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7:35 pm
Mon January 14, 2013

Nissan in the spotlight (for good and other reasons) at the Detroit Auto Show

Nissan found itself in the spotlight at the North American International Auto Show today.  But not entirely for reasons that would please company executives.

First, Nissan officials announced the automaker is lowering the price of its Leaf electric car to try to boost sales.

The 2013 Leaf will start at $28,800, which is $6,000 lower than the previous model. Federal tax incentives can bring that below $19,000.

Nissan expected Leaf sales to jump 50 percent last year after it expanded the number of dealerships offering them. But worldwide sales rose just 22 percent to around 27,000. U.S. Leaf sales were up just 1.5 percent.

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn says the lower price should help attract more customers. He says the company is spending less on some parts and on manufacturing. Nissan recently moved production of U.S. Leafs to Tennessee from Japan.

Ghosn says the lack of recharging infrastructure is also hurting electric car sales.

But the green machine announcement had to compete with a protest against Nissan.

Actor Danny Glover has joined supporters of unionization for workers at a Nissan Motor Co. assembly plant in Mississippi demonstrating outside the North American International Auto Show.

The Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan protested Monday next to Detroit's Cobo Center. The group says workers who show interest in organizing the Japanese carmaker's plant in Canton, Miss., are intimidated by management hints the plant would close if they unionize.

Nissan Vice President David Reuter tells The Detroit News the allegations are false.

He says workers who wear anti-union T-shirts do so freely "as a show of support for the company."

The shirts say: "Want a union? Move to Detroit."

The plant assembles the Titan and Frontier pickups, Armada and Xterra SUVs, Altima sedan and two Nissan vans.