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Infiniti May Build EV alongside Nissan Leaf in U.S.

Infiniti’s plug-in LE concept, unveiled Thursday at the New York International Auto Show, will hit dealerships within the next two years, and there’s a good chance parent company Nissan will build it alongside the Leaf, which will begin rolling off the automaker’s assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn., in December.

Infiniti won’t talk about assembly locations, but two spokesmen said Smyrna would seem to be a logical choice. That would make the LE the second Infiniti that Nissan builds in the U.S.; the JX crossover has been rolling off the Smyrna assembly plant since February.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn spoke at a media roundtable Thursday during the New York auto show. The exchange rate of Japan’s yen against the dollar reached post-World War II highs last year, sapping profits from Nissan’s Japan exports. It could prompt Nissan to move Infiniti production to North America.

Through March, Infiniti accounted for 8.1% of all Nissan sales in the U.S., a fraction comparable to competing luxury brands Acura (9.6% of Honda sales) and Lexus (10.1% of Toyota sales). Nissan builds Infiniti’s lineup in Japan, but it doesn’t market its luxury brand in Japan. Instead, it removes features — and emblems — to sell most cars under the Nissan
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