evchels
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LEAF advisory group

Fri Oct 05, 2012 8:16 pm

Hi all,

I know there are lots of questions and conversation fragments about the advisory group, so thought it useful to start a dedicated thread. I'm also happy to keep responding to the PMs I'm getting through various channels, but many are understandably similar questions. So pardon the ramble, but:

This group is not being convened specifically to address the Arizona battery issue in any specific sense (though certainly it can have some relevant impact in the grand scheme.) It was conceived to help Nissan learn how to better communicate and engage with the EV community, both current drivers and potential ones. To "hold up a mirror", as they describe it. Beyond that, they're pretty open-minded on the group's focus.

In my observation, some of that need is pretty granular, e.g. literally helping them get into/used to participating in forums like these. Some of you have seen a little of that start to take shape, as an advisory group is obviously not needed to start that sort of effort. Jeff Kuhlman has jumped into a couple threads, for example, and the video Andy Palmer and I did in NY went up last night. I know, it's "not rocket science" to communicate with your customers...and yet the amount and frequency of bi-directional communication that the EV community has always wanted is more than automakers (and most companies of their size) have been accustomed to for decades. There is a lot for these companies to learn- and knowing how much frustration has been brewing in spots of the LEAF community, I appreciate that this group has been willing to embrace these efforts, even if they seem delinquent.

More broadly, I can see the group focusing on a variety of topics, and the group will ultimately decide- but three in particular are the most obvious and urgent to me. In no particular order because they're all somewhat intertwined, and yes- far more layered and complex than these simplified descriptions (but hey, this post will be long enough!)

1) Marketing- more effective advertising in the thematic/creative sense, but also in understanding what potential buyers really want to know, and how to appropriately talk to them about things like range and the factors affecting it, both when the car is new and over time. Focusing on what the LEAF is great for today and not trying to sell it for the other 5% or based on what it might be able to do in the future if and when batteries are perfect and infrastructure is everywhere. Appropriate expectation-setting, etc. It's a reality that the LEAF, Nissan, and EVs in general will only ultimately succeed if we can get sales up and more cars on the road, but new buyers need to be set up for a really good experience with these cars. As you all know, if the industry doesn't do right by the early adopters, we'll never hit mainstream.

2) Communication- some of this ties into the above references to expectation setting from the start. But I also mean in an ongoing sense- basic engagement with the community, when something's going wrong, etc. How much information you want (I know, no such thing as too much! :D ), how you want it, best mechanisms for your feedback to them, and so on. So there may be some input into the capacity issue in the long run, but as discussed in the "Open Letter" thread, I'm encouraging the most urgent aspects of that resolution not to wait on this group.

3) Dealer experience- pretty obvious. Getting them more on board, improving the sales process, dealer training, service department, etc. And for that matter, what should even be happening at a dealer vs somewhere else.

Again, very simplified descriptions. They will continue to evolve as this takes shape and I know other topics altogether will come up. Ultimately, I'd like to see the current owners shape next-gen product as well. But as 2013's pretty locked, it seems most useful to focus on what we can help in the near term.

next piece, logistics and membership....

evchels
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Re: LEAF advisory group

Fri Oct 05, 2012 8:17 pm

continued...

Logistics:

Nissan has stipulated that the membership be global, but has otherwise given no mandates about who be involved (or not). We're looking at roughly a dozen people to keep things manageable, though that may be adjusted as we see what the needs are and the allocations won't necessarily be equal between regions. Therefore, about six will probably come from the US to start with. The term commitment from both sides will be a year to start, so it's not too onerous for the drivers, and so new folks can be brought in. However, this shouldn't be interpreted as a statement that the group will only last a year; I've not gotten that impression from Nissan, and can't imagine any decision has been made on that front yet.

Nissan will cover any travel costs, but the drivers will not otherwise be financially compensated. I hope to make this a rewarding experience and even a little fun along the way, but can offer little more than the opportunity to help.

Physical meetings will be infrequent given the global nature of the group- maybe once a year, a few conference calls between, and maybe an online (private) space for ongoing discussion. I expect and hope that the regions (esp US) will convene more frequently on an individual basis, though again more likely virtually than physically. However, I'm respectful of the time commitment and would rather make the formal expectations light and have the members want to participate more, than have the reverse. Bottom line is that beyond the most basic framework, we'll sort this part based on what works best for the members once they're on board and the needs of each region.

