Report: Nissan Executive Admits Leaf Sales Are Disappointing

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Sales of the Nissan Leaf electric car continue to fall far below expectations, says Nissan executive vice president of product planning Andy Palmer. Palmer told The Detroit News that the electric car wouldn't meet the company's stated goal to double sales to 20,000 units this year.

In September, the Nissan Leaf recorded just 984 sales in the U.S., bringing its 2012 sales total to 5212. That's the highest monthly sales for the car in the last 12 months. Last year, Nissan sold 9674 copies of the Leaf here over the entire year. In other words, sales of the Leaf this year are unlikely to match last year's levels -- and are currently only about a quarter of Nissan's stated goals.

"The uptake isn't as strong as we first hoped," Palmer told the News. "We don't plan at the moment on changing the [sales] projection."

Palmer attributed the Leaf's sluggish sales to poor marketing of the new model around the world, and also to a lack of production in the U.S. The Leaf is currently built in Japan and shipped globally, but Nissan's plants in Tennessee will soon be able to assemble the Leaf and its components. Palmer said production in Tennessee will help improve supplies of the electric car at showrooms here.

The Chevrolet Volt, meanwhile, sold 2851 units last month and 16,348 so far this year. That's up from 7671 sales in all of 2011. Of course, the two cars are very different: the EPA says the Nissan Leaf can drive about 73 miles on a single charge, whereas the Volt has a gasoline engine to provide more range when the battery is drained.

Even if sales figures don't meet executives' goals, Nissan's Palmer told the News that the Leaf has still managed to raise awareness of electric cars and establish the groundwork for future models. Nissan is planning an electric van called the e-NV200, and luxury division Infiniti is developing an electric called the LE. After that, Palmer says Nissan will launch an all-new plug-in hybrid vehicle by 2015.

Sources: The Detroit News, Nissan

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