Can The 2011 Leaf Reinvent Nissan?

October 19, 2010

Quick – what auto companies spring to mind when you think of the most environmentally-conscious vehicles? There’s Toyota, whose Prius snagged the eco-friendly crown a long time ago. There’s also Honda, whose fuel-efficient gasoline engine lineup, along with quality and reliability, have long helped it rank high as an environmentally-friendly brand.

What about Nissan?

There’s a lot of excitement at Nissan over the introduction to the U.S. of the zero-emission 2011 Leaf EV – a 100-percent electric, no gas, new car. Remember, Nissan is the company of the fabled 370Z Roadster, the hot new Juke small crossover, the macho horsepower GT-R and the funky but appealing Nissan Cube.

It’s also the company that offers the Frontier pickup trucks, the Versa and Altima. There’s even an Altima hybrid. Nissan has quite a diverse product lineup – and many very satisfied consumers.

But nothing compares to the buzz about the new Leaf EV.

In fact, company officials, according to a story in Automotive News, are pretty much banking on Leaf to help Nissan reinvent its brand image. That’s because market researchers told the company consumers don’t know what Nissan stands for. To remedy that, Nissan wants consumers to look at the company as innovative, going back to what Nissan says it has done best in the past – and promises to do more of in the future.

In essence, then, Leaf is a “game-changer” for Nissan.

 

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The green Leaf EV (pun intended), the company hopes, will help Nissan gain acceptance among environmentally motivated consumers, most likely boost the automaker’s overall corporate average fuel economy (CAFE), and pull a lot more consumers into Nissan dealerships who may have previously never considered the brand.

That’s all good for Nissan, if it works, and there’s no reason to think it won’t. After all, the company secured 20,000 reservations for the Leaf in September. If all the reservations turn into sales, that’s the entire 2011 allocation for Leaf in this country.

I’m reminded of the quote in Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” Okay, this isn’t a baseball field, but perhaps the fact that Nissan is building the Leaf EV means consumers will start flocking to the company’s dealerships – if for nothing else than a look-see at this new infusion of innovation into the brand.

All this makes for an interesting start to the 2011 model year for Nissan – and for consumers looking for alternatives in green transporation choices.

[Automotive News, Nissan]

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