Communication- I'm aiming for balance here. There's no expectation that anyone promote Nissan or this effort as part of being in the group, or stay silent about your opinions. While it's impossible to guarantee what all we'll accomplish, this is not merely a PR stunt. At the same time, I want to facilitate as much genuine dialogue between Nissan and the group as possible, and that may involve NDA's or similar "cone of silence" agreements around the actual meetings or proprietary information. This type of distinction has worked well for other similar efforts I've seen and been a part of, so I'm hopeful that we can create a framework that's credible and comfortable to both sides.

Membership:

I have no illusions that everyone will be happy with every member, but my aim is to make the group reasonably diverse and reflective of the community. It's impossible, of course, to cover all the bases with just a dozen or so people. I have some in mind, but I'm happy to take both volunteers and nominations, and I'll outline some idea of what I'm looking for:

First, the big stuff. I'm not looking for people who think that Nissan can do no wrong, nor that they can do no right. I want candor and willingness from both sides to acknowledge what's going wrong, can be better, or need to be made right, but have more interest in the big picture success of the LEAF and EVs than grinding axes. Most drivers I've met fall into this category, but it's still worth saying up front. Similarly, there will intentionally be different perspectives represented and disagreements to be expected...but I'm not above ordering everyone out of the pool if discussions degenerate into personal attacks! :D

Obviously, I want to include people who are active in this forum, and respected by the members. I also want folks who participate in the other forums, EV sites, facebook, twitter, etc. I know some of you are everywhere, while others specialize and may not be as known to the folks here. But as part of the function of the group will be "eyes and ears" as well as potentially serving to bring different factions of the community together and newer drivers into more experienced forums like this one, I want to make sure we're reasonably active in as many places as is useful and practical.

The other stuff is more obvious and demographic. Diversity in geography and climate. Driving patterns. Lifestyle (no, not too personal!) e.g., a single commuter's perspective and LEAF experience is of course different than the proverbial soccer mom. Leased vs purchased. Technically/engineering inclined vs less so. Other EVs/PHEVs you've had or have. And so on. Again, I know I'm not going to cover it all, but I'm optimistic by nature.

For volunteers and nominations, that's something I could use some help on for those that are inclined. Some of you I know only by screen name, or I've got a decent picture of your "LEAF life" but nothing or very little else about you. Others I know well. Not asking for detailed personal history, of course, but any general bits you want to provide are welcomed.

Apologies for the length of the post, but various members have assured me that too much information is never a bad thing! And this is an appropriately complex mission, so worthy of the discussion. I'm also sure there are things I forgot to mention or haven't thought of, so bring those on too.

Thanks,

chelsea

TEG
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Re: LEAF advisory group

Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:09 pm

One thing this makes me contemplate is how the group will respond to the idea of "LEAF vs everything else" compared to "LEAF as it was intended to be".

For instance, one debate among the group could be "LEAF should have had a range extender since CHAdeMOs are few and far between, unreliable, frequently ICEd, etc..." Do you stay away from topics like that? Something more on point would be like: "LEAF was supposed to get 100 mile range, but really only gets ~75". So how do you agree to accept "it is what it is?" Perhaps the group needs to have some sort of baseline / charter document like:
"Yes, we know it was advertised as a 100 mile range vehicle, but now we accept real world is more like 75."
"Yes, we know it was said to have expected 20% battery degradation in 10 years, but now we accept it is more like 5 years."
(These are just hypothetical examples.)
My point is I think it might be good to "get everyone on the same page", and "get everything out in the open" in terms of accepting where we are now, and putting past promises (that may have been unfulfilled in some cases) behind us.

