2:46pm Wednesday 27th February 2013
By Andy Richardson
JAPANESE car maker Nissan has released the first pictures of its all-electric Leaf model which will be made in the North-East.
It comes as Nissan's plant in Sunderland gears up to begin making the new hatchback in the coming weeks.
The company is spending £420m on plant and machinery to make up to 50,000 Leaf cars a year in Sunderland, employing 560 workers.
The project has been backed by cash from the Government's regional growth fund.
The new Leaf, which is an update on the model that was named 2011 European Car of the Year, boasts an extended driving range meaning the car can travel longer before it needs recharging.
The facelift has tweaked the car's design, including a more aerodynamic grille, improved luggage capacity and better cold weather performance thanks to a new heat pump. Other improvements include greater recyclability, more interior space, better charging performance, more equipment and, with three versions now available, greater choice.
But the most important revamp to the car lies in the battery unit, which can now travel 124 miles between charges, 15 miles further than the old Leaf. Many of the changes have come as a direct result of feedback from Leaf owners. Paul Willcox, Nissan Europe's senior vice president of sales and marketing,said: "Leaf owners are passionate about their cars and their comments and experiences have genuinely influenced many of the changes we have made to New Leaf." Since its launch in 2011, more than 50,000 Leafs have been sold. Until now, it has been built solely in Japan but production of the new model will put Nissan Sunderland at the forefront of the latest revolution in motoring.
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