Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dear Nissan (An Opened Letter)

As a reporter for the Affordable Electric Car NOW! website, I strive for accuracy, fairness and reasonable information and analysis.  If you see my site, you can see that the clear majority of what I have to say is about the Nissan LEAF.  I broke a number of stories about the LEAF and LEAF news specific to the Tier 2 ordering region (AL, DC, FL, GA, MD, NC, SD, VA), including how the region was kicked back from last December ordering to Late Summer 2011 the day before the first scheduled delivery.  But not all I've written is adverse to Nissan's image.  Indeed, just yesterday it gave me tremendous pleasure to brake the news publicly that I, as well as many other Tier 2 reservation holders, may finally be seeing the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. I, personally, have been waiting long and hard for our day to come and I must admit I still find it hard to believe it may finally be coming true. But now the story is out: we get to order in July!

But here's the problem: I got this news while speaking to the dealership who is in contact with the Nissan North America regional representative.  This is big news!  Why am I the one breaking it?  Why aren't you?  This is the kind of thing that's remiss in your eNewsletter.

It always seems you're so happy to tout success in AZ, CA, HI, OR, TN, TX and WA but never a peep about Tier 2, never mind the forgotten 36.  The first LEAF ever delivered in those forgotten 36 states was actually won by an Oklahoman in the Drive Electric tour!  This is news because right now, those folks have no idea when they can even order their cars.  And new reservations were only opened up to the original 7 states?  Again, this smacks of total apathy for your potential customers across the rest of the United States and Canada.

And what about the Cold Weather Package Trim now becoming available?  This is huge news, yet I have to read about it on Twitter from @EVNow and on the My Nissan LEAF forum instead of in your eNewsletter?  I've very happy that you've announced it at $930 MSRP above the corresponding SV, SL or SL+ETEC Trim, but I for one would like to know the invoice on these 3 new trim levels.

One thing that's missing, which I am trying to correct through my Meet Your Dealership series is putting the customer back in contact with his or her local dealer.  It's the dealers that have the best information as is, and they're the ones we make the deal with when our dashboards open.  This I think is another flaw in the ordering process.  I like the reduced haggling, don't get me wrong, and am glad that so far the LEAF hasn't been jacked up like the Chevy Volt was in its early release.  I like that Nissan North America is co-ordinating this, but don't put such a wall between we customers and our preferred dealer.  I'm trying to reach out, why aren't you?

And need I mention 6.6kW charging?  What's the deal with that?  Last I heard you were pushing it back to Smyrna going on line with the 2013 LEAF?  I'm seriously tempted to postpone my order until the 6.6kW option becomes available and I can find out the price.  Do you have any new information?  Is there any way I can convince you how important this is to me?  All that I know about it is what I learned in the online chat, not through the eNewsletter.

I really like the folks in the online chat, that I must say.  They're always very kind and helpful.  I do miss the e-mail transcript feature, though!  What happened with that?  It was great that I could quote chat log (the highest level representative I could get to speak to my news service) to at least get some answers when we Tier 2 folks were so wounded.

And my EVSE, I did it completely without you.  While you dragged your feet and let the 2010 Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit expire, I got something done about it.  Even now, I don't think any Tier 2 people have heard from AeroVironment, never mind ECOtality.  Heck, ECOtality's been AWOL since they announced they added the metropolitan Washington, D.C. region to their project area.  Not a peep from them or you, that's why I did it myself.

In summary, more transparency and regional customization is required.  We Tier 2 can only take so much of how great it is living in Hawaii with your LEAF or Celebrities in CA chillin with their LEAF or even our neighbor to the West, Tennessee and their great LEAF adventures.  That's what's most missing in your eNewsletter: information about the features we keep asking for and the progress in our local delivery market.  Stuff to reassure us, to make us feel wanted as a customer, and not excluded as a reject not good enough for the cool kids.

And 6.6kW charging... come on, let's punch that Focus Electric in the no-trunk-space butt!

Portions of this letter appeared in my submission to the Nissan LEAF survey of 2 June 2011.

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