Mine! All Mine!
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|The First Nissan Leaf
Officially Delivered in Utah
March 28, 2012
Mark D Larsen
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!
I am absolutely elated! After hoping and waiting for more than three decades, I finally have my electric vehicle —and it is the very first Nissan Leaf officially delivered in Utah! Yes, there are about a half dozen other Leafs in the state, but they were all shipped here as “orphans” (cancelled orders) from out-of-state dealers. Mine is, in fact, that first one in Utah legitimately reserved, ordered, and delivered via Nissan’s scheduled rollout.
How is it that mine happened to be the first, you ask? Let me chortle my joy.
Nissan had announced last December that they intended to open up ordering for all 50 states “by March 2012.” Rollout plans had changed several times since I reserved my Leaf the very first day, April 20, 2010, so I was only cautiously optimistic that such would be the case. Nonetheless, toward the end of February I started checking my reservation “dashboard” to see if I had, in fact, been given the green light to order.
On the evening of February 28... my jaw dropped: the page indicated that I could submit an RAQ (request-a-quote). Nissan had pulled through!
I did not need to arrange to have my home inspected, because I had already installed an EVSE. I could therefore skip that step and immediately confirm my choice for a white (“Glacier Pearl”) SL model. All 2012 Leafs now boast several standard amenities, such as a cold weather package (heated seats, steering wheel, outside mirrors, battery pack), a navigation system, bluetooth interface, cruise control, and automatic headlights. The top-of-the-line SL model that I wanted also adds a quick charge port, a backup camera, fog lights, a solar panel spoiler for trickle-charging the 12V battery, and a HomeLink garage door opener. I then specified four more accessories that I wanted: floor mats, splash guards, a protective package, and a cargo organizer.
I then tried to RAQ from my local dealer, Stephen Wade Nissan, but —alas!— the website portal would not allow me to order from that dealership, stating that it had “exceeded its allotment.” I concluded that this explanation was not entirely accurate. Mine was the only reservation in the entire area, so it was more likely that the dealer didn’t yet have any quota whatsoever —and perhaps would not receive one for some time to come.
The portal consequently instructed me to select another dealer, and the next closest alternatives were in Las Vegas. The distance from there to my home is beyond the Leaf’s range, but I figured that this wouldn’t be a major problem if I stopped in Moapa and/or Mesquite to add more charge to the battery pack for several hours. I therefore designated Desert Nissan as my preferred dealer and submitted my RAQ. By the next morning, February 29, the internet sales rep at Desert Nissan, Christie Parker, had replied, and I was very happy to see that the dealer would only charge me the MSRP for the vehicle, plus the typical paperwork fees. I would not even have to pay the usual $850 “destination charge.” The only complication, easily resolved, was that I would have to pay the sales tax and registration separately at the DMV in Utah. The icing on the cake was that the general manager offered to flatbed the Leaf to my home for free so that I wouldn’t have to worry about charging it en route. I gladly accepted the quote, and figured that I would be able to take delivery after the usual 90-to-120 day waiting period. There was light at the end of the tunnel!
But then, the next afternoon, Thursday, March 1, I received an unexpected surprise. I was just about to sit down in the dentist chair when I got a call on my cell from none other than... Brendan Jones, the Director of Marketing for the Nissan Leaf! At first it occurred to me that perhaps he had heard about my EV web pages, and wanted to ask me about them. But no: he actually wanted to talk to me about my order, and already knew that I had placed it with a dealer in Las Vegas. What...?! I was, of course, both shocked and flattered that he would call me, of all people, a mere Waldo in the mass market. Most unfortunately, I had to ask him to please call me back later because the dentist was waiting. He promised that he would.
The following Monday he did call back and told me that Nissan wanted to facilitate and expedite delivery of my Leaf. In fact, they had a vehicle that matched the one I had ordered in the port of Los Angeles, and Nissan was going to work with Desert Nissan to have it shipped directly from there to my home in the next couple of weeks. My Leaf would therefore be the very first officially delivered in Utah.
Love at First Sight
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I was, as you can imagine, ecstatic —and humbled. Nissan’s Electric Vehicle Sales Operations Manager, Jennifer Picheco, also joined in the phone conversation, and a few minutes after we hung up she e-mailed me to verify my address for delivery. Two days later, she sent me the VIN number of my Leaf, and let me know that the Electric Vehicle Operations Manager for the Western Region, Andrew Kim, would personally deliver the vehicle to my home sometime during the week of March 26-30. After giving me a walk around and demonstration, we would drive to Stephen Wade Nissan, so that I could meet the local dealer’s service personnel. In the interim, I set about arranging to sign the papers via FedEx with Desert Nissan and pay for my Leaf.
Two weeks later, I had lined all my ducks up in a row, and Andrew called to let me know that he would be flying into St. George the evening of Tuesday, March 27. He would pick up my Leaf the following morning at Stephen Wade Nissan, and arrive at my home at about 10:00. Since it was to be drop shipped to the local dealer, even though I paid for it at Desert Nissan, I surmised that it might be on the lot the day before, so I resolved to stop by there to possibly see it for the first time.
I was right! That Tuesday evening I drove by Stephen Wade Nissan and saw that my white Leaf was on the showroom floor. There was also a red demo Leaf in the parking lot, which had apparently arrived on the same transport. You can see me at the dealership, drooling over my “baby,” grinning from ear to orifice, in the photo on the right. While chatting with the sales manager, Matt Muir, I learned that about one month earlier a local resident had shipped another unofficial orphan Leaf here from Oregon, and was anxious to meet with me so that we could share our EV grins.
