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Nissan: Dealers Won’t Rake in More Than Expected From Leaf

The Nissan Leaf EV will be eligible for an additional tax credit of $5,000 in California, which would reduce the base-model’s sticker in that market to $20,280.

Nissan North America Inc. does not expect the highly anticipated debut of its Nissan Leaf all-electric compact sedan will induce price-gouging.

The auto maker announces today the car’s base model will start at $32,780. But a $7,500 federal tax credit available to EV buyers reduces the sticker to $25,280.

In California, an additional $5,000 credit is available, slashing the vehicle’s prices tag in that market to $20,280.

The auto maker will accept reservations from would-be buyers starting April 20, says Brian Carolin, senior vice president-sales and marketing. Orders will be taken in August.

While auto makers are prohibited from restricting vehicle prices, Carolin is confident Nissan’s pricing “transparency” will discourage dealers who might see in the Leaf an opportunity to increase their margins.

“With a more structured order-taking process and allocation of vehicles, I think we’re going to minimize the likelihood of that happening,” he tells journalists during a conference call.

Price gouging is not uncommon in the North American market. Particularly for niche vehicles that have aroused the public’s curiosity.

Chrysler dealers saw their behavior tied to vehicle allocation when the auto maker introduced the Dodge Challenger SRT8 in 2008.

“For the first couple of years, every Leaf built will be spoken for before it ever gets to a dealership,” says Dan Davids, president of Plug In America, an EV enthusiasts group. “These cars won’t linger in showrooms. There is huge pent-up demand for electric cars and at this price-point, Nissan might have to accelerate completion of its new Leaf factory in Tennessee.”

Production will be limited to Japan until 2013, when Nissan’s plant in Smyrna is scheduled to tool up to build as many as 150,000 Leaf units annually.

Between now and then, Nissan’s global capacity is limited to 50,000. “We will be fighting for our fair share,” Carolin says, saying about 6,000 units will be available in the U.S. between December’s rollout and March 2011.

The lease price of the vehicle is set at $349 over 36 months after a $1,999 down-payment. The federal tax credit was used to calculate the price, Carolin says.

The base model will feature a standard equipment list that includes a navigation system and Bluetooth connectivity. Optional equipment such as a rear-view monitor and spoiler will bump up the sticker by $940.

Cost of acquiring and installing a home-charging station is pegged at $2,200. But Carolin notes this purchase, too, is eligible for a $2,000 tax credit.

Nissan promises 100 miles (160 km) of range on a single charge. The cost of operation is set at $3 per 100 miles, Carolin says.

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