Nissan expands US Leaf output image

The head of the Japanese automaker’s North American operations announced that Nissan has lifted US production of its all-electric Leaf by about 50 % to 3,000 units a month to meet growing demand for the car.

Jose Munoz said the Leaf logged record sales of 2,500 units in December and was now the best-selling car in some dealerships in Atlanta, where the government is helping promote the technology, outpacing the Altima sedan.

The pickup in sales was driven in large part by Nissan’s decision to cut its price by more than $6,000 to $29,650 at the beginning of last year after a shift in production of the model to the United States allowed it to lower manufacturing costs.

“This car somehow some years ago was not so appealing in terms of the business for the dealers,” Munoz told a group of reporters at the Detroit auto show. “Now the dealers are very positive, they are making business, they are selling cars.”

Demand for electric vehicles has generally failed to live up to expectations set when models like the Leaf and GM’s gasoline-electric hybrid Volt were being developed.

While volumes are still at relatively low levels for a production car – sales more than doubled last year to above 22,000 in the U.S. market – Munoz said momentum was building. One factor is the increase in charging stations in Atlanta and cities such as Seattle and San Francisco on the West Coast. There are currently 554 quick-charging stations, and more than 15,000 slower “level 2″ public charging stations across the US, Nissan estimates.

Via Reuters