there eventually will expand to 50,000 a year. Nissan is targeting global capacity of 200,000 cars by 2012, once plants in the United States and Sunderland, England, are added. Nissan and its French alliance partner, Renault SA, plan to have total production capacity of 500,000 battery-powered electric cars by 2012.
The partners so far have invested more than 4 billion euros in electric vehicles.
The car will make its European showroom debut in December in the Netherlands and Portugal while the UK and Ireland follow in February 2011. After subsidies in Europe, the five-seat hatchback will cost less than 30,000 euros (about $35,860) in Europe.
Nissan began taking pre-orders in Japan on April 1 and in the United States on April 20. Palmer said Nissan will screen those potential customers to make sure their driving habits are best suited to the Leaf, which has a single charge range of 100 miles (about 160km).
“We'll even be advising some people not to buy,” he said. “We don't want them to be driving 300 miles a day. It's all about managing expectations. Electric cars aren't for everyone.”