The new 2018 Nissan Leaf was styled to attract a wider audience, packed with a bigger battery to wipe out range anxiety, and blessed with a chassis design that the company reckons will make it a more exciting drive. Good start.
But, Nissan admits there are still two significant hurdles to increasing sales: infrastructure and incentives.
Speaking in Tokyo this week at the global unveiling of the new Leaf, Nissan’s head of sales and marketing for the Asia and Oceania region, Vincent Wijnen, told Australian media that some markets still have a ways to go in coming around to electric vehicles.
“Bringing the car to Australia is… the volume is linked to the question of infrastructure and incentives, that’s very clear. That’s been [the case] in every market where we’ve launched this car in the past six or seven years, it’s been the same story,” Wijnen said.
“There have been markets where it started very small, and then the change happened and it accelerates. It depends a lot on the acceleration of infrastructure.”
Wijnen added that the company has been surprised in some markets, such as China, where EVs are becoming increasingly popular as the nation works to combat major emissions issues.
“We are seeing though that, in some markets… say in China, we didn’t expect so significant… such rapid expansion, but there it is. So maybe it could happen.
“And it can start with big cities, sometimes. It doesn’t have to start with the national government. It can be cities that incentivise buying electric cars. But also, it’s not just governments, it’s also other stakeholders, like energy companies.”
More and more energy companies are investing heavily in renewable energy and contributing to the establishment of vehicle charging networks, Wijnen said, noting that the initial push towards EVs can happen without government.
“So there are different ways of doing this, but it’s very hard to predict how it will work… it’s really dependant on those elements.”
“We will promote this technology – not just EV, we have other technologies – and we need to promote this very heavily for the simple reason that this type of technology will come in other cars as well, and therefore it makes sense to use this [the Leaf and other tech] as a driver or halo to push the brand forward.”
And while Nissan considers itself a pioneer in the EV space, Wijnen says the company will welcome other players into the market.
“It’s not just Leaf. If it were only Leaf, I don’t think it would ever happen. We are not afraid – actually quite happy – if other manufacturers also come with EVs, because they would make the story much stronger than if there’s one or two brands trying to establish this change,” he said.
Wijnen appears resolute that an electric vehicle revolution is coming with or without government action, because the technology is becoming more appealing as its capability grows. As with any market, consumer demand will eventually force action.
“Ultimately, I don’t think anybody has a choice… the world will move this way. At what speed, and there’s many other political matters behind it, but for us the best way to do it is to prove that it works. And by extending the range to 400 kilometres – which is the japan measurement – just about everybody in day-to-day life can now drive an EV,” he said.
“Of course you can not drive from Melbourne to Perth in the EV right now, but to really grow you need the infrastructure, but I think the volume will grow, naturally it will grow. And I think probably the underlying pressure of people liking this type of technology will also put pressure on government and other stakeholders. That’s what we’ve seen in markets where this change has already happened.”
So, while it might be the future third-generation Leaf that finds big volume sales and not this new second-gen model, Wijnen says its role in the company’s line-up is clear.
“This car has a very specific role. The role is to further strengthen the brand in all the markets we launch this car, but volume is dependent on those elements discussed before.
“If we would only launch cars based on whether we could sell lots of those types of cars, that would be very stupid…”
Listen to the CarAdvice team discuss the 2018 Nissan Leaf below, and catch more like this at caradvice.com/podcast.