Nissan May Build Leaf Cars in China, Government Site Says

Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s second-largest automaker, may build Leaf electric vehicles in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, according to a government statement.

Nissan’s Chinese joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Group Co. may invest 2 billion yuan ($322 million) on the project, the National Development and Reform Commission’s Guangdong branch said on its website. According to the statement, the plan calls for initial capacity of 10,000 Leaf units a year and 50,000 after 2015 -- comparable to Nissan’s U.K. and Japan plants.

Sharon Shen, a Beijing-based spokeswoman for Nissan, said the company plans to build the Venucia e30 -- not the Leaf -- in China and declined to comment further. The Venucia e30 and the Leaf share similar exteriors.

China, lagging behind its target to sell 5 million electric vehicles by 2020, is reviewing its subsidy policy and may increase funding for hybrid vehicles and other fuel-efficient models, according to Industry Minister Miao Wei. Only locally produced EVs qualified for central government subsidies of as much as 60,000 yuan, excluding local incentives, under a three-year trial program that expired at the end of last year.

Nissan Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn, who forecast that electric vehicles would account for at least 10 percent of global auto sales by 2020, has struggled to attract consumers, with U.S. Leaf sales last year not even reaching half the number the company had previously targeted. The automaker said this week it’s putting its EV business under the direct supervision of the chief operating officer.

Major Projects

Leaf production in Guangdong is among major new-energy vehicle projects listed in a 2013-2020 plan released by the provincial government. The province, bordering Hong Kong, is also home to BYD Co., maker of the e6 electric car in which one of Warren Buffett’s holding companies owns a stake.

The Guangdong province aims to build its annual production capacity for alternative-energy vehicles to more than 200,000 units a year by 2015 and boost sales to 50,000 units by then, according to the statement. Total sales of such vehicles in the province were about 7,000 units in 2011, the local government said.

General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Motor Corp.’s plug-in Prius outsold Nissan’s Leaf globally for the first time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Dongfeng, earlier down as much as 2.4 percent in Hong Kong trading, rose 0.2 percent to HK$10.76 at yesterday’s close.

— With assistance by Tian Ying, and Jie Ma

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