As the world’s number one electric car, the Nissan LEAF family hatchback has a lot going for it. Aside from being competitively priced in its segment, Nissan’s first and most popular mass-produced electric car has a truly cavernous load bay area compared to other cars of a similar size, can easily accommodate a family of five, and is both tough enough and practical enough to cope with the daily school run, shopping trips and work commutes.
And here at Transport Evolved we should know: since 2011, our staff car fleet has consisted of three different Nissan LEAFs (two new and one used), covering a total of more than 120,000 miles between them to date. For the most part, those cumulative miles have been without incident. But if there’s one thing we’ve always been critical of in Nissan’s five-seat electric car, it’s the Carwings telematics system built into 2011 thru 2015 Nissan LEAFs. Although Carwings promised to give owners control over their LEAFs remotely via an online portal and dedicated smartphone apps, many users found the system to be unreliable, inaccurate, or simply always broken.
For the 2016 model year Nissan LEAF, Nissan chose to replace the troubled Carwings with NissanConnect EV. A brand-new system that Nissan promised would be more accurate and more reliable than the outgoing Carwings system, NissanConnect EV also claimed to have additional functionality for plug-in owners, including real-time charging station availability, improved route planning and connectivity with third-party services. Combined with a longer-range 30 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack as standard on high-end Nissan LEAF SV and NIssan LEAF SL models in the U.S. (optional on European model LEAF Acenta and Tekna models) giving an EPA-approved range of 107 miles per charge, the 2016 Nissan LEAF looked to be a good choice for new and existing electric car owners alike.
Yet just months after the first 2016 Nissan LEAFs rolled off the production line, Nissan has halted all European deliveries of 2016 Nissan LEAFs due to a major fault with the NissanConnect EV service — one which sources close to the company say Nissan is scrambling to fix.
Over the past week or so, we’ve heard from several prospective 2016 Nissan LEAF owners who have been patiently waiting for their longer-range Nissan LEAFs to arrive. Many of them — who waited specifically for the longer-range over previous model year LEAFs offered by certain 2016 Nissan LEAF models — report that while their cars have arrived at dealerships, Nissan has put a stop on all deliveries due to an issue which causes the Telematics Control Unit on affected cars to keep unexpectedly rebooting itself.
As Transport Evolved reader and 2016 Nissan LEAF customer David Rowlands explained to us in an email this weekend, the situation is frustrating to say the least.
“Since January 13th all 2016 model-year Nissan LEAFs across the whole of Europe are either being held at the factory or at dealerships and are not being allowed to be released to customers,” he said. “Dealerships aren’t even allowed to register the vehicles and no updates have been given to customers at all from Nissan. Dealerships have not had any more information since January 13. We are all in the dark and only know that the issues are related to the new NissanConnect EV telematics system.”
While he is willing to wait a little longer in the hope that something will be sorted out, some customers have grown tired of waiting and have already cancelled their orders.
“I have said to Nissan that customers are normally quite understanding when there are delays, as long as they are kept informed, but you are now losing sales. I am very loyal to manufacturers and am just leaving VAG after having 2 of their cars over the past 8 years. This does not inspire me with confidence,” he continues. “I do understand that they want the issues sorted so that they don’t have another failing system like CarWings but customers will get very upset and annoyed if they can’t have their cars and have no updates.”
Transport Evolved understands that early 2016 Nissan LEAF customers report that the telematics systems on their cars are constantly rebooting, meaning that the center console essentially power-cycles while the car is in use. While we should reiterate at this point that there is no connection between the centre console, telematics system and the car’s main control system — meaning there’s no risk to the correct function of the car’s primary systems like steering, brakes, accelerator or motor control — the problem of a rebooting center console, however infrequent, makes using on-board sat-nav and radio particularly frustrating and distracting.
Moreover, an improperly functioning telematics unit means that drivers are either unable to check on their car’s state of charge remotely, or unable to do so reliably.
The delay, aside from frustrating owners, has been made worse by a lack of decent communication between owners and dealerships. While some owners say they’ve been told the issue lies with the telematics system, nobody has been given a firm date for when the issue will be resolved.
“We have temporarily suspended deliveries of the new MY16 Nissan LEAF… due to an issue we’ve identified with the NissanConnect EV telematics system,” a Nissan spokesperson told us earlier today. “We cannot confirm a date at this moment in time, but rest assured we’re working hard to implement a solution as quickly as we can and of course, customers that are waiting on vehicles will be a priority.”
With the Nissan LEAF already losing some of its reputation over the issue, Nissan risks losing out some of its customers to rival cars like the Volkswagen e-Golf, Kia Soul EV, Renault ZOE or perhaps even entry-level Tesla Model S. For a system to make it through testing and quality control before a major fault is discovered suggests Nissan needs to rethink its testing procedures — especially before it brings its promised autonomous cars to market in the next few years.
If it doesn’t, things could get worse for the Japanese automaker.
We’ll keep you posted on the issue and of course, let you know as soon as a solution has been found.
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