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It’s a Two-Year Wait Before Nissan’s Leaf Hits Mid-Mo.

November 3, 2010

Nissan’s fully electric vehicle, Leaf, will start rolling out in the U.S. within the next couple of months. The buzz the car’s been generating is pretty palpable, thanks to the raving reviews its been getting — the silence of the car (since it doesn’t run on a gas engine) is getting a loud honk of approval, and so is the serenity and simplicity of the car’s design. (Did you know its seat fabric is made from recycled water bottles?)

If you are coveting for one here in Mid-Missouri, it’s still going to be a while before the Leaf gets here. Wait time: two more years, says Joe Machens Nissan’s new car sales director Matt Stein.

Nissan is rolling out the car across the U.S. in a classical fashion new technology gets diffused in and around this country – the inner states are always the last (Those in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Tennessee will be among first).

Photo from everythingmidmo.com

Which is just as well since the infrastructure here in Missouri isn’t quite ready yet. From a car dealer’s standpoint, a lot still has to be done – charging stations need to be set up, technicians need to be trained, sales people need to be fully-acquainted with the new technology and policies of the car. Machens Nissan is still in the preliminary stages of getting all that set up, but once it does so, it’ll be “Leaf certified”.

I got Matt to explain what that means and what kind of inquiries about the Leaf he’s been getting thus far:

What does it mean for Machens Nissan to be “Leaf certified”?

It means we will have charging stations at our facility. Our service department will be able to handle any repairs of the vehicle, and that our people are certified.

How’s the preparation for that coming along?

We’re still at the very beginning stages. We still have to have the architects come out and look at the building to decide where we’re going to have the actual charging stations. We’re going to have two to three charging stations at Machens Nissan.

Then, we still have to send our technicians and sales people for training. We’ll have two technicians that will be “Leaf certified,” and we’ll have some of our sales people who will be certified sales people and I’ll be the certified sales manager for the Leaf. The training will involve understanding how the entire electrical system works on the vehicle, how it functions differently from a gasoline vehicle. It’s a month’s process as far as training goes.

When do you expect the first Nissan Leaf to roll out from your showroom?

In about two years… hopefully a little bit sooner. But I think probably the soonest would be a year and a half. Based on everything I’m hearing, that’s probably a good time frame.

Are you starting to get inquiries about the car already and what are some of the concerns you’re hearing?

The biggest question is the range of the vehicle.

Right. Is the Leaf compatible for interstate driving?

That’s going to be one of the challenges I’m going to face here as a dealer. That’s where Nissan comes into play, where they’re going to make sure the infrastructure for the charging stations in place. And I think it’ll be there maybe a couple of years down the road. Hopefully by the time the Leaf launches in the mid-west, they’ll have those charging stations up and running.

You’ll be pushing it a little bit to say that a guy could get in his Leaf and drive from Columbia to Kansas City or Columbia to St Louis (in one charge).

Do you think Columbia is a great target market?

I think it’ll make a great town for the vehicle. Just with the college here, the town is pretty close together – as far as things to do. The dealership is kind of a central location, so if a person needs a charging station, we’re right here in the center of town for it, so I think it’s going to be great.

Who do you think are going to be your first buyers?

A lot of professionals are asking us about it, anywhere from late-30s to mid-50s range. That’s the demographic that we’re seeing right now. Some of the initial questions we have is just curiosity of what the vehicle looks like. I think people have this idea in their head that it’s going to be a really small vehicle that’s not functional. It’s going to be fully functional vehicle and a regular full-sized vehicle. It’s going to be a little bigger than a Versa, but not quite as big as an Altima. It’s fully capable for five adults in there and luggage.

One of the biggest incentives for getting a Leaf is the bunch of tax credits some states are granting on top of the federal tax credit . Are there such perks in Missouri?

Not to my knowledge at this point. I would like to think that Missouri would do something, but at this point it’s hard to say.

So what’s the best way of getting hold of one for now?

We had some customers come here to the showroom floor and expressed some interest in it. I’ve got some information on it, I wished a little more to give our customer. The way Nissan has the whole deal set up is going to the website and ordering is the best source at this point.

Please say we get to test drive the car?

It’s going to be a 100% order basis. There’s no way to test-drive it at the dealership right now. It’ll be at least 2-3 years before dealers will have stock units. 

Read also:

8 Goes Green | How the other electric vehicles compare

MSNBC | Electric cars face bumpy road to acceptance

Green Monk | Video: Leaf test-drive

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