To help combat low sales, Nissan may launch a cheaper version of its Leaf electric car. Automotive News reports that the 2013 Leaf will have a low-content entry trim level in addition to the existing SV and SL versions.
The impetus for such a model is clear: sales of the Nissan Leaf remain so slow that executives are publicly admitting disappointment, and lowering the entry price could help. The 2012 Nissan Leaf SV starts at $36,050 (after destination) and the Leaf SL costs $38,100. Nissan reportedly believes a cheaper starting price will encourage more buyers to adopt the electric car.
So far this year, Nissan has sold 5212 Leafs in the U.S. -- far below the company's prediction of 20,000 sales, and down from 9674 sales in all of 2011. The competing Chevrolet Volt extended range electric car, meanwhile, has sold 16,348 units so far this year.
AN reports that the cheaper Nissan Leaf trim level starts production in December, and goes on sale with the 2013 Leaf in the U.S. by February 2013. To trim costs, the base model will skip features like high-efficiency LED headlights and navigation. Suppliers will be asked to cut costs, and Nissan will relocate some electronic components within the chassis. It's unclear how much that would reduce the car's sticker price.
This isn't the first time we've heard that the 2013 Nissan Leaf will have several changes. We previously reported that the new model could have an upgraded lithium-ion battery, improving range to about 100 miles per charge. In addition, some reports suggested that a cheaper, entry-level model would be offered with a smaller battery -- the idea being that cost-conscious shoppers might accept shorter driving range if they saved money upfront. Other information suggests the 2013 Leaf will become more luxurious thanks to options like leather seats, a more energy-efficiency heater that can improve driving range, and darker plastic interior trim.
Nissan also will save some money on American-market Leafs by building the car in Tennessee. The company's plants there can now assemble the car and its electric drivetrain, reducing shipping costs. Previously the Leaf was only built in Japan and then shipped to the U.S.
Source: Automotive News