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by Tim Beissmann

Nissan Leaf customers in the UK can now borrow a new petrol- or diesel-powered vehicle for up to two weeks for free as part of a new customer commitment scheme to encourage more motorists to consider the all-electric hatchback.

The free loan offer is designed to remove owners’ fears of range anxiety in the Leaf, which has a real-world range of approximately 100-160km per charge, and give them the freedom to complete long-distance journeys without needing to own or hire a second internal combustion-engined vehicle.

Nissan explains customers are required to notify their dealer seven days in advance and cover the cost of fuel and insurance for the loan car.

Also introduced as part of the customer commitment scheme is free rapid charging at 60 Nissan dealerships in the UK and access to the 50 fast-charge units installed by Nissan across the country as part of the Ecotricity Electric Highway program. Nissan claims charging the Leaf from empty to 80 per cent takes 30 minutes.

Nissan is also offering free Europe-wide roadside assistance and free towing in the event of a flat battery or breakdown, battery capacity guarantee for the first five years/100,000km of ownership, and 24-hour test drives for prospective customers.

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Nissan Australia corporate communications supervisor Chris Jordan says the local division has looked at a number of different after-sales concepts for Leaf customers and remains open to embracing new ideas, but for now is maintaining the status quo in its commitment to customers, which does not include free vehicle loans.

Jordan said pricing remained the key to boosting Leaf sales in Australia. Originally scheduled to end on October 31, Nissan has extended the $39,990 driveaway offer on Leaf until the end of the year and is likely to carry that pricing into 2014. The driveaway price represents a significant saving over the Leaf’s official $51,490 list price.

Jordan said the sharper pricing was largely responsible for the Leaf’s encouraging recent sales. Nissan sold 43 Leafs across Australia in October, representing more than quarter of total Leaf sales (161) in 2013. Its key rival, the $59,990 plug-in hybrid Holden Volt, managed just six in the same month, taking its 2013 total to 95.

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He said Nissan Australia had no plans to introduce the upgraded Leaf that was unveiled at March’s Geneva motor show, however, confirming that cars sold in our market would continue with the same specifications for the foreseeable future.

The updated Leaf on sale in Europe claims to boost range from 175km to 199km and halve charging times from eight hours to four.

A rearrangement of the lithium-ion battery stacks also frees up an extra 40 litres of boot space for 370L in total.

Other upgrades to the Leaf not available to Australian customers include a restyled front grille with improved aero performance, new paint colours and alloy wheel designs, a revised charging port, new height-adjustable front seats with bio-fabric upholstery, and Nissan’s Around View Monitor camera system.




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