Nissan to Increase Leaf Production

Nissan Readies Tennessee Factories To Increase LEAF Production

By Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield · August 09, 2013

LEAF production

Nissan is readying a third shift at the factory in Decherd, Tenn., where it makes the car’s electric motor, so the company can respond to an increase in demand for its all-electric LEAF hatchback. That’s according to Bill Krueger, vice chairman and senior vice president for manufacturing, purchasing production engineering and supply chain management at Nissan America.

For the first two years of production, when Nissan’s global LEAF output came from Oppama, Japan, LEAF sales generally underperformed against the company’s optimistic sales predictions. But since Nissan decentralized LEAF production by adding regional factories in Europe and North America—and added more features while dropping the base price—demand has been on the rise.

Last year, Nissan sold 3,543 LEAFs between January and July. For the first seven months of 2013, Nissan sold 11,703 units. That’s a 230 percent increase.

Nissan’s decision to increase motor production to three-shifts per day should improve LEAF production volumes at the Smyrna, Tenn. facility, where LEAFs are manufactured alongside Nissan mainstream modoels, such as Altima, Maxima and Rogue.

Increasing the pace of production of motors alone will not enable Nissan to pump out more LEAFs. The company will also need sufficient quantities of battery packs as well. With that in mind, Krueger told Automotive News that Nissan will decide next month if it will add a second shift at the $300 million battery manufacturing facility it opened last year adjacent to the LEAF’s Smyrna production line.

Last month, the LEAF outsold its nearest plug-in rival, the Chevrolet Volt. But with Chevrolet recently announcing a $5,000 price drop to the 2014 model year Volt, competition between the two cars is expected to intensify.

Krueger said that his job is to ensure that LEAF production is sustainable—not just a knee-jerk reaction to a spike in demand for a few months. “We don’t want to ramp up and then ramp back down,” he said. “We want to to know if this is a spurt, or…long term?” he said. “We don’t want to end up with a bunch of cars out there that you can’t sell.”