Nissan well short of sales target for Leaf electric cars

Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:52pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co (7201.T: Quote) is falling well short of its goal of doubling sales of its Leaf electric car this fiscal year as sales in the United States are particularly weak despite high gas prices.

While Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn set a target of doubling global Leaf sales in the current fiscal year that runs through March 2013, the pace will need to increase dramatically as they are up only 9 percent in the first five months through August.

Leaf sales in the United States are down 56 percent from April through August, and down 31.5 percent this calendar year.

Nissan North America spokesman David Reuter said U.S. sales should improve once it ships more to the markets where it sells best. Leaf debuted in December 2010 in Japan and in seven metropolitan areas in the United States.

Leaf is not the only EV to struggle in the U.S. market. General Motors Co's (GM.N: Quote) Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid car has come up short of expectations, forcing the U.S. automaker to idle the plant that makes the car. In addition, Fisker Automotive's Karma plug-in has experienced numerous problems and was just panned by Consumer Reports for being "plagued with flaws.

Overseas, however, Leaf has fared better. Sales so far this fiscal year are up 125 percent in Japan, where demand was hurt last year by the March earthquake and tsunami. They are also up 207 percent in Europe, where the Leaf did not roll out as quickly.

Nissan has sold 37,285 Leaf since it was introduced. Of that figure, 17,710 have been sold in Japan; 13,921 in North America; 4,881 in Europe; and 773 in other markets, Nissan said.

LEAF BUY BACK   Continued...