Another thing I have noticed having been on various forums for some years is that frequently people do have a semi-hidden agenda they are trying to push. Sure, you will try to find people that are generally pro-EV, but willing to be honestly critical, but you may also end up with people who have some sort of vested interest in trying to steer people towards some sort of product or service they want to help sell in the background. (e.g., "Oh, did I forget to mention that my brother has a Mitsubishi dealership and that may explain why I keep saying people should get an i-MiEV instead...") It would be hard for you to pre-vet everyone to know what agenda they might be harboring. Well, I guess you have probably been down that road before and do the best you can to work through it...

downeykp
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Re: LEAF advisory group

Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:21 pm

TEG wrote:One thing this makes me contemplate is how the group will respond to the idea of "LEAF vs everything else" compared to "LEAF as it was intended to be".

For instance, one debate among the group could be "LEAF should have had a range extender since CHAdeMOs are few and far between, unreliable, frequently ICEd, etc..." Do you stay away from topics like that? Something more on point would be like: "LEAF was supposed to get 100 mile range, but really only gets ~75". So how do you agree to accept "it is what it is?" Perhaps the group needs to have some sort of baseline / charter document like:
"Yes, we know it was advertised as a 100 mile range vehicle, but now we accept real world is more like 75."
"Yes, we know it was said to have expected 20% battery degradation in 10 years, but now we accept it is more like 5 years."
(These are just hypothetical examples.)
My point is I think it might be good to "get everyone on the same page", and "get everything out in the open" in terms of accepting where we are now, and putting past promises (that may have been unfulfilled in some cases) behind us.

Another thing I have noticed having been on various forums for some years is that frequently people do have a semi-hidden agenda they are trying to push. Sure, you will try to find people that are generally pro-EV, but willing to be honestly critical, but you may also end up with people who have some sort of vested interest in trying to steer people towards some sort of product or service they want to help sell in the background. (e.g., "Oh, did I forget to mention that my brother has a Mitsubishi dealership and that may explain why I keep saying people should get an i-MiEV instead...") It would be hard for you to pre-vet everyone to know what agenda they might be harboring. Well, I guess you have probably been down that road before and do the best you can to work through it...


I am not sure where you are getting +\- 75 mi. I thought we were not supposed to use the top or bottom 20% of the battery. If we started with 100 mi. that would leave about 60mi. usable range. That would be at 100mi. If the true number is closer to +\- 75mi. then we are looking at a usable 45 mi. range. This is where the problem lies. What numbers should be used? The inflated ones Nissan promoted to get us hooked or the one Nissan is now telling us we should be using.
This almost sounds like the classic case of "bait and switch". This does not even account for degradation.
So how does Nissan market this to the masses. A $35000 dollar vehicle with a 50mi. range. I do not see John Q Public buying many of these.
But then again, what do I know? I am only a middle school science teacher.
2011 Black Leaf SL+QC Vin. 1931
Res. 6-14-10 Order 1-25-11
EVSE: Mod'd Ver. 2 Nissan L1
Delivered 5-31-11

8 years 33000mi. 7 bars

39 Suniva panels 10.3kw with Enphase micro inverters my electricity cost $26 a month.

TEG
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Re: LEAF advisory group

Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:28 pm

I was just throwing out some hypothetical examples to discuss how the advisory board could/might operate, and didn't intend for the numbers I threw out (which were perhaps a little TOO realistic) to stir direct debate already!

downeykp
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Re: LEAF advisory group

Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:35 pm

TEG wrote:I was just throwing out some hypothetical examples to discuss how the advisory board could/might operate, and didn't intend for the numbers I threw out (which were perhaps a little TOO realistic) to stir direct debate already!


Not a problem. We're all in the same boat.
2011 Black Leaf SL+QC Vin. 1931
Res. 6-14-10 Order 1-25-11
EVSE: Mod'd Ver. 2 Nissan L1
Delivered 5-31-11

8 years 33000mi. 7 bars

39 Suniva panels 10.3kw with Enphase micro inverters my electricity cost $26 a month.

TEG
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Re: LEAF advisory group

Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:40 pm

Idea for Nissan - if you want LEAF sales to improve do everything you can to lobby for more realistic (e.g., higher) gasoline prices.
Oh but wait, you still sell lots of gasoline vehicles too... OK, never-mind that idea...

