Nissan Motor Co. announced that production of the 2011 Nissan Leaf has officially begun at the company’s Oppama, Japan facility. This is exciting news for the more than 20,000 American consumers that have already completed the Nissan Leaf reservation process.

Carol Ghosn, Nissan’s president and CEO, discussed the production facility during an offline ceremony.

“This is a significant milestone, not only for Nissan and the Renault-Nissan Alliance, but also for the entire automotive industry. Consumers are clear. They want sustainable and affordable mobility...and the Alliance is leading the way with cars that deliver exactly that, with the reliability, excitement and performance that consumers demand. The high-quality, innovative Nissan LEAF will radically transform what consumers expect from automobile manufacturers worldwide.”

Although the first stage of Nissan Leaf production will be limited to the Oppama, Japan plant, with an anticipated production of 50,000 units annually, Nissan already has expansion plans in place. In late 2012, Nissan Leaf production will be expanded to the company’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant. At full production capacity, the Smyrna plant will be capable of producing 150,000 electric vehicles annually.

Nissan Leaf production won’t be limited to facilities in Japan and the United States. In early 2013, the Nissan production facility in Sunderland, England will also begin electric vehicle production with a planned 50,000-unit annual capacity.

While Nissan employees are busy building the Leaf in Japan, reservation holders and members of the public can participate in the Nissan Drive Electric Tour. The tour kicked off on October 1 in Santa Monica, California and wraps up on March 27, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee. The 23-city tour, which includes stops in Tempe and Tucson, Arizona, Dallas, Texas, Orlando and Tampa, Florida and Washington, D.C., allows members of the public to learn more about the Nissan Leaf and even take the vehicle for a test drive.

The Nissan Leaf will first be available to customers in California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Tennessee in December. In January 2011, Nissan will expand Leaf sales to customers in Texas and Hawaii and then launch the Nissan Leaf nationwide by the end of 2011.