Currently reading: Nissan's UK Leaf plans 'on ice'
Decision to pick BMW as Olympic partner scuppers immediate plan to make Nissan Leafs in UK

The decision to build Nissan’s radical battery-powered Leaf hatchback in the UK is hanging in the balance after the carmaker failed to win the contract to supply vehicles for the 2012 London Olympics.

Industry sources have told Autocar that an announcement on the production of the Leaf at Nissan's Sunderland plant would almost certainly have followed a successful Olympic bid.

Instead, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) chose BMW as its automotive partner to supply more than 4000 vehicles for the Olympics.

Full story: Nissan's Olympic frustration

Nissan planned to supply more than 2000 Leafs for the games and it hoped its presence would have given a boost to the uptake of electric cars and their acceptance in the UK. The presence of the Leaf would have ensured Nissan's Olympic fleet would have average CO2 emissions of 60g/km, half of the 120g/km requirement set by LOCOG.

Nissan UK’s trump card in trying to secure European Leaf production for Sunderland was the fact that it could promise to have an outlet for at least 2000 units of the car by 2012. After the games, the used Leafs would be passed onto City Hall for use in its own fleet.

“The Olympic decision would have accelerated the Leaf process in the UK,” said our source. “There would be a local urgency for the cars and a client base to satisfy and time pressure to work to.”

Our source said Sunderland remained in the running for Leaf production. However, he said plans to give the immediate go-ahead to Sunderland following a positive Olympics decision have been put on hold as there is no longer the time pressure to deliver the cars on time for the games, or the lure of a local customer base to initially supply the cars to.

Sunderland faces strong competition for Leaf production from sites across Europe, with Portugal mounting one of the stronger bids as it, like Sunderland, will be producing batteries for the Leaf.

“Sunderland is still very much involved in the Leaf bidding process,” said our source. “Nothing has been decided yet and it will still provide a very strong case, both on a business and economic level.”

The government, in particular business secretary Peter Mandelson, is believed to be keen to see the Leaf being built in the UK, but it had no involvement in the LOCOG’s decision.

Autocar contacted Mandelson's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for a response to the news that LOCOG's decision could have undermined the government's policy on electric cars, but it declined to comment on the story.

The Nissan Leaf is expected to go into production in Japan late next year, with European production following in 2011.


Read our review

Car review

The electric Nissan Leaf has its work cut out competing with cheaper mainstream cars - but it does make a case for itself

Back to top

Join the debate

Add a comment…
Zeddy 1 December 2009

Re: Nissan's UK Leaf plans 'on ice'

Do you get Immodium for the mouth?

CapsLock 1 December 2009

Re: Nissan's UK Leaf plans 'on ice'

ps; bltboy - i have not ever met a nissan driver that whines - not one - they like just about every person I have ever interacted with cares deeply about the uk - 99.9999% of people i have interacted with care deeply about the UK - nissan driver or not.

- however, i do sometimes wonder if some of the folks on this forum care lots about the uk (i count those as the 0.0001%) - but thats a forum for a different day.

-have fun! - do not forget all those jobs the UK will not get whilst you are driving!

CapsLock 1 December 2009

Re: Nissan's UK Leaf plans 'on ice'

- no need to get personal blktoy - and in all honesty i made one initial statement and then replied - its a forum - so instead of you whining - debate it - i love the UK and want to see the UK do well and get the best it can - for all to have great jobs for all and have great futures etc and i am sorry (sorry for you) that you do not feel the same.

-putting nissan and renault to one side, simple fact is that the UK missed out on an opportunity, a great opportunity that comes around once in a life time, the UK misssed out on jobs and investment. Lord Coe heads up that opportuity award system for the olympics and he did the UK a massive wrong - when do you turn down oppotunities like that? for a bit of short term gain? cazy.

-to place a different spin on it, BM could have paid a huge price (they paid a lot for what they got) to make it more difficult for electric cars to enter the market as they will not be in a postion to compete for a long time - which is a different take.

- eitherway, the UK missed on a great opportunity and that really does suck; as for BMW, well they have there motives (business is business - blktoy) and nissan now deal with a changed market place (and that will be business also); blktoy - their is no whining. Lord Coe has a lot to answer for and that BMW merger is a coming! (i am still backing Ford - BMW)

- that is DITY FLEET BMW - efficient dynamics? i think not!, the ultimate driving machine? i think not! that is not whining - all those jobs the UK did not get as a result - that is not whinnig either - that is just simple fact - happy driving - spare a thought for all those jobs the UK will not get.