TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Nissan plans to price its Leaf electric vehicle to compete with $25,000 to $33,000 mass-market cars in the United States.
That does not include any government incentives offered to buyers, said Larry Dominique, vice president of product planning for Nissan North America Inc.
"Competitive pricing is going to allow mass-market appeal, which is going to set Nissan apart," he told the Management Briefing Seminars here.
The electric-vehicle program's goals included "zero emissions, no price premium, lower maintenance costs" than conventional gasoline-powered vehicles and "lower total cost of ownership," he said. Nissan aims for the Leaf to be less expensive to operate than internal combustion engines, even if gasoline prices drop to $1.10 a gallon, he said.
Nissan Motor Co., which unveiled the Leaf in Japan Aug. 2, has committed to sales starting late next year of 5,000 Leafs in the United States for test purposes. The plan will require Nissan to begin retailing the Leaf two years ahead of the schedule set by Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn.
Those first 5,000 U.S. Leafs will take part in a five-market study of electric-vehicle driving habits. Nissan and public utilities and government agencies want to understand how consumers recharge their vehicles.
Customers will buy the cars from dealerships. They must agree to have their recharging habits monitored through an onboard black box for their first two years of ownership.
Nissan will qualify which consumers get to purchase the first 5,000 Leafs.
The catalyst behind the early startup is a $99.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to Electric Transportation Engineering Corp., a Phoenix technology supplier. That firm must install 12,500 recharging stations in Nissan's first five markets: the Phoenix-Tucson corridor of Arizona, Oregon, San Diego, Seattle, and Tennessee.
Matching funds are being provided by the cities and states, for a total investment of $199.6 million.
The recharging data will be turned over to the Department of Energy, which required Nissan to have 1,000 vehicles on the road in everyday use to make the information valid.
Nissan still intends to launch U.S. fleet sales of the electric car next year. Those sales will be in addition to the 5,000 cars participating in the data collection.
The Leaf will be about the same size as the Toyota Prius, with a 100-mile range on a single charge. Leaf owners are expected to charge their cars overnight at home, using either 110- or 220-volt rechargers.