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Nissan builds 500,000th Leaf in Sunderland factory


The 500,000th Nissan Leaf has rolled off the production line, just in time to celebrate World Electric Vehicle (EV) Day.

The milestone was achieved at Nissan’s Sunderland factory, which has built almost 175,000 Leafs since it began producing the model in 2013.

The Leaf was the world’s first mass-market 100% electric car and remains one of Nissan’s biggest volume sellers today. It was also the world’s top-selling EV before it was surpassed by the Tesla Model 3 in March.

Nissan currently sells two versions of the Leaf: the standard car, which is intended primarily for city driving, and the Leaf e+, which is targeted at longer-distance commuters.

With a 62kWh battery pack and a 214bhp electric motor, the e+ offers 239 miles of range on the WLTP test cycle – 62 miles more than the standard 40kWh model.

This is also considerably more range than the Honda E (136 miles) and the Mini Electric (144) and, indeed, all of its more mainstream rivals apart from the Renault Zoe (250).

Despite its popularity, the Leaf is not Nissan’s flagship EV. That honour instead goes to the recently revealed Ariya electric SUV, which will sit above the Leaf in the Japanese firm’s line-up.

With 310 miles of range and a 389bhp performance variant, Nissan says the Ariya will mark a “new era for electric vehicles” when it goes on sale next year.

The Leaf and the Ariya are pivotal for Nissan because not only do they lower Nissan’s CO2 emissions, thus avoiding punative EU fines, but their popularity (anticipated in the case of the Ariya) is also crucial for the firm’s future.

Due to Brexit and other factors, Nissan posted its first annual operating loss for 11 years in 2019, forcing it to adopt cost-cutting measures such as closing its factories in Barcelona, Spain and Indonesia.

Nissan president Makoto Uchida has admitted that “the sales decrease continues to weigh on our profit as we suffer from an aging portfolio and limited profit distribution from our efforts to normalise sales.”

The future of Nissan’s Sunderland factory has also been uncertain. However, Nissan recently committed to the plant, announcing that it intends to maintain Sunderland as a production base for Europe.

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