The 53rd annual San Francisco auto show rolled into the city by the bay this week featuring a spectacular array of vehicles designed to thrill the imagination of young and old. A special feature of this year’s show is the debut of several all-electric, hybrid and alternative fuel autos that have already begun to roll off the assembly line. As a green journalist, I had looked forward to the arrival of the auto show for months for one simple reason: I had signed up to test-drive the Leaf, Nissan’s highly anticipated all-electric vehicle.
For those who may still question the viability of demand for EVs in today’s car market, a look at the pre-order figures of the Nissan Leaf should provide some meaningful answers. Nissan had established a goal of obtaining 20,000 early reservations, a mark it determined that it could set for initial production while still maintaining the high level of customer service the company is known for. The orders poured in and the Leaf reached its mark three months before it had expected. What was it about this car that had attracted so much attention, even for EV fanatics? That the Leaf was such a winner before it had left the starting gate was a clear testament to Nissan’s marketing genius (kudos to Lance Armstrong’s tailpipe musings and hugs from a large, cuddly polar bear) and to consumer trust in the efficacy of Nissan’s brand.
As a small fleet of Leafs cruised silently on the exhibition hall’s floor, I found Mike Disser, a Nissan promotions official, and I decided to ask a few questions.