NISSAN has knocked back some customers interested in purchasing its first electric car, the Leaf, because they have been deemed "unsuitable" for ownership.
The plug-in electric vehicle officially hits the market on June 1, but interested customers need to pass a two-stage approval test before being issued with a certificate that will allow them to purchase the $51,500 car from one of Nissan's special EV dealerships.
The test involves answering five questions about their intended usage for the car, followed by a visit from Nissan's electrical supplier Origin Energy for an assessment of the suitability of the customer's home electrical network.
Speaking at a promotional event at Melbourne's Federation Square designed to raise awareness of the Leaf's non-reliance on petrol, Nissan Australia model line manager James Staveley told Drive the company had approved about 100 customers with another 100 undergoing the process.
Some intending customers have also been declined. "If you answered that you regularly drive from Melbourne to Sydney, then we might have politely informed the customer that this is not the car for them," Staveley says.
"The majority of customers we have declined have been because they don't have off-street parking available to them, which we consider essential for a safe and convenient recharging environment."
When Mitsubishi brought the only other mass-produced electric car available in Australia to market, the i-MiEV, it initially appointed leases only to high-profile corporate customers.
As supply restrictions eased it later placed the car on general sale, although Nissan says it intends to maintain its selection criteria "to ensure our customers have a great experience with the Leaf".
Nissan Australia is only holding one firm order on its books for the Leaf. "We chose to do it that way. We held a competition to be the first person to own a Leaf in Australia, and the family that won now holds the first and only order," Staveley says.
For customers who pass the two "toll gates" of the selection process, the car will retail for $51,500 (plus on-road and dealer costs). That includes a recharging cable, but not a wall-mounted recharging station.
A package including the telephone book-sized station adds a minimum of $2700 to the price, or more depending on the logistics involved in its installation.
Staveley says the recharging station isn't a mandatory purchase, but that plugging the car directly into a 15-amp power outlet - which is the minimum infrastructure required and costs several hundreds of dollars to install - will take five hours longer to fully charge the car.
"It's the customer's choice but we'd really prefer that people take the option of the recharging station because then we know it's being properly and appropriately installed and minimises the risk of anything going astray," he says.
Nissan Australia is displaying more than 40 petrol pumps in Melbourne's Federation Square today, each modified for a new purpose in life including a coffee machine, a fountain, a robot and a gumball machine. The display intends to symbolise that electric cars can help to overcome the world's strong reliance on petrol.
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