WHEN Nissan first launched the LEAF, blazing a trail for a new kind of automotive technology, no-one could have predicted what a phenomenal success it would be.
Now, three years on and with the LEAF in its second generation, the pioneering model continues to set the standard, change perceptions and break new records.
Barely a week goes by without the LEAF making headlines in some part of the world or another.
And the past month has been a case in point. First we saw sale of the 3,000th LEAF in the UK – an incredible achievement for which we should all feel proud – and then the 100,000th worldwide sale was achieved by Martins Nissan in Winchester. Amazing.
In addition, the charging infrastructure – a major factor converting drivers to the benefits of EV – has grown massively to service the needs ever expanding number mains-powered motorists on the road.
By the end of this year, virtually every motorway service station in the UK will have its own rapid charger and this very week, it was announced that the 1,000th rapid charger in Europe was now live and operational.
All this success has not gone unnoticed by the motoring public keen to experience the low running costs and driving pleasure of the LEAF and by businesses who want their custom.
For example, supermarket Waitrose is busy installing chargers in its car parks and IKEA recently installed a rapid charger at each of its sites. That’s two big brands that recognise that electric vehicles will become an ever more important and familiar feature of our motoring landscape over the coming years.
And if they can recognise it, we need to make sure we can recognise it too. LEAF represents a massive opportunity for Nissan and its dealer network and we must ensure we do all we can to consolidate and build on our position as the world and UK market leader in electric vehicles sales.
For the time being, our market leader status gives us an incredible advantage but, just like Waitrose and Ikea, our competition have woken up to EV and are doing all they can to catch us up.
A raft of new EV models have been launched recently and more are in the pipeline, but the LEAF is more than a match for them all and, while we must take them seriously, we should see their arrival as a fresh opportunity to talk about the merits of EV and our own product.
All dealers, even those who have not so far enjoyed success with the LEAF or who talk about barriers to sales like their geographical location, must redouble their efforts to convince local drivers that LEAF really can work for them.
EV is undoubtedly the future and so dealers should be shouting about the LEAF’s successes and merits as loudly as they can and trying to sell, sell, sell. Everything is in place to do just that.
But while dealers must make an effort with LEAF, Nissan still has a massive role to play and so we continue to invest heavily in promoting both LEAF and EV in general.
Our recent and prolonged LEAF campaign on national television worked wonders for the model’s visibility and we are now playing a lead role in ‘Go Ultra Low’ – a major campaign being run by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles to promote the use of low emission vehicles in London. This too, will do much to raise the profile of LEAF, not just in and round the capital, but nationwide.
So, in summary, now is the time to build on the LEAF’s incredible success. Whether it’s doing more to promote 24-hour test drives, running LEAFs as courtesy vehicles or promoting LEAF through NMS and the Dealer PR service, dealers should be doing all they can to get bums on seats and let motorists see for themselves what a fantastic vehicle we have to offer.
Paul O’Neill, Category Manager – Electric Vehicles