Nissan has been exporting all-electric Leaf vehicles from Oppama, Japan to both the U.S. and Europe for over a year, and that's been putting a ceiling on sales numbers and a limit on how low the price can go. To minimize these barriers, the Japanese automaker is getting factories ready in both Smyrna, TN and Sunderland, UK to serve the U.S. and European markets, respectively. Over in Europe, local production, which is scheduled to start in February, 2013, will also bring a few changes to the car.
Colin Lawther, vice president of Nissan engineering in Europe, recently told Automotive News that, "We'll fine tune the car for the European customer from a design point of view." Those fine-tunings include a longer range, better acceleration and a slightly different look. Oh, and the price should change, too. Nissan told AN that building in the UK will reduce costs by "about" a third, thanks to lower import taxes and less of an impact from a strong yen, but the price for the local EV has not yet been set.
As we learned recently, the U.S. version of the Leaf is also going to get some upgrades, including a better heater that can offer more miles from the battery pack. The same sort of cost reductions that will help the European Leaf will have an impact here once Nissan's Smyrna plant starts making the EV, but it's anyone's guess what the Tennessee-built Leaf will cost.