Friday, November 27, 2015         

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Nissan turns over new Leafs with a sense of urgency

The automaker works to boost production following delays from the Japan earthquake

By Alan Ohnsman

Bloomberg News


Nissan Motor Co., aiming to be the world's largest seller of electric vehicles, will deliver a record volume of Leaf battery cars to U.S. drivers this month as the company ramps up output and works to ease customer delays.

"We're going to have 1,500 cars delivered in the month of June, which is going to be the largest amount we've delivered in the United States," Carlos Ghosn, chief executive officer of Nissan, told reporters Sunday in Palo Alto, Calif. "This should help, a little bit, restart the enthusiasm."

Some customers have waited longer than they expected when Yokohama, Japan-based Nissan began taking orders in April 2010, said Ghosn, who also heads France's Renault SA.

"The last thing we want to do is frustrate them," he said.

Leaf sales, averaging only 113 a month in the first four months of U.S. deliveries, have been rising since April and reached 1,142 in May. Production of the car in Japan was disrupted by the nation's record earthquake and tsunami on March 11, which damaged parts factories and caused power shortages. The disaster might also push back the start of U.S. production of the model and the lithium-ion batteries it uses.

Nissan has invested about $6 billion in electric-car technology and production, Ghosn said.

The carmaker's battery production line in Smyrna, Tenn., scheduled to open in September 2012, may be delayed due to the March 11 quake, said Hideaki Watanabe, Nissan's vice president of zero-emission vehicles. The carmaker also aims to begin Leaf production in Smyrna by December.

The earthquake "is putting us in a very difficult situation, but we're not giving up yet," Watanabe told reporters Monday at a briefing in Farmington Hills, Mich.

"Is there a potential to delay? There may be. We're assessing right now."

Shares of Nissan rose 0.1 percent to $9.79 in Tokyo trading. The shares have declined 3.8 percent since March 10, the day before the earthquake.

The automaker aims to deliver at least 10,000 Leafs to U.S. customers this year after securing 20,000 reservations in 2010. The reservation program was restarted in May.

The Leaf costs about $33,000 before a $7,500 U.S. tax credit and is rated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as traveling from 60 miles to more than 100 miles per charge.

The car is currently available only in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

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