With all of the reveals and partnership announcements here at the New York Auto Show the most important thing we've heard is a number: $25,280. That's the price that Nissan said yesterday it will sell the Leaf for when it goes on sale later this year (full production starts in 2011), and it's much lower than rumors we've heard from competitors in the plug-in vehicle space. We sat down with Mark Perry, Nissan's director of product planning, to talk about this price – how it came to be, what the reaction has been, etc. – because we're pretty sure readers would like to know more details about Nissan's strategy.
Perry was all smiles when he talked about how Nissan got to the $32,780 price – of course, the headline is that this turns into $25,280 after $7,500 worth of federal tax credits – and we understand why. He told us that this price is the result, in part, of 17 years of work Nissan has done on lithium-ion batteries. By doing everything in-house for so many years, Nissan doesn't need to charge the customer for battery research like other companies that are freshly bursting into the electric vehicle (EV) market and are just now figuring out how to make EVs that work. Plus, by spreading the research and development over many years, selling the Leaf for just under $33,000 allows the company to make a profit off the car, or at least minimizes early losses.
Of course, the Leaf does not exist in a vacuum, and Perry said that the $33k was most definitely based on market factors. Government incentives played a role in setting the price, Perry said, as did estimating what other companies will price their plug-in vehicles at. Considering we don't know for sure yet what cars like the Chevrolet Volt or the Ford Focus Electric will be, we can't say yet how Nissan's announcement will impact those MSRPs. Still, we assume there was a lot of hand-wringing in offices that didn't belong to Nissan. There was a lot more to our talk, so go ahead and take a listen after the jump.