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Nissan Leaf Off To Strong Start, Poised To Become The Next Crown Vic

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2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

Enlarge Photo
2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

2011 Nissan Leaf prototype

Enlarge Photo

Just three weeks into the pre-order phase, Nissan has recorded an impressive 3,754 reservations for its all-new Nissan Leaf EV in Japan. That's over half the automaker's sales goal for the year. Even more intriguing? Nearly two-thirds of prospective buyers -- 61%, in fact -- are age 50 or older.

Nissan was hoping to sell just 6,000 units of the Leaf in Japan during the current fiscal year, which ends on March 31, 2011. At this rate, the company will likely far exceed that figure -- although it's important to note that there's no downpayment required to pre-order in Japan, so there'll probably be some attrition when the Leaf begins rolling out this December. Still, hitting 62% of a sales goal in only 6% of the available time tells us that demand is stronger than expected.

More surprising, though, is the age issue. While we in America think of EVs like the Leaf as new, edgy things for young people, Nissan is finding that in Japan, only 15% of pre-orders have come from drivers under 40. That may have something to do with the Leaf's sticker price, which is a moderately high ¥3.76 million, or $40,000 before tax credits. (That's compared to the Leaf's U.S. pre-tax-credit price of $32,780.) Then again, we've been surprised by the sorts of people interested in the Leaf here, too -- people like our own Marty Padgett -- so maybe we've simply misjudged the buyer profile.

Obviously, the Japanese market and the American market are very different animals, and we'd never want to use one to make predictions about the other. But we can definitely say that we're intrigued by the interest these new cars and their new technology are generating. As that technology evolves -- and as gas prices continue creeping higher -- we'll likely see the interest in EVs spread.

Pre-ordering for the Leaf began just a few days ago in the U.S. We'll update you on the stateside stats in another couple of weeks.

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