Of course, I spent a very restless night, anxious for the delivery. As you can see in the photo on the left, the following morning, Andrew Kim pulled into my driveway with the Leaf as scheduled. It looked even more gorgeous in the sunlight than it did in the showroom. In fact, a couple of EV advocates with whom I have shared some photos tell me that, against the backdrop of the red rock colors in this desert, my Leaf’s “Glacier Pearl” color looks even more stunning. I would have to agree!
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Andrew walked me around the vehicle, pointing out its unique exterior features. He knew that I knew about most of them anyway, but we had fun waxing pedantic about how, unlike some OEMs, Nissan purposely designed the Leaf from the ground up as a dedicated EV, with optimal battery placement, balanced weight distribution, aerodynamic lines both above and below, and enough bells-and-whistles to make even the most diehard geek gawk.
We then got in the Leaf and Andrew explained some of the information screens accessible via the LCD display. Curiously, the map showed us where we were, right in my driveway, pointing east, even though the navigation system could not find the home by entering its address. Obviously, my house is still too new, and the court where it is located remains unnamed in the database.
I had printed off my username and assigned password to activate CarWings, but the system kept rejecting our attempts to enter them. Andrew finally called the service, and spoke to a technician to try and solve the problem. From what I understood, for some reason in the database they had the wrong VIN number for my Leaf. We checked my printout, the purchase agreement, the temporary registration, and all the other documents sent by the dealer, and compared them to the actual VIN on the car —and they all matched. The technician consequently updated the database with that same VIN, assigned a new username and password for my CarWings account, and we finally managed to sign in.
Andrew also had me pull the Leaf into the garage to connect it to my EVSE, as shown in the photo to the right. This was the first time I had been able to plug the EVSE into an electric vehicle since it was first installed, and I was very pleased to see that it worked flawlessly. I made a mental note to later program the Leaf to always start charging at midnight, while we are asleep and the demand on the electrical grid is the lowest. One thing was clear to me: although I had read a digital copy of the manual previously, it was very clear that I still had a lot to learn about my Leaf through trial-and-error experience.
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Andrew then went over the documentation that describes the vehicle’s warranties and limitations, and I gladly signed them to attest that I now understood them. I taped the temporary registration to the passenger side windshield, and we got in the car to drive back to Stephen Wade Nissan. I had taken four test drives in Leafs since reserving mine, but this was the first time that I was able to drive the vehicle several miles, on different types of streets, for an extended period of time. What a wonderful car! So quiet, so solid, so responsive, so comfortable, so cutting edge, so... fun! I’m sure that every new owner thinks the very same thought that occurred to me: why in the world have we been burning gasoline for all these years when the EV alternative is so much better? There is simply no comparison.
At Stephen Wade Nissan again, I was introduced to the the general manager, TJ LaPoint, and the service manager, Kenny Poulsen. The latter gave us a tour of the workshop area where they planned to install special hoists and diagnostic equipment for the Leaf. He also showed us how and where they intend to set up their first public EVSE in a spot conveniently visible when first entering the dealership. As the demand grows, and more EVSEs are necessary, they plan to alter the customer parking area itself to boast an entire row of EVSEs. I hope that they will also be able to eventually install one of Nissan’s quick chargers, capable of recharging the Leaf’s battery pack to 80% in under 30 minutes. Someday I would love to see sufficient charging infrastructure so that tourists who fly into St. George can drive EVs to nearby Zion National Park (44 miles away), if not the Grand Canyon (148 miles). Stephen Wade Nissan will undoubtedly play a key role in making that vision a reality.
Since mine was the first official Leaf delivery in Utah, the dealership wanted to take a photo to post on their web page, so we went out to the parking lot and I put my white car next to their red demo. You can see the photo on the left with Matt Muir, myself, and Andrew Kim. Is it any wonder why the ol’ Santa Claus wannabe in the middle has the biggest grin of all on his face? Christmas came early this year!
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By no means am I a celebrity, just an EV enthusiast. I can thus only speculate why Nissan North America would go to such great lengths to personally deliver my Leaf to me. Maybe I was the very first person to place a reservation deposit in Utah, and thus they deemed me the first in line to take delivery here. Perhaps they had perused my comments in the My Nissan Leaf forum, and sympathized with my frustration while waiting for ordering to open up. Possibly they had run across my own web pages and had read about my Leaf test drives, analyses, and software. Conceivably other, much more influential EV advocates with whom I am acquainted might have mentioned my name and situation to their contacts at Nissan headquarters. In reality, however, I suppose that a combination of all the above might be the most plausible explanation —although I will likely never know the whole story.
Whatever the reason, however, Brendan Jones, Jennifer Picheco, and Andrew Kim have certainly shown how very much Nissan cares about its customers. The Leaf is intended to be the first EV for the mass-market, but such personal consideration demonstrates that, when all is said and done, individuals matter just as much to Nissan as masses. I am genuinely honored and humbled by their kindness, which has earned my support and loyalty. I only hope I can reciprocate in the future by intensifying my advocacy for EVs in general and the Leaf in particular. I will undoubtedly be uploading many new posts about Leaf ownership over the next several weeks, months, and years. I am even now attempting to arrange to sponsor EV workshops and clinics at the Dixieland Technology Center, high schools, and community centers. After all, nothing convinces consumers to make an EV their next car better than seeing, touching, and driving one. Now that I have my Leaf, I will be able to facilitate such opportunities in this area.
I have always felt that an individual customer is like a pebble dropped in a pond, whose ripples end up touching and influencing family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances, even strangers. If the person is dissatisfied with a product, the ripples discourage others from buying it. But if the person is thrilled with it, sales will increase exponentially as the ripples multiply across the surface. In this case, thanks to Brendan, Jennifer, and Andrew, I am a very thrilled customer. I have not only experienced a truly memorable delivery, but also a deliverance —from my addiction to oil!