Green

Japan earthquake stalls Nissan electric car production

Nissan has halted vehicle production at its factories in Japan following an earthquake off the country’s northeast coast that spawned a tsunami and caused widespread damage.

The company’s electric vehicle, the Leaf, is the first full-scale electric production car from a major automaker sold in the United States. But Nissan has typically failed to meet deadlines to get the car to market and into the hands of hungry consumers.

That was supposed to change when Nissan announced that its Japanese factory responsible for making the five-seat family hatchback was set to double production over the next month. One in every six cars coming off Nissan’s Oppama production line was a Leaf. Nissan promised every third car would be a Leaf by the end of March.

Nissan is no stranger to setbacks when it comes to the Leaf. The company was slow to begin production, using existing factories to manufacture it. The 2011 Leaf is produced alongside non-electric cars such as the 2011 Juke and the 2011 Cube. This method of production enables new cars to be gradually phased in, without disrupting the plant production schedule. But while there are over 20,000 reservations in the U.S. for the Leaf, only 10 cars were delivered in December. There were 173 Leaf orders filled in January and 67 Leaf vehicles delivered in February.

The delays have been caused in part by the success of the Leaf in its native Japan, where generous government subsidies and nationwide charging infrastructure have driven an estimated 95 percent of Oppama’s Leaf output to domestic customers. Nissan was on track to ship an estimated 10,000 units by the end of March this year. Nissan also reported that 2,300 completed vehicles were damaged in the wake of the tsunami following the earthquake, but wouldn’t indicate how many of them were electric vehicles.

Japan was hit by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake. The earthquake rocked the northeastern portion of the coast and generated a tsunami warning across the country. The quake was the strongest to hit Japan in at least a century and generated a tsunami as high as 33 feet that flooded northern towns.