IT’S just over a year since the first Nissan LEAF was delivered to its lucky owner in California.
And here in the UK, 32 Nissan dealerships have been equipped to sell the pioneering, all-electric hatchback. But what’s it actually like trying to sell electric vehicles to a public who, needless to say, are used to driving petrol and diesel-engined cars?
Nissan Insider caught up with Sallyann Tanner, the electric vehicle relationship manager (EVRM) for Westover Nissan in Bournemouth, Dorset.
Sallyann told us: ‘I deal with all LEAF customers, from first contact through to handover and beyond. I am there for all my LEAF customers as their first point of contact. They all have my mobile number and I am available for them 24/7.’
Sallyann said that initial sales of the car were very good but had dropped off a bit recently.
‘The first customers knew so much about the LEAF (more than me in the first days) but now new LEAF customers are not so knowledgeable and I spend a great deal of time explaining how the car works and educating them, as there is a lot of misinformation.’
Sallyann kindly answered a few questions for us.
How long has the LEAF been available at your dealership?
The LEAF was launched in March 2011. Customers could reserve a LEAF online from September 2010 for a refundable £257 – this is where most of my sales came from.
We gather the car has been well-received with several purchasers already having taken delivery of their vehicles?
All my owners have their cars – I have handed over a total of 16 so far and everyone is very pleased that they have purchased one – I have one customer who has already done 11,000 miles since April!
The fact that a quick-charger is now up and running will no doubt help promote the LEAF to potential customers…
The availability of the dealership’s quick charger is discussed with every LEAF owner and prospect and this seems to give them reassurance – not many owners have used it to date, however.
Some other dealership owners have used it but complain that it not available out of hours. I have explained that due to it being 500 volts, I am the only one who operates it and the dealership must have secure lockdown out of hours.
Any particular characteristics that customers are saying they like about the LEAF?
All owners comment on the savings they are making in not having to fill up with petrol or diesel, the other comments are: how smoothly it drives and how it puts a smile on their faces.
New customers on test-drives are pleasantly surprised at the speed, smoothness and overall driving experience. The level of standard equipment shocks some. Having sat nav and the reversing camera seems to really please people.
Are you equipped to service the vehicle?
Yes – we have a fully-trained specialist EV technician who is the only one who works on the Nissan LEAF due the high voltages generated by the electric motor
What are your own thoughts about the car?
I love the car (and that’s not just because I sell it). The whole driving experience is like no other, so smooth, silent and so relaxing to drive. I love traffic lights, I drive a sign-written LEAF all the time and when sitting at the lights you can hear and see people looking and as the lights change I am away even before they have had time to engage gear! It’s just like saying to them, ‘think I’m driving a milk float? Think again!’
Any other comments you would like to make?
The only negative comments from customers revolve around the price of the car and length of time to charge it.
If the LEAF had a 32-amp on-board charger, the charging time would be much quicker and range anxiety could be less.
Overall, the LEAF is well-received when I talk to people about it. Raising awareness of the car is a big part of my job. Most people seem to think that it’s not yet launched and still a pre- production model. I feel TV advertising from Nissan would work wonders, most nights you see at least a couple of Qashqai or Juke ads on TV.
- This post originally appeared on pure-driving.co.uk