Nissan Motor Co. on Thursday began building its Leaf electric cars for the first time at a plant in the U.S., aiming to lift disappointing sales of the $35,000 vehicle by introducing a less expensive model.
Nissan in February will begin selling Leafs made at its Smyrna, Tenn., plant. The Leaf has been assembled at Japanese plant and exported around the globe.
Sales of the Leaf have been sluggish, in part because a large battery pack, which makes the compact car more expensive than similar-size gasoline-powered vehicles. A limited driving range—the car can go about 80 miles on a charge—and long recharging time have hampered its sales.
Last year Nissan sold 9,819 Leafs in the U.S., just 1.5% more than in 2011. and less than half of the original 20,000 target.