Nissan LEAF Finishes Tour; Pre-Orders Begin in April; Will Be Available by Lease or Sale in December


It’s been a whirlwind of a three month tour for the upcoming Nissan LEAF electric car. After kicking things off last November in Los Angeles, the LEAF and its accompanying drivable test mule made 63 stops in 24 cities, finally ending up at an appearance in New York City last week.

Nissan says the tour covered 10,000 miles and gave more than 100,000 people the ability to see and learn about the car–and electric vehicles in general.

“There was a groundswell of grassroots support from coast to coast,” said Carlos Tavares, Chairman of Nissan Americas, in a statement. “Everywhere we went, people recognized a new form of mobility–a turning point–and they wanted to be a part of it. The response was spontaneous and diverse. We were joined by mayors and government officials, CEOs, utility partners, car enthusiasts, students, dealers, media, environmentalists, Twitter users and lots of families.”

Reservation Process

Due in part to the large interest generated on the tour, more than 50,000 people have now signed up on Nissan’s website to be the first to hear about developments with the LEAF. Turns out that was a wise decision by those people, because according to the company, only folks who are signed up on that list will be given the first chance to reserve a LEAF.

Actual reservations will begin in April, shortly after Nissan announces pricing of the LEAF. Nissan has always said the LEAF will be priced competitively with other cars in the same family–somewhere around $25,000. As Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Nissan-Renault Alliance has said in the past, “The only way you’re going to mass market electric cars is by offering zero emissions as a free premium.”

To reserve a LEAF in April, potential customers will need to pay a refundable $100 reservation fee, after which they will be placed in line to be one of the first to actually order the LEAF in August. The car will start being delivered to initial markets in December 2010–barely making it under the company’s stated delivery goal of 2010. Certainly the initial rollout will be slow and demand will far outpace supply and there’s no word on which markets will get the LEAF first or if it will be a staggered rollout, but Nissan does say that vehicles will be available in “all major launch markets quickly thereafter.”

To Buy or To Lease, That is the Question

To this point the question of whether or not the LEAF will be leased or purchased and whether or not the battery will be a separate purchase or lease has been largely left unanswered—sometimes confusingly so. But in their latest release, Nissan says quite clearly “The Nissan LEAF will be available to consumers via lease or sale, in a single transaction that includes the battery.”

So, it seems that Nissan will be giving customers the option of either leasing or purchasing and the car and battery are coming as a single package regardless of how it’s bought. No word on any pricing differences yet, but we’ll soon find out seeing as Nissan is planning on announcing pricing sometime in the next 2 months.

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.