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Nissan makes $1.7B bet on electric cars

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Nissan makes $1.7B bet on electric cars

Alan Ohnsman / Bloomberg News

Nissan Motor Co. began building a battery factory next to its main North American auto-assembly plant, to support Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn's expectation of surging U.S. demand for electric vehicles.

When it opens in 2012, the plant in Smyrna, Tenn., will be able to supply lithium-ion battery packs for 200,000 electric cars a year, topping Nissan's plan to build as many as 150,000 rechargeable Leaf hatchbacks there annually. Japan's third-largest carmaker said Wednesday its $1.7 billion investment in Leaf and battery capacity in Smyrna, funded mainly by a $1.4 billion U.S. government loan, may add as many as 1,300 Tennessee jobs.

"What we're doing here will radically transform the automotive experience for consumers," Ghosn said.

Production of Nissan Leaf and lithium-ion batteries in Smyrna brings the United States closer to its goal of energy independence, creates green jobs and helps sustain American manufacturing.

Ghosn, 56, has set a goal for Nissan and partner Renault SA, which he also runs, to lead an emerging market for electric autos. While General Motors Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and other rivals are readying their own rechargeable models, none has a goal of matching Ghosn's sales target of as many as 500,000 electric cars a year by 2012.

Nissan will gain economies of scale to reduce costs when it reaches that level, Ghosn told reporters.

"I don't see this as a risk. I see this as a huge opportunity," he said. "When we get to 500,000, 1 million units, we don't need government support."

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100527/AUTO01/5270354/1148/auto01/Nissan-makes-$1.7B-bet-on-electric-cars#ixzz0p8KRX0gF

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