HUNDREDS of orders have been taken for the new Nissan Leaf, set to be built here on Wearside.
Nissan, the company behind the award-winning car, will start building the Leaf at its Washington factory in 2013 but the first imported models of the vehicle go on sale in the UK in March.
The company has taken around 500 orders already and although that number is lower than the firm would expect for a traditional new petrol or diesel car, a spokesman said the firm was pleased with take-up for what is an entirely new type of vehicle.
The spokesman said: “These orders are from customers who are very early adopters of this new technology, most of whom have not yet seen a Nissan Leaf, let alone driven one.
“These figures are on track with our expectations, given global demand and the limited production volumes in this first year.”
The firm is predicting interest will rise sharply as the first cars start to hit the nation’s streets:
The spokesman added: “Once people start to see the car on the roads, we expect orders to rise considerably and we are aiming to secure a higher allocation for the UK market as 2011 progresses.
“Staff from the Sunderland plant are already driving the first Nissan Leaf from the North East’s Switch EV trial and have been thrilled with the car’s performance.
“We know excitement is growing among customters ahead of the Leaf’s arrival.”
On a visit to the North East last week, Prime Minister David Cameron said because of the Leaf, Sunderland was well placed to become a European leader in electric car technology.
He said: “There is huge opportunity for the Sunderland plant – which is so competitive and productive – to really lead the way on this.
“I think it’s an exciting development, where the Leaf project is one that the whole country can get behind.”
Deliveries of the Leaf in Japan and the U.S. began last month, where the firm has taken 26,000 orders.
The new car has attracted a host of accolades, including being named European Car of the Year 2011 before even going on sale, the first electric car to win the title and the first Nissan model since the Micra in 1993.