NISSAN could sell up to 4,000 all-electric LEAFs in the UK during 2013, according to the company’s managing director, Jim Wright.
And this will partly be because the car has been ‘normalised’ and made to feel much more a part of the Nissan family.
Production of the second-generation LEAF is now under way at Nissan’s Sunderland factory. More than 100 changes have been made to the vehicle, the main one being that the range has been extended from 109 miles to 124 miles. And with a new battery-leasing option, potential purchasers can get behind the wheel for less than £16,000.
That’s clearly good news for dealers when it comes to explaining the benefits to customers. And what’s more, selling the LEAF has become a whole lot more straightforward with the introduction of the new model, arriving in showrooms up and down the country this month.
Talking to Nissan Insider, Jim Wright said that with the old car, the margin structure was different from the rest of the range. He added: ‘We’re harmonising all that. From the dealer’s perspective, I think we’ve removed a mental block because if you position the car differently, the dealer will have a different mindset about the car.
‘What we’re doing now is including it in the range in a very conventional way. This means it just becomes a lot easier to understand. It becomes easier for a salesperson to understand and becomes more like a normal car.
‘Our dealers will see the business case change substantially as well. In March, we had our highest ever order take for LEAF. I think we did 250 cars after the £2,000 price reduction we announced on the old model. All in all, the dealers will see a different kind of business case for the car.
‘It makes a lot of sense’
‘If you can rent the car for £200 and change per month, and you don’t need to buy any petrol, from an economic and pragmatic perspective, it makes a lot of sense.’
We asked Jim whether dealers were enthusiastic about the new era for LEAF. He told us: ‘It’s a bit like everything else. There are dealers who are switched on to it and ready to engage in it. Also, from a dealer perspective, we’re now running a new training programme.
‘We started off with only 32 dealers selling LEAF. In each of those 32 dealerships, we picked only one person and they became the LEAF person, or ”electric vehicle relationship manager”. They were the ones given all the training.
‘We asked the dealers to pay them a bit more because their commission would be less. Now that we’ve rolled it out to the rest of the network, our intention is to ensure that every salesman gets training. We’ll still have some form of specialisation, but we’ll be taking that up from one person to two per dealership. Everyone in a dealership will get trained around the car.
‘We’ve had some feedback from customers, particularly in the early days with the early adopters, who, like with any form of technology, knew more about the technology than the people who were selling it! When they got the guy who knew what he was talking about, it was a great experience, but when he wasn’t there, nobody knew anything about it.
‘It’s far easier now for a customer to compare the LEAF with other cars in the range. Before, it was very difficult to make that comparison. But also in a dealer’s mind, he knows, I’ve got this margin on this car, and I’ve got a very similar margin on an alternative car. Working out a deal for a customer becomes far more straightforward.
‘There is definitely a market for the LEAF. We’re not looking to sell 50,000. We sold 900 last year, and our ambition this year is to sell between 3,000 and 4,000. By normalising the car in the line-up it should be far easier.
‘The dealer now has all the tools he needs to sell the car to the customer. I’m reasonably optimistic that we can achieve the type of volume we’re after.’