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Japan: Nissan to debut improved Leaf in December

Nissan says a more efficient heater is expected to help extend the Leaf’s range in cold-weather conditions by “20 to 25 miles.” (Nissan)

Washington —Nissan Motor Co. is upgrading its electric vehicle Leaf when it rolls out a new version by year’s end, adding leather seats, a darker new interior and a more efficient heating system.

Mark Perry, director of product and advanced planning for Nissan Americas, said the Japanese automaker is on track to double sales in 2012; it sold about 9,700 Nissan Leafs in the United States in 2011. Nissan only recently rolled out the Leaf to all 50 states a few weeks ago.

When Nissan was designing the Leaf five years ago, it thought about leather as an option. “We were like, ‘Ah, let’s do the clean, green recycled materials,'” Perry said in an interview.

But Nissan’s customers told them otherwise, saying they want leather, Perry said. “People want a dark interior, so we’re to give them a dark interior, too.”

General Motors Co. offers its extended-range electric Chevrolet Volt in a leather trim option. GM spokesman Rob Peterson said about three-quarters of Volt models sold or leased have leather.

The Leaf — by far the best-selling electric vehicle in the United States — outsold the Chevrolet Volt in 2011. About 7,600 Volts were sold last year, below the forecast of 10,000.

But the Volt outsold the Leaf in February; sales of the Leaf fell to 478 that month. Perry said he expects that sometime this summer Nissan will be selling 2,000 or more Leafs a month in the United States.
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