TOKYO – Nissan Motor Co. said it will build the new Leaf electric vehicle at Britain's Sunderland assembly plant starting in early 2013, with initial capacity of 50,000 units.
The Japanese company and its French alliance partner Renault will invest more than 420 million pounds ($642.6 million) in the project, including the construction of a lithium ion battery plant on the site. The project also hopes to tap up to an additional 240 million pounds ($368.3 million) in government aid.
Sunderland will be the third global production site for the five-seat Leaf hatchback, which goes on sale in certain U.S. markets in December and is the centerpiece of Nissan's plans to take the lead in zero emissions vehicles.
Production begins in Oppama, Japan, later this year followed by Smyrna, Tenn., in 2012. Sunderland will come on line in early 2013 with an initial annual production capacity of about 50,000 units, Nissan said.
Initial sales of the Leaf begin this year in Japan, the United States and selected European markets. Nissan aims for global mass marketing from 2012.
So far, Nissan and Renault have announced global electric vehicle production capacity of 500,000 units. Renault begins rolling out its electric cars next year.
Nissan will start preparing Sunderland's Number 2 line in 2012 for the addition of the Leaf. It will be made alongside the Juke compact crossover, which enters production this August.
Sunderland will also get a battery manufacturing plant with capacity of 60,000 units a year. It enters operation in 2012 and will supply both Nissan and Renault electric vehicles.