Nissan Expands Leaf EV Market Rollout

By John O'Dell September 30, 2011

Leaf Expands Rollout lede.jpg

Just in time for the autumn foliage season, Nissan is bringing Leafs to the Rockies, New England and the East Coast. The company begins taking orders for the 2012 version of its battery-electric hatchback this week in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York. The expansion is part of a staged rollout that will see the five-passenger electric car on sale nationally by the end of 2013. Nissan is releasing the cars in stages to hit the most EV-friendly markets first and to maximize its limited production capacity while new assembly plants and EV battery factories are being built in the U.S. and Europe. Nissan began Leaf sales in the U.S. in just seven “early adopter” states when the car was launched in December 2010. It added nine more states to the schedule in July. The latest additions mean the Leaf is now on sale in 21 states.

Orders in the five newest markets will be limited over the weekend to consumers who’d previously made on-line reservations. Nissan said it would open ordering to the general public in all five states on Monday. To date, the company has delivered 7,000 Leafs to U.S. customers. The U.S. rollout scheduled includes addition of seven more states by year’s end – Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. That will make the car available in a total of 28 states. Since its launch, the car has been built at a single plant in Oppama, Japan. But Nissan is building new Leaf assembly plants at its manufacturing complex in Smyrna, Tenn., and in the U.K. The Smyrna plant and its companion lithium-ion battery plant are scheduled to open late next year; the assembly and battery plants in Sutherland, England, in early 2013. Global capacity for Nissan’s zero-emissions Leaf will be about 250,000 cars a year when all three plants are operating: 50,000 in Japan; 150,000 in Tennessee; and 50,000 in England.

Except for its price, the Leaf slated to hit the market later this fall is mostly unchanged from the original 2011 model. Like other Japanese carmakers, Nissan has been affected by the growing yen-dollar imbalance, and it raised the base price of the entry-level 2012 SV model $2,420 to $32,780. Nissan justified the 8-percent increase by adding the cold-weather package as standard equipment. The package includes a battery pack warmer, heated seats and steering wheel, and had been a $930 option on the 2011 model. The up-level Leaf SL sticker will jump 10 percent to $37,250, a boost of $3,530. For that it gets the cold weather package and an on-board rapid-charging system (formerly a $700 option) as standard equipment. The Leaf qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit and for various state and regional incentives designed to help boost sale of low- and zero-emission vehicles.

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