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Leaked Photos of Nissan Leaf Indicate Mass-Market Styling

Nissan is betting heavily on the new Leaf to reassert its electric-vehicle leadership, but the reaction to leaked photos of the car has been negative.


Sean McLain

TOKYO—A month before the introduction of Nissan Motor Co.’s new electric-powered Leaf model, leaked photos from inside the factory where the car is being built have given a good glimpse of what it looks like despite Nissan’s best efforts to keep it under wraps.

Nissan is betting heavily on the new Leaf to reassert its electric-vehicle leadership, which has been much touted by Chairman Carlos Ghosn.

That title is being challenged, especially by Tesla Inc.’s sleek new Model 3. Around half a million people have paid $1,000 to reserve a Model 3, around twice the number of Leafs sold cumulatively since its launch in 2010.

A Japanese-language Twitter user calling himself Blue Miata posted two slightly blurry photos showing the front and the rear of the new Leaf model as it came off the assembly line. “I work at a Nissan-related workplace. I discovered the new Leaf on the inspection line at the Oppama plant,” the user wrote.

A person familiar with the matter confirmed that the images showed the new Leaf.

The car seen in the photo is reminiscent of the new Nissan Micra, a gasoline-powered model that went on sale in Europe earlier this year.

That could bode poorly for the new Leaf’s prospects in markets like the U.S., where demand for the similarly styled Chevrolet Bolt have been tepid. Nissan has been planning a splashy launch of the new Leaf next month, dribbling out information including a silhouette of the car.

Nissan has said that the vehicle will be equipped with the ProPilot autonomous-driving suite and have a range of around 200 miles to 300 miles on a single charge.

“The world premiere for the new Nissan Leaf with ProPilot will be on Sept. 6, 2017. We will provide more details then,” said a Nissan spokesman.

Some analysts thought the new Leaf would resemble Nissan’s IDS concept car, which it has shown at motor shows in recent years.

Instead, the photos suggest the new Leaf takes its style cues from Nissan’s mass-market vehicles, like the Micra and Note. Nissan hopes to boost volume of the Leaf in response to Tesla’s Model 3.

Responding to the leaked photos, one Japanese-language Twitter user posted a picture of the edgier IDS car and asked, ”Why don’t they put this on the market?”

Another commented about the new model Leaf, “You mean this isn’t a Note?”

Leaked images of coming car models are nothing new, but it is less common for them to come from the factory floor.

A Norwegian news website last month posted a series of photos that it said came from an apparent filming of a commercial. Car makers try to keep the appearance of a new vehicle under wraps, in part to avoid the sort of negative chatter surrounding the new Leaf.

Write to Sean McLain at sean.mclain@wsj.com