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Old 07-08-2011, 03:15 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Media has the wrong metric

“Nissan Leaf overshadows Chevy Volt in June sales” ... z1RTtw3Uuo

“Nissan Leaf whips Chevrolet Volt in electric sales race” ... les-race/1

“Nissan Leaf is more popular in U.S. than Chevrolet Volt” ... t-volt-775

A sampling of the headlines that make it seems as though the battle of the EVs boils down to the Leaf versus the Volt.

This is complete and utter nonsense.

As Jeff Cobb at points out. The manufacturers have intentionally, ramped up production very slowly. These are radically new cars. Understandably before they commit to cranking out a million, they want feedback on every part of the process before ramping up to full production mode. What this means for now is that car sales numbers for the Volt and Leaf tell us nothing about how successful the cars will be in the long run. There are way more early adopters wanting to buy these cars than will be produced in the short term. If Nissan has chosen a slightly faster ramp-up rate, that does nothing to tell us how successful car will be when all the early adopters have played out and the OEMs are trying to sell to the masses.

Furthermore, the Volt and the Leaf are not really in direct competition. The Leaf will compete head to head with Focus EV. But the Volt is an entirely different beast than the Leaf. There will be drivers for whom the Leaf will work, and some for whom the Volt will work better. Customers will have to look closely at their commuting patterns and existing “fleet”, to determine which vehicle makes the most sense for them.

Make no mistake, Nissan and GM, as well as scores of other OEMs are firing their opening salvos in a war to determine who will be the leader in “electrified” vehicles, but these early sales numbers tell us nothing.

If we want to draw any conclusions from the first 6 months, it would be, “ring the bell,” cause school IS in session and GM is giving the lessons. Lesson one, pick a production number that you can easily hit. Nissan said repeatedly and loudly “we will sell 20k Leafs the first year.” Well four months into it, they had to come back with their tail between their legs and revise that number down, by nearly half, stating it would instead be 10k-12k. Meanwhile GM revised their numbers upward. GM's numbers were lower to begin with, but this is the way to do it. Not hitting your numbers implies problems.

Lesson two. First impressions matter. Within the first few months, the Leaf had to have a software update to solve a problem with its AC that would prevent the car from starting. They had to acknowledge that their charger was undersized, and announced that the next MY would have a larger charger. Fine for those who get the next MY but leaves the brave souls who bought the first MY stuck with the slower chargers for the rest of the life of the vehicle.

And oh yeah we really should have had some sort of thermal management system for the battery. Said thermal management is now an option. And finally the range estimation software was by all accounts, “not successful.” And the Leaf reservation system, seems to have angered a significant portion of would be EV buyers. On paper, the reservation systems seemed a welcome thing, especially for those who sympathies do not lie with the dealer, but somewhere between paper and execution there was an epic fail. Tied mostly to Nissan’s inability to hit the 20k production mark

This does not mean the Leaf is a failure or will not succeed. Simply, this is not the ideal way to introduce the world to your first EV.

Comparatively the Volt rollout has been smooth sailing. The Volt has probably, most likely, had issues of its own, but GM has been very much on top of things, and probably headed them off before they came to the attention of the media. The level of attention Volt owners are receiving via their Volt Advisors is quite remarkable, and certainly more akin to what one would expect with a BMW or Mercedes.

Nissan would gladly trade the few thousand "sales lead" for GM's more smoothly executed rollout.

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