DETROIT — Nissan’s chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, said Tuesday that the company had already received 19,000 orders in the United States and Japan for the electric car that it would start selling at year-end.
Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg News
Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s chief.
More than six months before the car, the Nissan Leaf, arrives at dealerships, the preorders mean that the car is sold out for this year and that the company might stop taking reservations, Mr. Ghosn said during a visit to the Detroit Economic Club.
“The preorders are such that we are very comfortable with what we have undertaken,” Mr. Ghosn said after the speech. “The more we advance into it, the more comfortable we are with it.”
Nissan plans to break ground Wednesday in Smyrna, Tenn., for a plant to build batteries for the Leaf and eventually other models, part of its goal to sell at least 500,000 electric cars worldwide starting in 2013. The first Leafs will be made in Japan, with assembly in Tennessee planned to start in 2012.
Mr. Ghosn’s enthusiasm for electric vehicles contrasts with some recent studies and with comments from other automakers, including Honda, suggesting that pure electric vehicles have little short-term potential.
General Motors is scheduled to begin selling a battery-powered plug-in car, the Chevrolet Volt, later this year, but the Volt also has a small gasoline engine so that drivers can go beyond the battery’s expected range of 40 miles a charge.
Mr. Ghosn said he did not want the Leaf, whose expected range is 100 miles on a full charge, to have a range-extending engine, a feature that G.M. has said would assuage drivers’ worries about being stranded with a dead battery with no fast or easy way to recharge.
“We wanted to do a zero-emission vehicle,” Mr. Ghosn said. “I don’t want gasoline in the car, period.”
Nissan has given the Leaf a starting price of $32,780, minus a $7,500 federal tax credit. The Volt, whose price has not been disclosed, is expected to sell for close to $40,000 before the tax credit.
Among the other electric vehicles planned for sale in the United States within several years are a battery-powered version of Ford’s compact car, the Focus, and the Tesla Model S sedan, which will be built in California as part of a new partnership with Toyota announced last week.
The preorders for the Leaf include 13,000 in the United States, where dealers take a $99 deposit, and 6,000 in Japan.
Mr. Ghosn said sales in the United States would be concentrated in areas where there was sufficient means to support electric vehicles, like cities in California and other states that are installing charging stations.
“We don’t want to put the consumer in a situation where he buys the car and he doesn’t know how to charge it and he doesn’t know how to take care of it,” he said.
“We will make sure that in the markets in which we put the car, the consumer has the basic infrastructure to be able to drive the car with peace of mind and not have to worry.”
Mr. Ghosn, who also is chief executive of Nissan’s partner, the French automaker Renault, declined to speculate on what would have happened if Nissan and Renault had completed the alliance they sought with G.M. in 2006, but he said he had no complaints about the American government’s financial support to G.M. and Chrysler last year.
“No government in the world, no matter on the left or on the right, is going to let go hundreds of thousands of jobs,” Mr. Ghosn said.
By NICK BUNKLEY/NYT