Nissan Lowers Leaf Price $6,400

Nissan lowered the price of its slow-selling Leaf electric car by $6,400 for 2013. Including the destination charge, the Leaf will start at $29,650, or as little as $22,150 after a maximum federal tax credit. Nissan says state credits could push the price as low as $18,800 after all have been applied.

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As we covered earlier, the base price gets you the Leaf S, a new trim level that slots below the SL. The Leaf S lacks the new 6.6-kilowatt onboard charger that allows the EV to charge in as little as four hours on a 220-volt Level 2 charger. It’s optional on the S and standard on the SV and SL. Sans the faster charger, the Leaf S makes do with last year's 3.6-kW charger, which enables a full charge overnight.

Other deletions on the Leaf S include alloy wheels, a 7-inch dash display, cruise control, the navigation system and two of the stereo's six speakers. But the EV still comes with Bluetooth connectivity, automatic climate controls, power accessories, keyless access with push-button start, and heated front and rear seats.

Other trims have fallen in price, too. The Leaf SV now costs $32,670 without tax credits. Major additional features include the 7-inch dashboard display with a navigation system, faster onboard charger, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and Pandora stereo integration. The Leaf SL costs $35,690 without tax credits; major additions include leather seats, 17-inch alloys, a Level 3 DC quick-charge port and fog lights.

The SV and SL include similar or improved equipment versus the their 2012 counterparts – leather upholstery and 17-inch wheels were unavailable on last year's Leaf SL, for example – despite lower prices. Prices have dropped $3,380 and $2,410 versus the 2012 Leaf SV and SL, respectively. A Bose stereo and Nissan's Around View Monitor, previously unavailable, join the options for the SL.

How'd the Leaf get so cheap? Credit where it's built. Starting for the 2013 model year, the car comes from Nissan's Smyrna, Tenn., plant, enabling local sourcing and shielding Nissan from currency fluctuations with Japan's yen.

Still, the Leaf has a long way to go on the sales front. Nissan originally projected 20,000 annual sales in the U.S., but the company sold just 9,819 last year – the second year in a row where sales failed to break 10,000.

"I don't want to give you the impression that the only thing to correct is price," Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told reporters on Monday at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. But producing the car in the U.S. shields the automaker against currency fluctuations, which represents "some of the answers."

"Hopefully with less handicap from the yen, we should be in relatively good shape to compete" across all Nissan cars, including the Leaf, Ghosn said.

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