Nissan starts assembly of 2013 LEAF electric vehicle and batteries

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Greentech Lead America: Nissan has begun the U.S. assembly of the 2013 model year all-electric LEAF at its manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tenn., where it will be manufactured alongside the company’s gasoline-powered products.

The start of Nissan LEAF assembly in Smyrna comes on the heels of the opening of Nissan’s battery plant in an adjacent facility. Nissan is the only automaker that manufactures its own electric vehicle batteries, at the largest lithium-ion automotive battery plant in the U.S.

“Bringing assembly of the innovative 2013 Nissan LEAF to our award-winning manufacturing plant speaks to the flexibility, efficiency and talent of our U.S. workforce,” said Susan Brennan, Nissan’s vice president of manufacturing in Smyrna.

“Nissan has a 30-year history of building quality vehicles in Smyrna, and just like every vehicle we produce, the LEAF has met or exceeded every one of our rigorous quality requirements,” Brennan added.

Though LEAF is a revolutionary vehicle, its assembly requirements are much more similar to those of its traditional siblings like the Altima and Maxima with which it shares a manufacturing line.

Adding the electric vehicle to the Smyrna manufacturing environment required only a few process changes such as the addition of quality confirmation specifically for electric vehicles and special training for technicians.

“Process efficiency is a never-ending activity for us. We strive to create new internal benchmarks in efficiency with each new model. By assembling the LEAF on our current Altima and Maxima line, we are able to reduce costs by using existing equipment,” Brennan added.

LEAF assembly in Smyrna will contribute to Nissan’s goal to manufacture 85 percent of its U.S. sales volume in North America by 2015, and having more local content will reduce exposure to fluctuations in foreign currency. The addition of LEAF and battery assembly has resulted in the creation of more than 300 U.S. manufacturing jobs, a number that can increase with demand.

The 2013 Nissan LEAF boasts innovative features such as 240V charging that is nearly twice as fast as the previous model, as well as a broader range of trim levels starting with the even more affordable S grade, moving up to the SV model and graduating with the top-of-the-line SL.

After two years on the market, the Nissan has become the global leader in electric-vehicle sales with about 50,000 LEAFs sold to date, of which 19,500 LEAFs are on the road in the United States.

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