Nissan North America: We’re Upping LEAF Production To Meet Rising Demand

After several months of high sales figures and in the face of increasing demand from Canadian customers too, Nissan North America will increase production of the all-electric LEAF at its Smyrna, Tennessee facility, it confirmed earlier.

LEAF production at Nissan's Smyrna, Tenn. facility is about to increase.

LEAF production at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tenn. facility is about to increase.

Talking at the NADA/J.D. Power Western Automotive Conference in Los Angeles yesterday evening, Jose Munoz, Nissan’s senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Americas, said that LEAF rising interest in electric cars — combined with more than a $6000 cut in the sticker price of the LEAF earlier this year — have helped sales figures increase.  From the start of 2013 to the end of last month, sales figures of the LEAF totalled 18,078 cars, putting the automaker on target to double its yearly LEAF sales on 2012′s pitiful sales total of just 9,818 cars.

As with any increase in factory output, the ramp in production at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tenn. facility where North American LEAFs are made will take a few months to complete, as Nissan needs to ensure it has adequate parts supply before production can be increased.

The surge in popularity in the all-electric hatch, which has an EPA-approved range of 73 miles per charge, means that Nissan’s stock of LEAFs is running unusually low. Ideally, Nissan likes to keep around 60 days’ supply in its inventory to ensure dealers have a steady supply of cars to sell to customers. At the current time, Nissan only has 20 days’ supply.

“We are supply constrained,” Munoz confirmed. “We will start producing more LEAFs probably by the end of this year — so December January time.”

What isn’t clear at this time is if other Nissan facilities around the world — Sunderland in the UK, and Oppama, Japan — will be sending Nissan North America any LEAFs to help it keep up with demand until its Smyrna facility has successfully ramped up production. . Given the costs associated with shipping cars half way around the world — one of the reasons Nissan decentralised LEAF production in the first place — we suspect this scenario, while possible, is highly unlikely at this time.

Increased LEAF production? She's happy about it.

Increased LEAF production? She’s happy about it.

Interestingly however, Nissan’s rise in North American LEAF sales isn’t just good for the bottom line, Munoz explained: it’s been good for Nissan’s overall customer base.

Across the entire Nissan lineup, Munoz said LEAF was bringing in more conquest sales – people who are moving to the Nissan brand specifically for the LEAF — than any of its other models. While he didn’t detail which cars were being traded in for LEAFs, historical data from Nissan singles out the Toyota Prius hybrid as the most traded in car for the LEAF, partly due to California’s removal of the hybrid hatch from its HOV lane access program.

While UK sales of the LEAF seem far less buoyant than US LEAF sales, we’re keen to see if they too will increase in coming months, or if a further price cut will be needed before consumers make the switch to electric.

But we’re also keen to see if reduced LEAF availability in the U.S. has made it harder to get a good deal on a new LEAF at the dealership. Have you noticed dealers putting up LEAF prices recently, or have you had a harder time negotiating a good deal on a LEAF?  Or is getting a new LEAF as easy as ever?

Let us know in the Comments below.