Friday, March 4, 2011

The Leaf Will Fail Because The Atlantic Says So! That’s Why!

So yay! I’m getting my Nissan Leaf in May. Don’t know when in May but that is the latest. I’m so excited! I’ve been waiting a whole year for this car, and I’ve had to jump through all sorts of hoops in the process. More on that later.

But anyway, I’m thrilled to be one step closer to being internal-combustion-engine free. No tail pipe! No oil changes! Suck it, Koch Industries! But please don’t tell McMegan and her colleagues at The Atlantic, who yesterday confused “deliveries” with “reservations” to come up with her “ZOMG the Nissan Leaf is an epic fail!” post:
Autoblog reports that the Chevy Volt sold 281 units in February, down from 321 in February.  Meanwhile, sales of the Nissan Leaf dropped from 87 to 67.  The trend seems pretty dismal....

Wow that's pathetic. Except these sales figures are just for the U.S. And while I can't speak for the Volt, I know the Leaf has had a very slow, strategic rollout. And that actually there are thousands of people who have reserved a car and, like me, are anxiously awaiting its delivery -- indeed, Nissan reached its cap of 20,000 reservations three months ahead of schedule last year. Which seems to indicate a high level of interest to me. But hey, what do I know about these things. I'm not a fancy-pants business and economics editor with an elite institution like The Atlantic.

But let's not let facts stand in the way of a good talking point, namely “this whole EV craze is just a waste of time and money because nobody wants them.” Which she says thusly:

It certainly wouldn't be the first time that companies have made this sort of colossal misjudgment.  It wouldn't even be the first time an auto company has done so.  (Remember the Edsel)?  March and April sales volumes should be telling: gas prices are high, and the Leaf is supposed to hit 4,000 production units this month.  If volumes remain low, we may be looking at green elephants.

Actually, no. You cannot walk up to your local neighborhood Nissan dealership and buy a Leaf. That's not how it works. You have to have reserved one a realllly long time ago! There was a long, involved application process! And not everybody who wants one gets one. You have to apply. And meet certain criteria. And on top of that, Nissan stopped taking reservations back in September. So no, March and April sales figures won't tell you jack shit (or virtually jack shit).

Hon, is your gastritis acting up again? Seriously, she acts like she doesn't know any of this, as if the Nissan Leaf has been rolled out like any new automobile. That's not how it works.

In fact, McClueless' talking point notwithstanding, the Leaf has reportedly sold out its first year’s global production of 27,000 units. Six thousand of them were for the Japanese market. The question McBefuddled should be asking is, why aren’t more of these cars coming to the U.S. market? As someone who has waited an entire year for her car, I'd like to know: is lack of EV infrastructure in the U.S. hampering the rollout? Are cars going to Japan and Europe over the U.S.? Is there a production issue? I have heard lots of complaints about the slow pace of fulfillment. This doesn't mean there isn't a market for electric cars or demonstrate a lack of consumer interest, this is a problem on the supply side. I've even heard the rumor that freshly-minted Nissan Leafs are sitting at the Port of Long Beach waiting to be delivered to Tennessee (I have no idea if that's true. That's just the rumor.)

So yes, there are issues, but not the ones McHeadUpHerAss wants to see when she writes

It's going to take a long time at this rate to hit their sales target.  Here's Charles Ghosn, the CEO of Renault, saying that he's going to sell 500,000 electric cars a year by 2013...

I just have to wonder how this woman got her job. Yes Ghosn did say that. I believe those may have been global sales numbers .. at least, that's how I read the Times piece. And let me add, while Renault owns a large chunk of Nissan, the Leaf is by no means the only EV in Renault’s arsenal. In fact, the company has three other electric vehicles in its lineup: the ultra-compact Twizy, the Renault ZOE available next year, and the Kangoo Express Z.E. and Maxi Z.E., light commercial vehicles. These vehicles are now or soon will be available in countries Not America.

The question is, why? Why so many more consumer options in Socialisticky, Communisticky countries where innovation is supposedly crushed by the oppressive hand of the Taxman? How come American consumers have such limited options? McBargle doesn't even think to ask such a question, let alone answer it.

Accompanying this McNonsense was The Atlantic’s Daniel Indiviglio, who appeared compelled to correct the gaping holes in McHeadUpherAss's piece, while sticking valiantly by her "failing Leaf" premise. Either misery really does love company, or Indiviglio was offering McMegan some cover:

Through February, a measly 173 Nissan Leafs -- the new all-electric plug in car -- had hit the streets in the U.S. That sounds pretty weak. After being on the market for three months, isn't there more consumer interest in a zero-tailpipe emission vehicle than that?

Actually, yes there is. As Indiviglio learned from Nissan:

A spokesperson confirmed that the low number of vehicles hitting the road through February was accurate, but that's because this number reflected deliveries. She also said that high number of reservations was also correct. The low number of deliveries is reflective of production ramping up slowly. Through February, the vehicles were only available in six or seven markets. Throughout the rest of the year, however, she said 50,000 Leafs will be produced, available worldwide.

As someone who has been waiting an entire year for her new car, trust me: lack of interest ain't the issue. Oh, but there's more:

That is, if people stick with the reservations. The bar was pretty low to reserve one -- just a refundable $99 deposit. So there might be some question of whether these reservations indicate serious interest. But would that many people really bother paying $99, even if they could get it refunded, if there wasn't a strong chance they would buy the vehicle?

Again, no! No, the bar was NOT low to reserve a car: I had to go through an application, a site visit, I have to live in one of just a handful of markets where these cars are even available, I had to show that my driving habits were compatible with the Leaf's range, and I have to be a homeowner so I can install the charger in my garage. I also had to have the proper wiring and voltage in my garage so I can accommodate the charger.

On top of all that, I had to be willing to buy a car sight unseen and I had to be willing to wait 12 months for the thing! You may call that a low bar but I sure don't.

I know we're talking low bars, but I'm going to resist temptation and not make the obvious snark about Daniel Indiviglio's reporting skills. Instead let me simply suggest that you actually talk to someone who has reserved one of these things before your next story on how the Leaf is the biggest consumer failure since New Coke. Just a thought.

You know what pisses me off about this whole thing? McFail started with the idea that American consumers are not embracing EV vehicles, and then went looking for some numbers to back up that presupposition. So that’s how you kids do journalism these days! And her colleague Indiviglio, while trying to correct her, still stuck by that basic premise for some absurd reason I cannot fathom.