Nissan Looks Forward to Electrifying 2010

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. in 2010 will launch several new and improved vehicles, including next generations of the Quest minivan and Infiniti QX SUV and M sedan. But its primary focus is on what could be a life-changing model for itself and the industry. After several years of hype and media attention, the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle finally debuts late next year. The initial EV is one of many Nissan

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. in 2010 will launch several new and improved vehicles, including next generations of the Quest minivan and Infiniti QX SUV and M sedan.

But its primary focus is on what could be a life-changing model for itself and the industry. After several years of hype and media attention, the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle finally debuts late next year.

The initial EV is one of many Nissan is planning in coming years as it expects EVs to make up 10% of global sales by 2020. The Obama Admin. is calling for 1 million plug-in vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015.

Carlos Tavares, Nissan's executive vice president and chairman of the Americas' management committee, says the auto maker is “very confident” about meeting the introduction date for the Leaf and looking forward to getting the car into the hands of consumers.

“I'm perfectly confident (the) Leaf is in the pipeline, perfectly on time, (and can) tell you that the focus of our teams is at the level you could hardly imagine,” Tavares tells Ward's.

However, Nissan could delay the car, as it would with any model, if a problem arose that negatively impacted the consumer experience.

“If anything creates a problem, the customer comes first,” he says. “But so far so good.”

The Leaf will be available mostly to fleet customers, but Nissan also will allow purchases in regions with plentiful charging stations.

The auto maker plans a larger retail push in 2012.

Nissan has announced more EVs, due in three to five years. They include an EV version of Nissan's NV200 light-commercial van and a 4-seat Infiniti compact car.

The rollout, and the way lessees and buyers interact with the Leaf, will determine whether Nissan introduces the Infiniti EV for fleet usage or goes straight to retail with the car, Tavares says.

Tavares classifies Nissan's overall performance in the U.S. market this year as “reasonably good,” noting it has been able to maintain a 7.2% share.

Ward's data shows Nissan gained share through October, to 7.4% compared with 7.3% year-ago. In the period, Nissan's total U.S. sales were down 24%, while the industry declined 25.3%.

Tavares is pleased Nissan is “managing on profit” this year and not aggressively accelerating incentives or increasing its fleet business.

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