Waiting for Nissan's Leaf is like 'Waiting for Godot'

The Nissan Leaf is presented as the 2011 World Car of the Year at the New York International Auto Show Thursday, April 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

June 13, 2011 7:40:01 PM PDT
Nissan is discovering that producing an all-electric car is easier said than done. They had hoped to sell 20,00 Leafs in the United States this year, but they have only sold 2,100 of them and some buyers have been waiting a year to take delivery.

Every new car owner savors the moment they take ownership of their new vehicle but getting the keys to a Nissan Leaf can involve a long wait.

Online discussion boards indicate buyers who ordered their Leaf last year have also seen the delivery date pushed back month after month.

The March tsunami in Japan is partly to blame. So are technical glitches like one in which the car would not restart after using the air conditioner. A software update solved the problem.

The man in the hot seat is Nissan's CEO Carlos Ghosn. He is in town to give a speech at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

"When you launch a technology like this, what you want is to be able to really listen to your customers and be able to intervene very quickly if there's anything they're not satisfied with," he said.

Analysts say the Leaf has been Ghosn's pet project.

Critics point out, however, that electric vehicles still face an uphill battle.

Eric Noble, president of the Car Lab, helps automakers plan and design new vehicles.

"As much as all of us want EV's, the batteries aren't ready for prime time yet at least in vehicles and they don't look like they're going to be for at least the next 10, 20 years," Noble told ABC7 in a Skype interview.

Range and cost are still major factors.

The Leaf and other electric vehicles are facing another issue. A major study will get underway soon to look into a possible fire hazard with the lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles.

Nissan is building a new electric vehicle assembly and battery plant in Tennessee, slated to open next year. That should help it accelerate delivery of the Leaf and three other planned electric cars.