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Nissan May Delay Launch of U.S. Leaf Production

But maker sees upside to the disaster.

by on Jun.14, 2011

Nissan will likely delay the start of Leaf production at its Smyrna, TN plant.

Nissan may be forced to delay production of its Leaf battery car at its main U.S. assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, company officials are warning, due to ongoing problems resulting from Japan’s March 11 natural disaster.

The earthquake and tsunami disaster that hit Japan has already had a significant impact on the roll out of the Nissan Leaf battery cars, delaying the planned spring ramp-up of production at the launch plant in Japan. Nonetheless, the March 11 disaster also is helping demonstrate that EVs can fit into modern society without a lot of fuss, the maker claims.

The March earthquake and tsunami is likely to cost Japanese automakers more than a million units of lost production, while severely reducing profits for the year.  (Honda projecting a two-thirds drop in profits for the fiscal year. Click Here for more.) Significantly, some key launches are being impacted, including significant delays in the ramp-up of the 2012 Honda Civic and a several-month delay in the introduction of the new Toyota Prius V.

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It has taken Nissan, meanwhile, longer to build up production of the Leaf, while Hideaki Watanabe, Nissan vice president for zero emission vehicles, said the timing of the planned opening of the Leaf assembly line in Smyrna is uncertain.

“After March 11, all the resources of the company were devoted to helping with the recovery (in Japan.) This delayed the planning,” he said. “It put us in a very difficult situation,” Watanabe told a group of reporters.