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How US Nissan Leaf sales are slowed by electrode supply

numbers, there is something that doesn’t make sense about the Nissan Leaf production facility in Smyrna, TN. After all, the automaker has been building EVs there since early this year and can make enough batteries there for over 150,000 cars a year. But, currently, the Leaf sells just 2,000 or so copies a month in the US (and all US Leafs coming from Smyrna). So why does the company have a problem supplying demand? One word: electrodes.

“We recently decided to increase production in Smyrna, but we won’t see that until November or December” – Nissan’s Billy Hayes

That’s what we learned speaking with Billy Hayes, vice president in charge of global sales of the Nissan Leaf, at the in-depth Nissan360 event in Southern California this week. Hayes said that Nissan did recently decide to increase Leaf production – from around 2,000 a month to 2,500 – but that it just takes time before that decision turns into more vehicles out the door. “What we wanted to see was a sustained 2,000 [sales] a month and it’s no secret that we’re running kind of tight on dealer inventory,” he said. “What people don’t really understand is that yes, we have capacity but there is also a lead time because of electrode production. Between the time that we make a decision to increase production to the time it actually goes up is about six months. We recently made the decision to increase production in the Smyrna plant, but we won’t see that until November or December.”

The new, higher production number will itself be reevaluated in the coming months – Hayes said he is “very optimistic” it will also be moved up – but any further increase would then take another six months to implement. That means we’re not going to see US Leaf sales break out of their 2,000-3,000 monthly sales levels until at least the summer of 2014. There’s more below.
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