Raising eyebrows over rising Leaf prices

Nissan’s announcement earlier today that it will raise the sticker price of its electric Leaf by about 10 percent for its most popular model shouldn’t come as a startling development. Model-year price increases are as common as the arrival of summer tomatoes.

And as automakers traditionally do, Nissan caveats the 2012 increase by saying there will be more content on the new model.

Still, a million eyes are watching Nissan to see what it does with the industry’s first real-world electric car.

Nissan made political points around the world when it assured consumers that the Leaf would be competitively priced with traditional internal-combustion family sedans. And it was, if you factor in the federal tax incentives for buying one.

But naysayers continue to cast doubt on the technology of battery-powered vehicles, saying it’s just too expensive for mass acceptance.

Nissan also assured onlookers back in March that price adjustments for the Leaf in the U.K. were simply a factor of unfavorable exchange rates between the yen and the English pound. It was nothing that could spread to the U.S. market, Nissan said.

Automakers typically aren’t gleeful about raising model prices. There is the obvious competitive issue. Making my car cost more encourages more customers to drive over and consider your car.

But Nissan has an unusual advantage at this moment.

It is -- prepare to begin quibbling -- the only non-gas-burning electric family car currently being sold by a major brand. Customers are standing in line to acquire one. Factory supplies are incredibly scarce. And there is little chance of factory production increasing between now and early 2013.

And to make matters worse -- or better, depending on where you sit -- Nissan has so far been selling the Leaf in only selected U.S. markets. Over the next five months, retailers in New York, New England, across the Northeast and into the Midwest will also begin putting customers in the queue to buy a Leaf.

So is it a surprise Nissan would tack 10 percent onto the new and unproven car’s list price?

It would have been bigger news if they hadn’t.

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