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New LEAF from Nissan

Zacks Equity Research

Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY) has announced the launch of the upgraded version of its electric vehicle LEAF in Japan. The new LEAF model will likely cater to the rising demand for eco-friendly electric vehicles, which could travel more miles without charging.

LEAF is one of the highest selling electric vehicles with 43,000 vehicles sold since its introduction in December 2010. However, the consumers were concerned about the lack of a charging infrastructure and high price premium.

In this context, Nissan has upgraded the LEAF, which would provide a mileage of 228 kilometers on a single charge compared to the previous mileage of 200 kilometers. The new vehicle is more efficient as it is 80 kg lighter in weight after rearrangement of powertrain and lighter lithium-ion battery structure and is also favorably priced compared to the earlier model.

The new LEAF offers excellent performance and better driving feel. Moreover, the electric motor in the vehicle uses 40% less rare earth element, dysprosium, and the heat-resistance levels are same compared to the conventional electric motors.

The company also plans to expand the sales outlets with charging facilities from 400 to 700 outlets in Japan. After the completion of the expansion, about a third of the dealers will be providing the quick charging service.

Nissan reported a 7.7% increase in its profit to ¥106.0 billion ($1.35 billion) or ¥25.30 (32 cents) per share in the second quarter of fiscal 2012, ending March 31, 2013, from ¥98.4 billion or ¥23.52 per share in the corresponding quarter last year. However, the earning per share missed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 58 cents per share.

Revenues went up 5.5% year over year to ¥2.41 trillion ($30.67 billion) in the reported quarter, driven by an 8.3% increase in unit sales to 1.27 million vehicles globally. The year over year improvement in unit sales was attributable to higher sales volume in Asia and North America, partly offset by lower sales in Japan and Europe.

Nissan Motor is the sixth largest automaker in the world. The company, along with its subsidiaries, engages in the production and sale of automotive products, industrial machinery and marine equipment, primarily in Japan, North America, and Europe. It offers passenger cars, trucks, buses, forklifts, light commercial vehicles, power trains and parts, as well as sales financing activities.

Nissan Motor competes with Honda Motor Co. (HMC) and Toyota Motor Corporation (TM). Currently, its shares retain a Zacks #5 Rank, which translates into a short-term (1 to 3 months) Strong Sell rating.

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