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2012 Nissan Leaf


Whether its fewer vehicles allocated to Canadian dealers, or simply less interest by Canadian dealers to stock and sell plug-in vehicles, American consumers are being offered eye-popping deals on plug-in electric vehicles that aren't available to Canadian consumers.

U.S. pricing site lists the Nissan Leaf as one of the best lease or finance deals this month, at $249 (U.S.) a month for 36 months with $1,999 down, and a 12,000-mile (19,200-km) mileage allowance. For the best lease deals list, the site "gathered all the best of the lease terms currently being offered from each manufacturer, and then evaluated the monthly payment, lease term, down payment, and mileage in order to rank which lease deals provide consumers with the most bang for their buck."

Published reports have put shorter-term Leaf lease prices as low as $139/month by at least one California dealer, after further discounting helped by using U.S. federal and state tax incentives off the top at the dealership.

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Interestingly, the Chevrolet Volt topped that same TrueCar list in July, when a $369/month lease deal (with $2,529 down) at the same time frame and mileage limits as the current factory Leaf lease rate.

At least one California dealer has also offered combined factory and dealer discounts of $5,000, plus long-term zero per cent financing.

In Canada, however, it's a different story. Neither the Nissan Leaf nor the Chevrolet Volt show any factory discounts at their respective Canadian websites, nor do they show lease prices or terms available for either plug-in vehicle. The Leaf has shown tight supply and minimal discounts, though that's not quite the case for the Volt in this country, said Andrew Tai, co-founder of Canadian auto pricing site

"Some models are in short supply and limited discounts available (i.e., Leaf), while others are being discounted significantly (i.e., Volt)," Tai wrote in an e-mail this week.

His site, which enables dealers to blindly bid for sales and thus incorporate various factory and dealer incentives in the offer, has seen discounts of approximately $3,000 (Canadian) on the Volt, but less than $300 on the Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Ford C-Max Energi. The Toyota Prius plug-in supply is also tight, he said, with some discounting of $500-$1,000, all not counting various provincial rebates available on these plug-ins that range from $2,500 to $8,500.

But Tai also notes that buyers in California have even richer government discounts, and can receive up to $10,000 (U.S.) in government rebates: $7,500 from the federal government, and up to $2,500 from the state, as well as valuable single-person access to HOV lanes.

Nissan Canada said last year that 600 Leafs were allocated for Canada for 2012, but confirmed this week that it has sold only 368 units so far. It admits the Leaf's sales pace is slower than expected, but instead of heavy discounting, it says it is now offering a free $995 home charging station with every Leaf. It is also pushing to greatly increase the number of Nissan dealers that will sell the Leaf, with plans to more than double the current 44 Leaf dealers by next summer, when the refreshed Tennessee-built Leaf will be on sale.

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"In general, in the U.S., they are more aggressive with their lease programs on specialty vehicles like these," said Paul Timoteo, president of invoice pricing site "They would be smart to offer similar deals here as the general public here in Canada is more receptive to leasing than in the U.S."

A few Golf Rs available for 2013

After quickly selling out all 500 examples of its powerful but pricey all-wheel-drive Golf R, Volkswagen will once again bring the range-topping performance Golf to Canada for the 2013 model year. This time, however, only 250 examples will make it here, to start at the same $36,395 price as the 2012 model.

For this price, buyers will receive the five-door GTI hatchback body with a six-speed manual transmission, a 256-hp turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and more aggressive lower body skirts. It only comes fully equipped inside, with standard navi, leather and sunroof, along with unique to R 18-inch wheels, and a lowered suspension.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo S adds 50 hp

Another new range-topping performance model from the VW Group is a new Turbo S version of the Porsche Cayenne SUV. It adds 50 hp to the people-mover's already formidable 500-hp turbocharged V-8, and will come in as the priciest Cayenne at $166,000.

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Torque is also boosted notably, up from 516 to 553 lb-ft, and Porsche says the new Turbo S is expected to achieve the same (albeit thirsty) official fuel economy figures as the Cayenne Turbo, at 14.3 litres/100 km in the city and 9.3 on the highway. Real-world mileage will be much less if you're powering the beastly 550-hp SUV around with a heavy foot.

There's not as much increase in top speed or acceleration as you might expect, however: it adds 5 km/h (to 283 km/h) and lowers the 0-100 km/h time by 0.2 seconds, to 4.5 seconds.

Cayenne Turbo S spotters can look for unique black-enamel-lined rims, while air inlet screens, headlight housings and mirror parts are also painted in high-gloss black, or just eye the rear badging.

Tata to bring Nano to North America

The next-generation Tata Nano will be designed with North American and European sales in mind, and will arrive in the next three years, Tata's leader reportedly told an industry function recently.

The super-cheap Tata Nano achieved world-wide notoriety for offering an inexpensive if basic vehicle in India for less than the equivalent of $2,500, where it was expected to bring motorized transportation to the developing masses. It hasn't quite worked out that way for Tata, and now billionaire boss Ratan Tata says an upgraded Nano with more features will reach the United States and Europe at a price of less than $10,000 (U.S.), trade journal Automotive News reported this week.

The Nano was conceived to be the cheapest car in the world, the four-seat hatchback offering a small two-cylinder, 37-hp engine, a single wiper and no power steering. But power steering, traction control and a larger engine will all be part of the next-generation Nano that is set to arrive in 2015.

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