Nissan LEAF: Revisiting the World's Best-Selling Electric Car

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Nissan (NSANY) LEAF is the world's best-selling electric car, by far. As of April 2014, more than 110,000 had been sold. It is also a prime example of how a company listened to its customers and fixed a variety of issues from when the car was first made available, in this case in 2010.

When the Nissan LEAF came out in 2010, it was the market's first really usable mass-market pure electric car. However, it had a variety of shortcomings:

  • It was ugly.
  • It had ugly wheels.
  • It had ugly gray cloth seats.
  • It lacked a state-of-charge meter for the battery.
  • It had limited settings for locking/unlocking the charge port.
  • The battery was sensitive to extreme climates.
  • It had an inefficient heater.

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Long story short, many of us held off on buying the Nissan LEAF because of these shortcomings. However, shortly after the product's introduction in 2010, Nissan listened to early enthusiast owner suggestions and has now implemented fixes for many of the important complaints:

  • A premium wheel is now offered, with upgraded tires. Looks good!
  • Black leather seats. They look good!
  • Battery's state-of-charge is now prominently shown.
  • You can set charge port lock/unlock preferences almost any way you want.
  • Battery less sensitive to extreme climates.
  • Heater no longer reduces range as much.

To make the point of how Nissan listened to its customers better than perhaps some of its German competitors, I will elaborate on one point: The locking and unlocking of the charge port.

Some people want to lock the electric cord when it's plugged into the car. Perhaps they risk getting a ticket if someone unplugs the car (as is the case in California). Perhaps they just don't want anyone messing with their car.

Other people want to be good samaritans and allow co-workers or neighbors to share the electricity when in need. Yet others want to have their charge port locked until the car is fully charged, and then it should be automatically unlocked at that point.

The point here is that Nissan listened to its customers and said: You can set the LEAF to whichever preference you have. You know best. We don't. Memo to the German automakers: Don't force your customers to conform to your ivory tower theories of how people must behave. Allow the user to configure the settings.

In the Nissan LEAF, you sit higher up than in most electric cars, like General Motors' (GM) Chevrolet Volt and the Ford  (F) Focus Electric. This helps make it easier to get in and out. Excellent ergonomics!

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