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Nissan expects Leaf to be a hit, CEO Ghosn says

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Nissan expects Leaf to be a hit, CEO Ghosn says



Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said interest in its all-electric Nissan Leaf is strong and bodes well for what it is billing as the first affordable, mass-market all-electric vehicle to be sold in the U.S.

"We think the Leaf is going to be a big hit," Ghosn said Tuesday after speaking to the Detroit Economic Club at Cobo Center.

In the U.S., Nissan has received 13,000 reservations for the Leaf since last month, when it started to take $99 refundable deposits from customers to reserve a vehicle. Nissan has 6,000 reservations for the Leaf in Japan. Ghosn noted that the reservations are from individual customers and not orders for corporate fleets.

Ghosn said the automaker continues to take orders for production in 2011. The Leaf, due in the U.S. in December, is priced at $32,780 and would cost $25,280 after a federal tax credit of as much as $7,500.

Electric vehicles are an important part of Nissan's strategy. Ghosn said he expects electric vehicles to produce 10% of global vehicle sales in a decade.

Nissan and its alliance partner Renault expect to build 500,000 electric vehicles, encompassing eight models, by 2013.

Today, Nissan is to break ground on a new plant in Smyrna, Tenn., to build battery packs for the Leaf.

With the Leaf, Nissan is betting that consumers will accept an all-electric vehicle. The Leaf can drive 100 miles per charge and has a top speed of 90 m.p.h. It can take between 30 minutes and 20 hours to charge depending on the voltage of an outlet.

General Motors' Chevrolet Volt, to be released in October, has a gas-powered generator that extends battery life and allows the vehicle to go farther than the battery's 40-mile range, quelling drivers' anxiety of running out of power mid-trip.

A major challenge to the Leaf's all-electric premise is the building of an infrastructure -- mainly charging stations -- across the country.

"We feel reasonably good about the development of the infrastructure -- not across the board but in specific spots in the United States," Ghosn said.

Nissan plans to roll out the Leaf in December in Washington, Oregon, California, Tennessee and Arizona.

Ghosn said Nissan will focus on regions that have the charging stations needed for consumers to easily use the vehicle.

"We don't want to put the consumer in a situation," Ghosn said, "where he buys the car and he doesn't know how to charge it and he doesn't know how to take care of it."



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