Nissan Cuts Leaf EV Price by $6,400 on U.S.-Assembled Model

Ghosn’s Leaf EV sales predictions have thus far failed to materialize costing shareholders billions.

Nissan announced that pricing for the 2013 Leaf electric vehicle now starts at $28,800 for the newly-added S grade – think Sale – making it the lowest priced five-passenger electric vehicle sold in the United States. The least expensive 2012 Leaf had a starting price of $35,200 without tax subsidies. The move comes as Cadillac is showing its more expensive version of the $40,000 Chevrolet Volt hybrid, the ELR, at NAIAS, which GM says is an extended range electric vehicle.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn’s 20,000-unit sales target for the Leaf in 2012 was missed by 50%, and fewer than 10,000 were also sold in 2011. He previously said electric vehicles would account for 10% or more of global auto sales by 2020, a prediction that is viewed as fantasy by other automaker CEOs. (Read AutoInformed on Green Talk from EV Makers Ignores Key Buyer Concern – Cost) 

Eligible consumers can take advantage of a lavish $7,500 federal tax credit, and some states and municipalities offer additional taxpayer-subsidized incentives too. For example, California residents can get a 2013 Nissan Leaf for as low as $18,800 after the federal tax credit and state rebate of $2,500 as well as single driver, no passenger access to restricted HOV lanes.

Nissan will also continue its lease for the 2013 Leaf for as low as $199 per month for 36 months, which includes tax credits and destination charges.

Nissan just started U.S. assembly of the Leaf EV at its manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.  It will be made along with the far more popular Altima and Maxima models. An adjacent battery plant is running so far below capacity that Nissan will soon move future hybrid production into it. Nissan has the capacity to make 200,000 battery packs in Tennessee annually. U.S. taxpayers subsidized the battery operation through a $1.4 billion loan from the Department of Energy, which looked to be a way for the Obama Administration to get Republican Senator Corker of Tennessee to drop his opposition at the time to the bailouts of GM and Chrysler. Since 2010 Leaf has been imported from Oppama, Japan.

The 2013 Nissan Leaf now has an optional 240-volt on-board charging that is nearly twice as fast refilling the battery pack – about 4 hours – than the standard 110 volt at 21 hours.

The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV will be priced under $25,000 with tax incentives when it goes on sale starting next summer in California, Oregon, Canada and South Korea. Spark EV will be eligible for controversial high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes in California. The price is roughly twice that of a gasoline powered minicar, and that’s with incentives. The Spark was also priced below Leaf. Can Spark turn over a new leaf in the industry’s pricing book?

The Korean-made Chevrolet, along with a limited number of Chinese-built Sail Springo clones at the RMB equivalent of $41,425, will be powered by an electric motor rated at 130 horsepower (~100 kW) and 400 lb.-ft. (542 Nm) of torque. These will provide strong acceleration for the tiny four-seat car. In theory, this means zero-to-60 mph acceleration time of less than eight seconds is possible. The car willprobably be top-speed limited to somewhere around 80 mph. The 20-kWh lithium ion battery-pack is expected to provide the best range in its segment, according to GM. No certification numbers have been released.

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