Next February, Nissan will begin building its battery electric Leaf in Sunderland, England – saving a third of the cost of importing from Japan, while subtly restyling the car intended for the UK and European markets where EV subsidies are offered.
Although the Leaf was named 2011 European Car of the Year, some have said its styling lacks gracefulness and is too plain, so in the course of saving a bundle on production costs, Nissan will do something of an aesthetic makeover.
Without saying exactly how, the driving range is also to be increased from its present 160 kilometer estimate, while smoothing out power delivery.
To those who face exorbitant fuel costs and wish to reduce emissions, the plan sounds like a win for them not to mention Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn’s vision to populate global roadways with many more BEVs.
Presently – factoring in a 5,000-pound UK government plug-in car grant – the Leaf starts at 25,990 pounds (about 31,148 euros or $41,597).
Colin Lawther, vice president of Nissan engineering in Europe told Automotive News Europe that “Obviously one of the problems is that the initial purchase price is very high,” but while Nissan is expected to reduce its outlay by one-third for the next-generation UK Leaf, final selling price has not been announced.
The car will be built alongside the company’s oddly named compact crossover, the Qashqai. The similarly sized vehicle starts at 16,495 pounds.
Nissan says the updated Leaf’s European content will be in the upper 90-percent range, with only the motor shipped from Japan.
Aside from lower logistics cost – bunker fuel for transport ships is anything but cheap – Nissan says its bean counters will rejoice, singing a refrain to the tune of lower import taxes, and reduced exposure to strong Japanese currency prices.
So far, Nissan’s EV program has been off to a rather low volume start, but Ghosn the EVangelist has been quoted as saying by 2016 the Renault-Nissan Alliance will have delivered around 1.5 million electric vehicles.
Nissan will also begin Leaf production in the U.S. at its Smyrna facility later this year. Global capacity in Japan, UK and North America is soon due to be 250,000 units per year.
The UK-built version will be for European and UK consumption only.