Nissan Motor Co. will resume taking U.S. reservations for its Leaf electric car on May 1, Nissan Americas Chairman Carlos Tavares said Wednesday.
Tavares said Leaf production remains on track despite the March 11 earthquake that devastated Japan and briefly closed the plant where the Leaf is made. The first shipment of Leafs made after the earthquake is due to arrive in Los Angeles next week, he said. There are 127 Leafs on that ship.
Nissan stopped taking U.S. reservations for the Leaf last September when it reached 20,000 reservations. The Leaf went on sale in December and the company has delivered around 500 Leafs to U.S. buyers so far, Tavares said.
Tavares acknowledged some complaints about the long wait for a Leaf, which is currently four to seven months in the U.S. He said the company rolled out the vehicle slowly so it could iron out any problems, although the launch hasn't been trouble-free. Nissan recently told all 5,300 Leaf owners worldwide that the car has a software glitch that can keep it from starting. Nissan has offered to fix the problem at owners' homes or offices in addition to at dealerships.
Tavares said most customers have been understanding about the wait. Some joked that they have waited for an electric car for 20 years, so a few more months won't matter, he said.
"They recognize the importance of getting it right versus getting it now," Tavares said during a speech at the New York Auto Show.
But Tavares said the company plans to accelerate production in the coming weeks and cut the wait time for a Leaf to three or four months. All current orders will be filled by this summer, he said.
Reservations will first reopen in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington. People who have signed up on Nissan's Leaf Web site will get first dibs on reservations, which are held with a refundable $99 deposit. Not all reservation holders eventually place orders for the car, which costs around $25,000 after applying a $7,500 federal tax credit.
Brian Carolin, Nissan's senior vice president for sales in North America, said Tuesday that Nissan expects to meet its goal of selling more than 10,000 Leafs in the U.S. this year.