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Nissan Leaf to target mass market sales

Nissan’s long-term goal is for EVs to make up 10 per cent of its total vehicle sales.

Despite heading the company which lays claim to being the first to get an affordable electric vehicle to market, Nissan president and CEO Carlos Ghosn won’t be happy until the electric Leaf is a mass market success. 

Ghosn says that having tackled the technical hurdles of engineering and manufacturing an electric vehicle, the company’s efforts would now be focussed on making Leaf a mass market success.  

“I don’t think the electric car is finished because now we have to demonstrate that it is a mass market, popular car. We think the car has the potential, this company has the potential. But we’ve sold 20,000 Nissan Leafs which makes it already the most sold electric car in the history of the range.

"But next year we’ll sell a lot more, we’ll probably double this number, or even above this. So the next challenge is making it a mass-marketing success, and making the electric car an obvious choice for consumers.”

Ghosn said Nissan and its alliance partner Renault which is also working on a range of EVs want to move the electric car from the status of a niche curiosity and firmly into the mainstream. He pointed to the fact that the cars are still too expensive for emerging markets such as India and China and indicated efforts would be made to reduce the cost of the vehicles.  

The electric Leaf arrives in Australia next July and Nissan Australia CEO Dan Thompson told Carsguide he expected growth to be “very organic”.

“It will take many years for the momentum to take hold,” says Thompson, adding that Nissan has a big job ahead of it to educate Australians on the merits of electric vehicles. 

“Our biggest job will certainly be education. I think it will take us many, many years and we’ve seen even with Toyota’s presence with hybrids, (after) probably 10 years and three generations there still isn’t a great appreciation for what hybrid is. So it’s certainly a long-term investment.”

However, Thompson believes electric vehicle uptake will be faster than it was or hybrids, partly because a variety of manufacturers are preparing to enter the space.

“I think electric certainly will have a faster uptake over the next five to 10 year horizon than hybrid did 10-plus years ago. There’s a lot more brands that are staring to enter the space of alternative power trains and I think we’ll all play a role in educating consumers about hybrid versus electric versus range extenders.”

Nissan’s long-term goal is for EVs to make up 10 per cent of its total vehicle sales and Thompson says that figure is realistic for Australia, but not from the outset.

“In a more medium or longer term perspective we fully believe EVs should represent 10 percent of our sales mix by 2020. How fast we get up to that mass market level, a few things will determine that. One is we know that government support hasn’t been there, we don’t plan on that, so that will delay a bit of the uptake.

"But as Nissan gets more scale in the business both from a production perspective and sales perspective, that’ll bring the pressure out of the channel for pricing and we’ll be able to bring Leaf and future EV products into the mainstream from an affordability perspective. And that’s when I think we’ll hit the sweet spot, with second generation technology also improving whether it’s range or durability or just even the weight of the packaging. "

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