NISSAN is delaying delivery of its Leaf electric car which goes on sale in the UK from today after it emerged the vehicle has been fitted with a hazard warning bleeper that must be removed before it can be driven in this country.

The North-East car maker has reassured the some 500 UK customers who have pre-ordered the current European Car of the Year they should receive their vehicles on schedule, but a spokesman admitted there have been shipping delays from its Japanese plant.

Leaf assembly lines will open at Nissans Sunderland factory in 2013, but in the meantime, the vehicles are being shipped from Japan, and the company is working to meet global demand. Reports claim that some customers in the US have become frustrated with long overdue orders which the manufacturer expects to iron out by producing 50,000 Leafs over the upcoming year. Nissan said there would be a "slight delay" to the cars arriving on UK forecourts as vehicles had been fitted with a beeping noise that warns pedestrians when the car is reversing.

A spokeswoman added: "An intermittent beeping noise is fitted as standard to commercial vehicles such as buses and lorries, but UK law states that the sound must be capable of being disabled between 11.00pm and 6.00am. The audible system on the Leaf did not allow for that to be done, so the beeping sound is being removed entirely before the cars can be driven on roads in this country."

Nissan remains confident that early adopters of the all-electric Leaf will start to receive cars before the end of the month. It advised customers to contact their local dealership for specific delivery times. A spokesman for car dealer Benfield, which is selling the first Leafs in the North-East, said it had more than 50 pre-orders on its books and expected to begin delivery to customers from April.

In the meantime, Nissan reported that sales of the Qashqai which is produced on Wearside, has passed the one million mark. The popularity of the model which has sold 111,088 units in the UK has played an important role in the continued success of Nissans plant in the North-East. Benfield North-East has sold more than 3,000 Qashqais since it was launched in 2007. Andy Naylor, a Benfield spokesman explained why the model was proving so popular. Mr Naylor said: "The undoubted success of the Quashqai is down to Nissans outstanding design, drive quality and value for money. Demand continues to be buoyant across the region."

The Qashqai +2 model is produced exclusively in Nissan's Sunderland factory.