Nissan To Add Entry Level Leaf To Help Spur Sales

When Nissan’s Smyrna, Tenn. assembly plant begins producing 2013 Leafs within a couple of months from now, the SL and SV trim levels will be joined by an entry level variant.

According to Automotive News, in light of slower than expected sales and questions surrounding the EV movement, Nissan is not just rolling out a new battery to extend range to over 100 miles, it is cutting out some of the extras.

Exactly what the base model’s price will be – or whether it will include a smaller than standard battery option – has not been announced. The starting price for the Leaf SV with destination charge included is $36,050, and for the Leaf SL, It is $38,100.

To whittle down from these prices, the entry level Leaf will lose features including LED headlights, navigation, and likely other areas of the car will see deletions or changes to cut costs.

Further, some electronic components will be relocated within the chassis, and suppliers have been asked to discount certain costs.

The base model and other Leafs are expected to be produced in December and be on sale in February 2013.

Meanwhile Automobile magazine says it has heard Nissan may offer more somewhat upscale optional interior trim and amenities as the company broadens its domestically made line.

While U.S. sales of 5,212 year to date sales have been humbling, Nissan’s EV maven and CEO, Carlos Ghosn urged patience in Paris recently.

“We are going to have to be resilient,” said Ghosn, “we are going to have to do our job, we are going to have to make sure that we are systematically not only innovating in terms of marketing and selling the car, but also doing our job with local government, states, cities, municipalities in order to push forward what is the main concern of the consumer – which is, ‘I buy the electric car, where am I going to charge it?’ I’m talking about quick charge.”

Ghson said also “This is not a normal car. This is something which is going to require a profound change in the attitude of the consumer.”

And to be sure, even publications that were once felt to have ambivalence at best for electric vehicles have written of late that the EVs are coming, they just may not arrive be as fast as President Obama predicted.

Obama’s now famous forecast of one million EVs and PHEVs by 2015 is used by some media as a benchmark to gauge success – or at least subtly rub it in that his “rosy” talking point was only talk – but Obama’s number may come true by 2018, says Pike Research.

Pike says by 2015 we may have little more than 40 percent of Obama’s forecast, but by 2018, we could have one million EVs/PHEVs in America, and if it takes three more years to achieve it, this indicates momentum should slowly, but surely increase.

And otherwise, Nissan remains dogmatic. Ghosn was quoted as focusing less on the Leaf’s all-electric range, price, and other potential consumer objection points as much as he blamed lack of public charging infrastructure.

“If the level of sales is not at the level we expected, why?” he asked. “Is it related to the product, to the batteries, to attractiveness, or to the infrastructure? The slow level of sales is mainly due to the fact that people are worried about the absence of infrastructure. And we are mainly lobbying in order to make sure that in some cities and in some states a better job is done, a quicker job is done in terms of infrastructure.”

Nissan has also faced unwanted publicity among some of its core adopters in hot states, particularly Arizona, Texas and California, and while it has received much less heat from the media and general public than did the Volt crash-test battery fire questions last year, people are surely quietly watching Nissan anyway.

And now that it has announced improved batteries are around the corner, we’re not sure how that will affect the sales picture either.

But these are just short-range concerns. The big picture – as Ghosn basically says – is signs all say the EV movement is increasing.

Aside from Nissan, every other automaker is also developing forms of plug-in vehicles, the dashboard plug-in chart has been seeing outsized year-over-year or month-over month increases as every little difference in the nascent market stands to make a big shift for the stats.

Therefore, late or not, the plug-in vehicle trend is generally upwards.

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  • Al Bunzel

    In my opinion and in my experience, the other factor hurting Nissan Leaf sales is a dealer network that is not enthusiastic about the product.

    I found Nissan Leaf owners more enthusiastic about the Leaf and it is through a Leaf owner that I got the opportunity to drive a Leaf. (If you want to check out what I thought about taking the Leaf for drive you can read about it on )

    Without that opportunity to experience the Leaf, I would not have discovered what a great car it is.

    In my opinion, the Leaf is a far better car than other Nissans I have driven.

  • Al Bunzel

    The other thing Nissan needs to do in my opinion is to sell a street version of the Nismo Leaf RC. That looks like an awesome and exciting car.

    Motorsport and excitement helps sell cars as the old saying goes “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday”

  • MrEnergyCzar

    Obama’s number can come true by 2015 if gas gets to and holds at $6-$7 for a good period of time as a result from another oil war….