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Nissan May Delay Launch of U.S. Leaf Production

But maker sees upside to the disaster.

by on Jun.14, 2011

Nissan will likely delay the start of Leaf production at its Smyrna, TN plant.

Nissan may be forced to delay production of its Leaf battery car at its main U.S. assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, company officials are warning, due to ongoing problems resulting from Japan’s March 11 natural disaster.

The earthquake and tsunami disaster that hit Japan has already had a significant impact on the roll out of the Nissan Leaf battery cars, delaying the planned spring ramp-up of production at the launch plant in Japan. Nonetheless, the March 11 disaster also is helping demonstrate that EVs can fit into modern society without a lot of fuss, the maker claims.

The March earthquake and tsunami is likely to cost Japanese automakers more than a million units of lost production, while severely reducing profits for the year.  (Honda projecting a two-thirds drop in profits for the fiscal year. Click Here for more.) Significantly, some key launches are being impacted, including significant delays in the ramp-up of the 2012 Honda Civic and a several-month delay in the introduction of the new Toyota Prius V.

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It has taken Nissan, meanwhile, longer to build up production of the Leaf, while Hideaki Watanabe, Nissan vice president for zero emission vehicles, said the timing of the planned opening of the Leaf assembly line in Smyrna is uncertain.

“After March 11, all the resources of the company were devoted to helping with the recovery (in Japan.) This delayed the planning,” he said. “It put us in a very difficult situation,” Watanabe told a group of reporters.


Honda Tech Center Out of Action

Make also facing potential delay with new Civic.

by on Mar.25, 2011

Some analysts fear the launch of the 2012 Honda Civic could be impacted by the Japanese disaster.

A key part of Honda’s product development program could be out of action indefinitely in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that devasted Northeast Japan earlier this month.

With Japanese automakers still struggling to assess the damage done by the natural disaster – and subsequent nuclear crisis – Honda could be among the makers hardest hit.  Even plans for its new Civic model could be impacted by the events of recent weeks.

Honda has been under fire in recent months because its product line has begun to look dated next to new vehicles from other Asian, European and American carmakers – notably including the new Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra models targeting the long-dominant Civic.

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Howver, it now appears another casualty of the deadly quake — which has claimed the lives of as many as 26,000 — was Honda’s product development center.

The R&D facility, in Tochigi, suffered the only known fatality at any facility operated by a major automaker, one worker killed during the March 11 earthquake when a wall collapsed.  Employees who will work on the restoration started returning this week. But repairing the quake damage at the center will take considerably more time, Honda officials have confirmed.


Nissan Ramping Up Production of Leaf

Maker struggling to meet orders, while competitor Chevy also boosting Volt production.

by on Feb.08, 2011

As many as 20,000 customers are waiting for their Leaf battery cars.

With an estimated 20,000 orders waiting, Nissan is desperately struggling to catch up on demand for its new Leaf battery-electric vehicle and will increase production as quickly as possible, company officials have revealed.

So far, less than 1,000 of the so-called BEVs have been delivered since the nation’s first mass-market electric vehicle went on sale at the end of 2010, with the maker saying it has been consciously taking its time to ensure it gets things right with the first cars off the assembly line.

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But production should jump into the “thousands” starting in March, according to Nissan’s senior U.S. manager of sales and marketing, Brian Carolin.

“I’m confident during April, May you’re going to see a significant number of deliveries,” the executive told reporters.

GM's new global marketing czar, Joel Ewanick, shown with the Chevrolet Volt.

Nissan will not release its specific 2011 Leaf sales forecast, but last autumn it cut off early a preliminary order bank after 20,000 potential customers placed advanced orders – backed by $99 deposits – for the battery vehicle.  Company officials have said relatively few of those orders have been rescinded despite delays in getting Leaf into showrooms.

Many observers have dubbed 2011 the year of the electric vehicle, and a variety of small makers, such as Tesla, Amp and Fisker are seeing the coming months as critical in their efforts to penetrate a market long dominated by big brands, such as Nissan and General Motors.

The latter is struggling to ramp up production of its own battery-based vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt.  While Nissan’s Leaf relies solely on battery power to get an estimated 100 miles range per charge, Chevy took a very different approach, using a plug-in hybrid powertrain for Volt that gets 25 to 50 miles on a charge before a small internal combustion engine kicks in for extended drives.

Both Leaf and Volt have garnered a number of awards since their launch, the Volt most recently being named North American Car of the Year, while Leaf is the only Asian finalist in the World Car of the Year balloting.  (Volt missed the cut.)

Chevy has produced only a few 100 more battery vehicles than Nissan, so far this year, and appears to have more modest aspirations, with a stated goal of selling just 10,000 Volts in 2010.  But CEO Dan Akerson has said he also wants to ramp up production, and the target for Volt in 2011 is 45,000.

Nissan has, meanwhile, said it expects to have worldwide production capacity in place, by 2014, to produce 250,000 battery cars.  That would include both Leaf and several other Nissan and Infiniti models now under development.

Nissan Confirms Slow Launch of Leaf Battery Car

Delays likely to continue through spring, maker says.

by on Jan.22, 2011

It could take awhile for delivery even if you've already placed an order for the Nissan Leaf.

A slow and cautious approach to rolling out the all-new Nissan Leaf could frustrate customers who’ve been waiting to take delivery of the market’s first mass-production battery-electric vehicle.

The Japanese maker has confirmed to that it has decided to slow the initial production ramp-up “to get it absolutely perfect and make sure there’s no perception the car isn’t ready for market,” said Nissan’s chief U.S. spokesman David Reuter.

Nonetheless, he acknowledged that could lead to some frustration among anxious motorists – 20,000 of which have already placed preliminary orders for the compact, battery-powered sedan.  Since its launch, last month, U.S. deliveries have only been “in the 100s,” according to spokesman Reuter, who anticipated, “We’ll be getting up to normal production by April.”

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The challenge for Nissan is that it is working not only with an all-new product platform but with an entirely new powertrain technology, one that has never been put into truly high-volume production before.  One of the most difficult issues is ensuring that the Leaf’s lithium-ion battery pack comes out of the plant in shape to meet the demands of the automotive environment.