During today's announcement about the expansion of DC fast charging stations in the US, Brendan Jones, Nissan North America's director of Leaf marketing and sales strategy, said that one reason the company is working harder on getting more chargers out there is because drivers asked for them. As one Leaf driver told him, "Give us more confidence by putting in more infrastructure and we'll drive further." Turns out that the 2013 Nissan Leaf itself was updated with EV driver input, a new industry style to match the new drivetrain.
"I'm an old-school car guy," Jones told AutoblogGreen. "I've been in the industry since the '80s. The amount of evangelism and groups – the Bay Area Leafers, for example, are between 300 and 350 strong – is different [with the Leaf]. We frequently rely on them – there's an Arizona club, a Tennessee club – for what's working and what's not working. They're not shy. It's great because even if sometimes there's critical information, it's good information.
"We frequently rely on them for what's working and what's not working. They're not shy."
"In San Francisco, we took 30 customers to one of those 'have-it-out-sessions' and they brought up the light [in the charge port]. They started yelling. 'It's absolutely crazy that you guys don't have a light!' When we put out the car, no one thought about that. Little things like that that improve the ownership experience. You can't buy better customers. They're great evangelists and they're very involved and they make us as a manufacturer better. I've launched other vehicles, and it's never been like this."
This light is just one change that was applied to the Leaf after early adopters pointed out how the car didn't meet their expectations. The headrests were made smaller, for example, and the electronic parking brake was removed. Also, the charging port now locks the cord in place, so no one can disconnect the charging process except the driver.
The interaction between Nissan and Leaf owners heralds a bigger change that the Leaf itself is a part of. "The gasoline engine has been around forever," Jones said, "and when Henry Ford put the Model T out there, everybody started adopting it. This [the Leaf] is brand new, so this technology is at the beginning. It's only going to get better and better and better, and the customers are going to play a big role in helping us make it better than anyone else."
"The customers are going to play a big role in helping us make it better than anyone else."