Nissan's In Hot Water With Leaf Owners In Hot-Ass ArizonaS

This week marks the beginning of U.S. production for the 2013 Nissan Leaf electric vehicle, something the automaker excitedly announced in a press release today. But while workers in Smyrna, Tennessee gear up to make the cars and their batteries, a group of owners in Arizona say they're still angry with the way their Leafs handle the heat — and with how Nissan is handling the situation.

As we reported last summer, Arizona Leaf owners have been complaining for a while that their cars' batteries have no effective cooling method, causing them to prematurely lose anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of their charges on hot days. Owners in Phoenix have filed complaints, demanded buybacks and even threatened lawsuits, according to CBS 5 Arizona. And Nissan has bought back several of them under Arizona's Lemon Laws.

One owner told ABC 15 in Phoenix that after a few months of ownership he averages 67 miles per charge, even though the company promises 100. Another said his battery has lost 30 percent capacity after less than a year of ownership.

The TV station reported that on Tuesday night, a group of Nissan executives flew to Scottsdale and met with about 50 Leaf owners at a local hotel. That meeting was closed to the media (I would have snuck in, but that's just me), but many Leaf owners said they left feeling pretty unsatisfied.

Nissan officials said they're putting a new battery warranty in place, but the owners say that doesn't fix the flaw inherent in the batteries, it just just slaps a band-aid on a hemorrhage.

This is from a poster over at the MyNissanLeaf.com forums:

I was totally unimpressed and underwhelmed about the productiveness of the meeting. I think it was just all for show, to give the appearance that they listen and care. But the proof is in the pudding that their 9 bar warranty does not remedy anything at all for the hot climate owners, showing that they couldn't care less about a real and effective solution that will work for hot climate owners...

Andy at one point said that they just want to be honest about the capability (or limitation) of the battery capacity up front so that people understand what they're getting into. At that point I wanted to jump in and retort that I wish they would have wanted to be honest about it up front 2 years ago and not 2 years later, now that the cat is already out of the bag (about the heat effect on the battery that they used to claim shouldn't exist).

Presumably that's Andy Palmer, an executive vice president at Nissan. Here's what he told CBS 5:

Andy Palmer, Nissan's executive vice president, said there are many reasons why Leafs could be losing power. He said the Valley's extreme heat is only partly to blame, though among the 13,000 Leafs on roads all over the country, only regions of extreme heat like the Valley have owners sounding off.

"Undoubtedly, one of those reasons is temperature. That's why these guys particularly have a problem and one of the reasons why I came here to listen to their problem," Palmer said.

When asked what Nissan is going to do about it, Palmer said, "The first thing we're putting in place is the new warranty, so we're underwriting the performance of the battery, which is already a big step."

Palmer told the station that specifics on the new warranty will be disclosed in the spring. If you've been considering a Leaf, it may be best to hold off if you live in a hotter climate.

Are any of you guys Leaf owners? Have you experienced heat issues as well?

(Hat tip to George!)