CHICAGO Nissan North
America Inc. will ramp up assembly of the 2013 model
all-electric Leaf alongside existing vehicles at its Smyrna,
Tenn., plant this week.
The start of Nissan Leaf
assembly in Smyrna follows the opening of Nissans battery
plant next door. Nissan is the only automaker that makes its
own electric vehicle batteries, operating the largest
lithium-ion automotive battery plant in the United States.
Assembly requirements for the
Leaf are similar to those for traditional models, such as the
Altima and Maxima, with which the Leaf shares a production
line. "By assembling the Leaf on our current Altima and Maxima
line, we are able to reduce costs by using existing equipment,"
Susan Brennan, Nissans vice president of manufacturing in
Smyrna, said Wednesday.
While gas-powered vehicles
receive fuel tanks and internal combustion engines when they
come down the line, the Leaf instead gets a lithium-ion battery
pack and an electric motor from Nissans powertrain plant
in Decherd, Tenn.
"We have localized U.S.
manufacturing of the Leafs major components," Brennan
said. Leaf assembly in Smyrna will help Nissan reach its goal
of manufacturing 85 percent of its U.S. sales volume in North
America by 2015. Manufacturing locally reduces exposure to
Some 300 new employees will help
make the batteries and assemble the Leaf, a number that
Franklin, Tenn.-based Nissan said may rise along with