SUNDERLAND, England -- Nissan expects to increase European sales of the Leaf electric car by "double-digit" percentage points in 2015 following record sales this year.
Nissan Europe's electric cars director, Jean-Pierre Diernaz, said Leaf sales likely will rise by up to 25 percent in the region this year.
"I think next year we should see double-digit growth again," he told Automotive News Europe at an event held at Nissan's car factory here.
European sales of the Leaf rose 40 percent to 12,655 through October, according to data from analysts JATO Dynamics. The Leaf is Europe's top-selling EV.
The Leaf’s sales are growing because sticker prices and leasing rates have fallen since its European launch in 2010.
Diernaz said the average lease rate for the Leaf in Europe has dropped to about 250 euros a month from 400 euros in 2010. In France, the Leaf can be leased for 169 euros a month because of generous government incentives.
Nissan also achieved cost savings, which could be passed on to buyers, when it transferred production of European versions of the Leaf to the UK from Japan in 2013, Diernaz said.
The Leaf is deeply discounted in some markets. In the UK, Nissan is offering a Leaf Visia with a price reduction of 3,200 pounds (4,066 euros), dropping the price including batteries to 18,290 pounds, a price that competes with compact cars such the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus. Nissan sold just under 3,000 Leafs in the UK through September, according to the company.
Diernaz said the Leaf is still profitable for Nissan despite the lower prices.
He said more people are choosing the battery-leasing option, first introduced by Nissan’s alliance partner Renault for its electric cars. The option allows owners to pay a monthly rental charge in exchange for guaranteed battery reliability, service and life.
Diernaz said the average take-up for battery leasing is about 25 percent in Europe, with around 50 percent in France, 10 percent to 12 percent in the UK and 0 percent in Norway. “Some people are much more comfortable with leasing the battery,” he said.
Diernaz said the newly launched electric version of the NV200 minivan will account for about 20 percent of the brand’s EV sales in Europe. The e-NV200 is built in Nissan’s plant in Barcelona, Spain, and uses the same battery pack as the Leaf. The battery pack is built in Sunderland in a dedicated plant with an annual capacity of 63,000 units a year. The plant opened in 2013 is one of three locations globally where Nissan makes the packs.