An uptick in monthly production, from 2,000 units to 3,000, meanscould sell as many as 36,000 Leaf EVs in the U.S. in 2014.
Nissan Leaf sold 22,610 units in 2013.
DETROIT – If all goes according to plan,’s Leaf electric car should have another record sales year in the U.S. in 2014, says Nissan North America Chairman Jose Munoz.
“As the recharging stations are getting better, the infrastructure is growing and we’re selling more and more cars,” Munoz tells WardsAuto on the sidelines of the Automotive News World Congress here.
sold 22,610 Leafs in the U.S. last year, more than doubling 2012’s 9,819 deliveries.
The uptick in sales largely is credited to the launch of the electric vehicle last year at the Smyrna, TN, plant. Previously all Leafs sold in the U.S. were assembled in Japan. Nissan contended this limited U.S. allotments of the EV and made its price higher due to an unfavorable yen/dollar exchange rate.
The Japanese automaker was able to produce up to 2,000 Leafs per month at Smyrna last year. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told CNBC last week Nissan is raising capacity to 3,000 units per month at the plant this year.
If Nissan can sell that many cars in a 30-day period it substantially would top its record, set just last month, of 2,529.
Ever the EV optimist, Ghosn told the financial channel “the next step (from selling 36,000 Leafs per year) is moving up to 4,000 units per month, which is going to be approximately 50,000 (annual sales).”
No EV in the U.S. has sold more in a calendar year than the Chevrolet Volt, which delivered a leading 23,461 units in 2012, WardsAuto data shows.
While sales of any model, let alone EVs, typically slip in their third year on the market, Munoz is unconcerned this will happen to the Leaf, which debuted in the U.S. in December 2010.
“We have more demand than supply,” he says. “We have seen areas like Atlanta, like San Francisco, like Seattle, where the No.1-selling (electric) vehicle is the Nissan Leaf and dealers are asking for more cars. This is a very nice problem to have.”
Nissan will support the EV with marketing this year, although Munoz notes it hasn’t had to promote the model that much as more units get on American roads.
“We are not doing a lot of advertising,” he says. “The users are the ones advertising on our behalf.”
Nissan last week announced a price increase for the Leaf for ’14, with the car starting at $28,980 for a base S grade, up from $28,800 in ’13. A rear camera now comes standard.
For ’13, Nissan cut Leaf pricing as much as $6,400, which it credited to the switch to U.S. production.