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U.S.-Made 2013 Nissan Leaf Has Only 15 Percent Local Content; Here's Why Page 2

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2013 Nissan Leaf, Nashville area test drive, April 2013

2013 Nissan Leaf, Nashville area test drive, April 2013

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Expanding on the points above, Brockman also provided the following written statement:

The AALA reporting protocols do not fully comprehend the localization effort with Nissan Leaf for a number of reasons. First, due to reporting requirements, 2013 Leaf label values reflect content in vehicles that were built prior to start of production, which included imported content that were subsequently sourced locally.

For example, the label lists the eMotor production source as Japan, but we began producing electric motors for Leaf at Decherd, Tennessee, shortly into the production year.

Battery pack assembly at Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee

Battery pack assembly at Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee

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Nissan is currently tabulating the 2014 Leaf data for AALA, but we expect the percentage of US/Canada content to increase to a level similar to comparable, advanced-technology vehicles.

In addition, AALA does not include production cost in its calculation, and therefore does not reflect the value add that takes place while turning raw materials and basic components into battery packs, electric motors and the fully assembled vehicle.

Finally, AALA is cost-weighted. So an advanced technology vehicle such as Leaf contains specialized components that drive a higher percentage of cost compared to an internal-combustion-engine-powered vehicle.

Since Leaf is just starting to build higher volumes, economies of scale can still, in some cases, be on the side of a global supplier rather than a localized source for materials. As Leaf continues to grow in global volume, Nissan is looking for opportunities to increase efficiency by finding local sources.

Lithium-ion cells inspected under microscope for defects at Nissan fabrication plant in Smyrna, TN

Lithium-ion cells inspected under microscope for defects at Nissan fabrication plant in Smyrna, TN

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What's an 'American car'?

For plug-in electric cars, the question of what's a "U.S. car" can get confusing.

While the 2008-2011 Tesla Roadster was assembled as a rolling "glider" chassis in the U.K., its battery pack (using Japanese cells) and motor and electronics were installed in the U.S. That qualified it to be deemed "made in the U.S."

Similarly, the short-lived 2012 Coda Sedan was put together in California from a Chinese glider, Chinese lithium-ion cells, and various electric components from other sources. It too was considered to be built in the U.S.

Nissan intersperses Leafs with Altimas, Maximas, and other passenger vehicles on an existing assembly line in its Smyrna plant.

But the adjacent battery-cell assembly plant was built from the ground up--even if the most valuable components it assembles are fabricated overseas.

So if next year's Leaf has 40 percent of its parts value sourced in the U.S. and Canada, and it's built in Tennessee, does that make it a U.S.-built car in your mind?

Leave us your thoughts in the Comments below.

[hat tip: Brian Henderson]

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