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planet4ever
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Re: LEAF advisory group

Sat Oct 06, 2012 2:28 am

Chelsea, I was very relieved to see you spell out the breadth and duration of the advisory group. Marketing has been a hot topic, but I think much more in recent months than in the early days. Communication and Dealer Experience have both been heavily criticized from the very beginning. It would be very valuable to include in the advice the group gives to Nissan some conclusions drawn from early discussions on this board.

I remember well the implied "requirement" in summer 2010 to have a $100 Aerovironment evaluation of your home, the never-explained priority that people who ordered in January 2011 had over those who ordered in October-December 2010, the complaints about bouncing-rubber-ball delivery dates, and the salesmen who had no clue as to what was going on. As an early Volt advocate who gradually shifted my allegiance to the LEAF I found the contrast between GM's internet presence and Nissan's shocking, and not in Nissan's favor. (I'm not talking about gm-volt.com vs. mynissanleaf.com, but about the GM-provided forum, which was quite active and informative until drowned out by gm-volt.com. Nissan had nothing like that. Not to mention the disaster which was the bug-infested Nissan registration site.) As we all moved through the ordering process, it became clear that Volt purchasers knew exactly how their order was progressing at all times, while LEAF purchasers got random - and usually inaccurate - emails along with a "dashboard" that was hopelessly out of step with reality.

You have a huge task in front of you. Best wishes to you and the group!

Ray
End of April 2013: Traded my 2011 SL for a 2013 S with charge pkg.

evchels
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Re: LEAF advisory group

Sat Oct 06, 2012 8:13 am

TEG wrote: one debate among the group could be "LEAF should have had a range extender since CHAdeMOs are few and far between, unreliable, frequently ICEd, etc..." Do you stay away from topics like that? Something more on point would be like: "LEAF was supposed to get 100 mile range, but really only gets ~75". So how do you agree to accept "it is what it is?" Perhaps the group needs to have some sort of baseline / charter document like:
"Yes, we know it was advertised as a 100 mile range vehicle, but now we accept real world is more like 75."...
My point is I think it might be good to "get everyone on the same page", and "get everything out in the open" in terms of accepting where we are now, and putting past promises (that may have been unfulfilled in some cases) behind us.


I don't see declaring any topics off-limits at this point, but I can't see one about putting a range extender on the LEAF getting much traction in this group! ;)

But I agree on getting the group on the same page around certain things, and your range example is a perfect one. The LEAF is not a 100-mile car in its current incarnation, and we need to work toward more realistic communication and marketing about range. Marketing needs to focus on the LEAF being a great everyday car for many people even with today's realistic range and spotty infrastructure. More of both may be nice, but isn't required for the car to work for many people, as long as they know what to expect. But beyond acknowledging its role in setting false expectations in order to correct them, beating Nissan forever about saying it was a 100-mile car in the first place won't be very productive. This is the sort of thing I was referring to in the comment about "axes to grind"...

TEG wrote: Another thing I have noticed having been on various forums for some years is that frequently people do have a semi-hidden agenda they are trying to push. Sure, you will try to find people that are generally pro-EV, but willing to be honestly critical, but you may also end up with people who have some sort of vested interest in trying to steer people towards some sort of product or service they want to help sell in the background...


Sure, this is always a consideration. But that's why I've invited the community to suggest folks- in some cases, you know each other better than I do, but this group won't be useful if it's not generally credible to you guys. That's also why I've tried to spell out my thinking about the various aspects of composing the group- and that thinking has already evolved in the last few weeks as these threads have unfolded. I happen to like that the details weren't all figured out before this was announced, because it allows the community to co-create the effort. Ultimately, you'll all judge the outcomes, too.

evchels
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Re: LEAF advisory group

Sat Oct 06, 2012 8:20 am

planet4ever wrote:Chelsea, I was very relieved to see you spell out the breadth and duration of the advisory group. Marketing has been a hot topic, but I think much more in recent months than in the early days. Communication and Dealer Experience have both been heavily criticized from the very beginning. It would be very valuable to include in the advice the group gives to Nissan some conclusions drawn from early discussions on this board.


Thanks, Ray! While there may be others, those initial proposed topics were drawn in part from reading and participating in this and other forums. And I agree completely that it would be helpful to start by distilling some of those threads into concise initial feedback.
Last edited by evchels on Sun Oct 07, 2012 9:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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