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At Nissan's Oppama plant in Japan, the battery-powered Leaf rolls off the same line that the Juke and Cube crossovers strolled down just minutes before. Rather than dedicate a line for the electric hatch, Nissan streamlined the Leaf's complex assembly process, allowing it to be built alongside a conventional auto. This streamlined process cuts down on assembly costs and allows line workers to carry out familiar tasks.

Starting in the fall of 2012, Nissan's Smyrna, TN plant will be tasked with assembling Leafs for the U.S. market. Smyrna will follow the same assembly model set by the Oppama plant and weave the Leaf into the production mix with the automaker's gas-fueled Altima and Maxima. Dan Heur, project manager-vehicles at Nissan's Smyrna plant, discussed why the company decided against a dedicated Leaf assembly line, stating, "As unique as the (Leaf) is from a parts standpoint, what we want to do for our (assembly-line workers) is make it just like any other car." The Leaf may be unlike most cars on the inside, but putting that inside together doesn't have to be so different.

[Source: Wards Auto]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 8 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      No surprise here. There are several steps Nissan is taking to make the Leaf as affordable as possible.

      1. The Leaf has a unique body shell for battery package, customer attributes, and unique style. But the construction of the body with a combination of mild and high strength steel panels welded together is very traditional. The panels can be stamped using existing presses, and the bodies can be fabricated in an existing flexible body shop with some modification.

      2. The Leaf can be mixed into production with other IC vehicles. The motor/controller is assembled at the same work station as a normal IC engine, and the power pack/suspension utilizes mount points that are virtually the same as a normal IC engine car. The battery pack is installed at the same work station as the fuel tank for other cars.

      3. The ability to use existing facilities and a body of existing engineering saves a lot of money. And it gives the manufacturer volume flexibility. Nissan is certainly more bullish than most other manufacturers on BEV volume, but if the volume doesn't materialize, they have an out on the auto assembly side. On the plus side, the Leaf plugs at least partially Nissan's excess capacity in the U.S.

      Ford will begin production in January of the new Focus in what is essentially an all-new flexible facility in Michigan (MAP). The Focus BEV will be produced at MAP in a manner similar to the Leaf -- the BEV will be flexed on the main line with other Focus models. All we know about timing is "later in 2011", so it looks like Ford could be the first full-line manufacturer to produce a pure BEV in the U.S. There is a lot we don't know about this product; I assume the official intro will be at the Detroit International Auto Show, since it wasn't shown in LA.

      We can expect a much higher proportion of EV components to be produced in North America in the future, driven by investment incentives, economies of scale, and logistics costs. The factors that go into a manufacturer's decision to buy components from a supplier or build them internally is multifaceted, and there is no "right" answer that fits every situation.
      • 2 Months Ago
      GM had made a special limited production assembly line just for their EV1, and we all know what happened. It's actually a good sign that they are making it on a shared assembly line, it will help keep costs down and production up.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It will be two years before this happens.

      It feels like Nissan is planting these stories trying to put a domestic face on the Leaf. You see it mentioned in their press releases and such.

      You won't be able to buy an American-made Leaf for quite some time.
        • 2 Months Ago
        I don't care -- it's less money leaving the USA every day for foreign oil. A foreign car electric car (if that's the only one that's available) should be a winner for the most gung-ho Buy America type, because an electric car reduces their daily need for buying foreign oil.

        My personal motivations and values are more complex, of course, but it seems to me that the constant weekly flow of money is more important than a buy-it-once-every-decade manufactured good. It's the lesser of two evils, but I'd rather see my money go my money go Massey Coal than to the Saudis. (And, with an the electric car, I can opt out entirely and use renewable energy.)
        • 2 Months Ago
        Yea, but they are working on building the American assembly & battery plants right now, so dollars spent on a new leaf will go to pay construction workers in Tennessee.
        • 2 Months Ago
        Actually, production will start less than a year and a half from now to go on sale as a 2013 model in fall 2012. And this is a vertically integrated plant, with Nissan making batteries, inverter, etc. in the US. As such, it will be more domestic than a US-branded car built largely from foriegn parts. And with 150,000 unit LEAF production comming online in Tennessee (not the mention producing additional 50,000 battery packs for other model), they will be producing more EV's in the US than the Plug-in hybrids and EV's from all of their competitors combined .

        However, Nissan has lead for a number of years in production line efficiency and the new assembly process used for the LEAF is extremely automated. Although the car will end up with a higher domestic parts content, there probably won't be as many jobs per vehicle as some less-efficient plants.
        • 2 Months Ago
        why not the LS2LS7? I am a bit confused. Are you trying to say that all cells are made outside the US? That would be true for a bit, but LG Chem will be making them in Holland (michigan). They also announced the addition of another plant to produce the electrolyte locally. The JCI-SAFT plant in Holland will be using foreign made cells and only doing the final pack assembly. :(
        • 2 Months Ago
        lne937s:
        That's not what the article says. It says production begins in fall 2012.

        No electric car will ever be more American than other American cars because they'll never use American cells (just package them here) and I doubt you'll see them using electric motors (the US lost cost competitiveness in electric motor production in about 1970).

        Inverters maybe, but given that inverters are really just floating-gate FETs soldered onto a huge board with a big heatsink attached, I expect you'll see those made where you see all other electronics made, China and Korea.