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Nissan Leaf projected to be in the black

Carmaker is on track to book 25,000 orders by year's end for the first all-electric car launched by a major automaker.

Nissan Motor is on track to book 25,000 U.S. orders for its Leaf electric vehicle by year's end and will be making money on the green car, the carmaker said Thursday.

Nissan has taken 8,000 U.S. reservations for the hatchback, set to go on sale in the United States in December, since it started taking orders on April 20, Mark Perry, Nissan's North America director of product planning and strategy, told Reuters on the sidelines of an industry conference.

"We are on a double-time march" for launch, Perry said. "We are on our way to have 25,000 firm orders by December."

Nissan's U.S. launch of the car will start in California, Arizona, Washington, Tennessee, and Oregon. The automaker also is launching the car in Japan and Europe in late 2010.

Production of the Leaf will start in Japan and later at plants in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Leaf sales will be capacity restrained in the first two years until the U.S. plant comes on line, Perry said.

The five-passenger car will be the first fully electric car launched by a major automaker. It is designed to provide a 100 mile range on a full charge and is priced at $32,780 not including federal tax credits or other incentives.

"We are making money at the price that we announced," Perry said. "We priced the car to be affordable. We priced it for mass adoption."

Nissan is counting on electric cars to help it close the gap on rivals led by Toyota Motor and its gasoline-electric Prius, the world's most popular hybrid.

Federal tax credits of $7,500 will cut the Leaf's retail price to $25,280--about 10 percent more than the $23,000 starting price for a Prius. Federal tax credits have been phased out for the Prius.

State incentives could cut the cost further. In California, the top U.S. alternative car market, credits could reduce the Leaf price to $20,280.