Nissan admits that the U.S. production of its Leaf electric vehicle at its plant in Smyrna, Tenn., may be moved later than its schedule of December 2012. Hideaki Watanabe, head of Nissan’s Global Zero Emission Vehicle Business Unit, said that the disaster in Japan put it in a “very difficult situation.”
He said that while Nissan hasn’t given up totally, there’s definitely a potential for delay, something that it’s currently assessing. Watanabe said that Nissan is looking for ways to lessen the lead time.
The lithium ion batteries for the Leaf are expected to start production in Smyrna in September 2012. Nissan is getting a lot of flak for its slow deliveries of the Leaf. Nissan explained that the delays are the result of technical problems and communications issues that were worsened by the earthquake in Japan.
Watanabe said that the company’s internal timetables were disrupted by the disaster. He said that on the day of the earthquake, all operation stopped and resources were concentrated on the recovery of Japan.
He said that Nissan halted all assessments and milestones related to the start of production in the U.S. He didn’t say how delayed it will be though. Nissan is planning to install capacity to produce 150,000 Leafs each year in Tennessee.
Nissan’s officials said that they anticipate the delivery of 10,000 to 12,000 Leafs in the U.S. in 2011. So far, Nissan has taken about 7,000 orders for the vehicle. It estimates that these orders will be filled by the end of summer.