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Delays Hit Nissan’s Electric Leaf Car in US

Nissan has admitted to delays in delivering its new Leaf model to customers in the U.S., the biggest market for the heavily hyped electric car.

Although more than 20,000 people have joined a waiting list for the car, the Japanese carmaker delivered 19 to customers in December, when production began, and 87 last month.

Nissan Leaf
Source: nissanusa.com
Nissan Leaf

Nissan said production was on schedule and that it had built 4,000 of the cars at its plant in Oppama, Japan. It will also build the car at factories in Smyrna, Tennessee, from 2012, and Sunderland, UK, from 2013.

However, it acknowledged bottlenecks in its quality assurance process and distribution delays from the Leaf’s unorthodox internet-based ordering system, which bypasses U.S. dealers.

“We knew that the production rollout would be slow at first and then would ramp up [but] it’s where we expected it to be,” said David Reuter, a spokesman for Nissan in the U.S.. “Where we disconnected was in communicating this to the customer.”

"We knew that the production rollout would be slow at first and then would ramp up [but] it’s where we expected it to be...where we disconnected was in communicating this to the customer”" -Nissan Spokesman in the US, David Reuter

Nissan expects the congestion to ease by April.

The delays highlight the challenges Nissan and its French partner Renault face as they ready eight battery-powered models for market by 2014 — the biggest bet on the new technology by any carmaker.

In Britain, which has about 500 orders for the Leaf, the first shipment of 67 cars arrived on schedule from Japan this week.

Nissan and Renault are investing €4 billion ($5.4 billion) in electric vehicles, and building factories to supply them with lithium-ion batteries in France, Portugal, the UK, the U.S. and Japan.

The last of these, operated by Nissan’s joint venture with NEC, is the only one operating so far.