While Nissan is currently in the lead in sales of electric cars in the United States with its Leaf model selling nearly a thousand more than Chevrolet’s Volt thus far in what looks to be an extremely niche market. Total sales of Nissan’s Leaf are 3,875 through June 2011, while Chevrolet has moved just 2,745 Volt units.
The low sales numbers are blamed on production problems, rather than issues with consumer demand. Nissan had numerous production delays due to the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan. GM says its production issues stemmed from extensive retooling at the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant that produces the Volt.
GM’s retooling is now complete, and the plant can deliver three times the capacity as it could before. They expect to produce 45,000 Volts annually at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant.
Nissan’s approach is to move Leaf production to the United States, which expects to have in place by 2013. The electric motors will be produced at Nissan’s Decherd, Tennessee power train plant that currently makes engines and other parts for a number of Nissan models.
Those electric motors will be placed into Leaf models produced at the company’s Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant, where final assembly of the cars will take place. Nissan says the lithium-ion batteries for the Leaf will also be produced in Smyrna, Tennessee.
While electric cars produce zero emissions, they’ve yet to catch on with consumers. Most insurers are still waiting to see how pricing will shake out, but in general, the trend has been that electric cars have proven cheaper to insure than their internal combustion engine counterparts, despite the lower consumer demand for electric and hybrid cars.