Gearheads: Auto News at High Speeds

Nissan Doing “Production Trials” On U.S.-Made LEAF Electric Motors

Nissan workers inspect a complex copper wire-winding machine as it builds electric motors that will propel the LEAF electric car. The motors will soon be built in Tennessee, as will the LEAF itself. (Photo courtesy Nissan North America)

Nissan is gearing up to produce not just the LEAF electric car in Tennessee, but also the electric motors that propel them.

In a press release and slickly produced video, the Japanese automaker, whose North American headquarters are located in Franklin, TN, said electric motors for the LEAF will soon be built a stone’s throw away in Decherd, TN, where a powertrain plant has built engines for Nissan vehicles since 1997.

According to the press release, the electric motors have more than one mile of copper wiring wound in their innards. Nissan Spokesman Justin P. Saia told Gear Heads the motors will start in April, 2013.

“We announced the addition of 90 jobs to support production of the electric motors,” Saia said.

The LEAF, meanwhile, is on the precipice of being produced at Nissan’s Smyrna, TN assembly plant, where the company also builds its Altima midsize sedan, Rogue and Pathfinder SUVs, and the luxury Infiniti JX for North American consumption. Saia said there was no firm “job one” date for Smyrna LEAF production at this point, but said the first may be expected to roll off the assembly line there in early- to mid-December. He said Nissan has added more than 2,000 jobs since mid-2011 to support market demand. The company also made a big investment in its Smyrna facility to handle production of the LEAF and its batteries.

Though we asked, Saia did not respond to questions about whether the U.S. production would allow Nissan to lower the price of the LEAF. Recently, it was reported that the company was going to build a de-contented LEAF in an effort to lower MSRP and sell more. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has gone on-record several times saying the strong Japanese yen has made it difficult for Nissan and other Japanese automakers to export Japan-built models such as the LEAF. While the Green Car Reports article linked to above speculated Nissan would need to sell a lot more LEAFs as U.S. and U.K. production ramps up, Saia toed the company line.

“The Nissan LEAF remains the world’s first and only zero-emissions vehicle for the mass market. And the technology holds even greater promise for tomorrow,” he said.

One might wager the cheaper the LEAF can be sold, the greater that promise is. We’ll keep an eye on the pricing strategy– bet on it.

Categories: Production Cars

Tags:

Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson

Lyndon Johnson-- yes, that's his real name-- is a journalist, editor and avid fan of cars and motorcycles. In his spare time between writing/editing for a small-town weekly newspaper and nailing perfect rev-matched downshifts while managing Facebook's Manual Transmission Preservation Society, he freelances at GearHeads.org and anywhere else willing to have him.