The second-generation Nissan Leaf will be restyled to be more attractive to European buyers.
Industry journal Automotive News Europe reports that the 2011 European Car of the Year has been described as looking bland and awkward by critics in Europe, with sales to the market only reaching 1728 in 2011.
Vice president of Nissan engineering in Europe Colin Lawther told Automotive News, “We’ll fine tune the car for the European customer from a design point of view”.
Other upgrades aimed at boosting popularity are an improvement to the Leaf’s current 160km range and a refinement in power delivery, making for smoother acceleration.
Nissan will start production of the Leaf in its Sunderland, UK, plant next year, meaning locally built hatchbacks can be sold across Europe rather than being imported from Japan.
Nissan says building the European-market Leaf in the UK instead of importing it from its Japanese plant will cut costs by a third, with Lawther saying European content will be in “the high 90s” in terms of percentage.
The same concept will see Nissan begin Leaf production at its Smyrna, Tennessee, plant in the US at the end of 2012 – producing and selling vehicles locally to reduce costs.
The only significant part still to be imported from Japan will be the Leaf’s electric motor, however Nissan is looking into having these built in the UK too.
The Leaf is currently available in 14 European markets and Nissan plans to increase its reach to 24 markets by 2013 as it aims to achieve its ambitious EV sales targets.