Carlos Ghosn is not backing down.
Giving the keynote speech at the 2012 New York Auto Show today, the president and CEO of Nissan said that he stands behind his prediction that EVs will make up 10 percent of the market by 2020 in the places they are available. He also said that he expects Nissan to sell 1.5 million zero emission cars by 2016.
Ghosh brushed off a question about somewhat slow Leaf sales by pointing out that the Leaf is still constrained by supply, given the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last year as well as the strong yen. Leaf production in the UK and U.S. that will start in the near future (later this year for Tennessee, early 2013 for Sunderland) will make the car more available to more people. "I don't want you to take a one-month or two-month sales result in one particular market to try to make your opinion about the evolution of a very important technology for the industry," he said. "I think the electric car will hold its promises. All the stars are lining up to make it a very important segment. ... I am not at all changing my bullish approach."
Ghosn has reason to be bullish. Nissan has sold 27,000 Leafs worldwide since introducing the car in late 2010, and 11,000 of those sales were in the U.S. And, he added, "The Nissan Leaf has had no quality problems."
Looking forward, Ghosn also said that the challenge is to reduce the cost, size and weight of the battery and "we have to do it fast" because government incentives will not last forever. Luckily, the industry has changed enough in the last half-decade to make this possible. He said:
One of the biggest evolutions we are seeing in our industry is the battery. As you know, when we started our electric car goals, it was in 2006, there were not a lot of battery makers in the world. Fortunately, with our drive and with the drive of other carmakers, the number of battery makers and companies investing in batteries has really been impressive. Today, you can find very good batteries, extremely competitive, in Korea, in Japan, in the United States. The Chinese are investing in batteries. ... The life of the battery is going to be longer than the life of the car.