Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn continues to be optimistic and ambitious about his company's mission to make Nissan and Renault electric vehicles (EVs) reach strong sales numbers in key global markets. In fact, he doesn't seem fazed that Nissan is selling fewer Leafs in the US this year compared to 2011. In fact, Ghosn retains the same mood and outlook for Nissan's overall EV sales in the US: hitting 10 percent market share by 2017 (eight percent globally), even though it's dropped to 7.9 percent in the US for the first 10 months of 2012, down from 8.2 percent at the end of 2011.

Ghosn sat down in Yokohama, Japan, at Nissan's headquarters, to answer questions from Automotive News Asia editor Hans Greimel, including how he sees the political strife between China and Japan causing anti-Japanese product backlash with Chinese consumers. It is an on-going concern, as is the financial downturn in Europe, but Ghosn sees the US market as a vital part of Nissan's near-term future.

Ghosn is not getting bummed out by lower-than-2011 sales for the Leaf in the US – reaching only 6,791 units sold through October versus the full year-target of 20,000 and the 8,048 sold in the first 10 months of last year. Global sales growth will come through mass marketing the electric Renault Zoe, three other Renault EVs, and "opening a lot of doors for the Leaf."

The Infiniti LE electric luxury car also plays into the marketing strategy.

Zero emissions, for me, is here to stay even though it's not selling as well as we thought... And this is totally normal, that we have at least one Infiniti car. It's obviously a flagship car, but it's also a car that will be developed and produced to sell.

Ghosn isn't concerned that his company has overinvested in EVs. Nissan thinks it will be selling 500,000 electric vehicles a year. For the short term, he's not backing off the claim that Nissan will sell 1.5 million electric vehicles across its brands by 2015.

As for global markets, he does see other countries as being far ahead of the US when it comes to promoting sustainability:

We're following carefully what's going on in China. We're following very carefully the new incentives that are in France to encourage electric cars. No matter what, the United States is going to have to embrace electric cars in a way that is more sustainable. Japan is already doing it.

The Leaf is making the company more competitive and "putting our act together," Ghosn said.


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  • 42 Comments
      2 wheeled menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wish i could remain optimistic in the face of this kind of situation. I love EVs But the USA and Canada are both working hard to get the oil moving out of the ground these days. This means that EVs will be less attractive to most, because the price of gas will remain more steady, or maybe even go downwards. Obama and crew are also putting additional restrictions on the coal industry. Solar? wind? yeah, we're in a recession and people don't have money to invest in it. I believe it'll just be us hobbyists/EV aficionados taking up electric drive for a while.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Hour Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        evsuper; I don't believe that the economy won't get back on track. To get off of fossil fuels requires a very expensive investment. In order for us to take up that investment en-masse would require an economic boom period far beyond what we've seen in the past.. or a government that's willing to curb military spending and invest in our country rather than invest in keeping oil cheap by destabilizing the middle east. We've had over 50 years of the latter now, so which is more likely? The more that EVs become a threat, the more OPEC will undersell their oil, just like they openly stated in the late 2000's.
        EVSUPERHERO
        • 1 Hour Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        It would be nice if it worked that way 2wm. If this economy ever gets on track world wide, high oil prices will limit growth, regulating and stunting it as always. With a good economy no one will be able to keep up with demand until the price becomes so prohibitive the demand destruction phase of the addiction creeps in once again. Why should anyone do anything. The price of gas will always come back down. It always does, it must, as things become to expensive if gas is up high, thus demand for things goes down and so to the price of oil. What a lovely viscous circle for the oil corps to make profits and keep us hooked. Just when the addict runs low on funds to pay for a fix, presto the price gets lower, and the addicts start licking their chops. I envy the oil dealers, what a sweet gig. Of course Marco would tell us that the oil dealers do not want it this way and that this whole unintentional record profit mess the oil dealers must struggle with every time oil prices spike is strictly the addicts fault. It was never in the oil dealers mind to hold economic growth hostage. Never would a oil dealer hold profits above all else. We all the know the bankers, car manufacturers, and oil dealers would never do anything against national interests for short term profits. I perish the thought Marco and am ashamed at myself for ever thinking that car dealers create a market for SUV's, V8 Mustangs and PU's. The addicts demanded them, GM and Fords market had nothing to do with their creating a market through advertising. We all know that GM and the like advertise what we want to buy not what they want to sell for profit. Smart people like Marco and me know this stuff.
        throwback
        • 1 Hour Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        I think expecting high gas prices to be the main driver of EV adoption in North America flys in the face of the facts. If high gas prices was the main driver, wouldn't EVs be selling like crazy in Britian and Japan? I think the issue for EVs is less about gas prices and more about sales prices, and the ability to meet the needs of many buyers. I'm sure someone will talk about the "average" commute etc. That is irrelevant to an individual buyer who makes a decision based on their needs and wants.
          EVSUPERHERO
          • 1 Hour Ago
          @throwback
          I agree to a extent throwback. Perhaps gas is not high enough. At 10 dollars per gallon habits might change. Yeah, the price of EV's must come down as it is not equal to the ICE cars in useability yet it costs much more at present. IMO the problem is the fluctuation. The public in any country using large quantities of oil will simply take the honker down attitude. Gas is to high, well, honker down, use less of it and it will always come back down. Because of the honker down and bare it attitude no changes are made, instead the only change that is made is to use less oil for a period of time. The honker down attitude is a change from consuming to conserving. Not a change from consuming oil to consuming a alternative fuel to push autos. We have become accustom to waiting and the price will come down, then we can return to our normal consumption. That is what is killing us, people don't look for alternatives because they all say the same thing. "Their is nothing you can do, just wait a little while, gas prices will come back down. Europe is a quandary. The government is keeping prices high and still they get very little change from ICE to EV. They are like a hound dog who lays on a porch and howls because he is laying on a nail. The only reason the dog will not get up and move is because it does not hurt bad enough yet.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 1 Hour Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        "I think expecting high gas prices to be the main driver of EV adoption in North America flys in the face of the facts. If high gas prices was the main driver, wouldn't EVs be selling like crazy in Britian and Japan?" Throwback; everyone in Britain and Japan drive very short distances compared to us. Both places have decent mass transit. They also have tiny cars compared to us. Thus, what percentage of their income that they spend on fuel is a fraction of what we pay here. And in Europe, diesel isn't all that expensive. We only need oil to be cheap because we like to use a lot of it.
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      Ghosn used to come across as a dynamic leader, driving the industry forward with new technology. Perhaps he has a Leaf at a much lower cost, and with a battery pack with hopefully improved range and definitely with greatly improved cycle life up his sleeve. If that is not the case he is starting to sound simply mad, and as though he is loosing touch with reality.
        DaveMart
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        I take people at their word until they are proven wrong. If they are then I change my opinion, What do you do?
          Marcopolo
          • 1 Hour Ago
          @DaveMart
          @ DaveMart Perhaps I'm more analytical in the first place, and more understanding that all hero's have feet of clay ! Leaders, like Ghosn often make impossible dreams come true. But often putting too much faith in an ideal, can result in a terrible sense of betrayal when it doesn't work out 100%. True, the Leaf hasn't taken the world by storm ! But, Leaf has sold nearly 40,000 units ! It's not perfect, but nothing is ! Leaf has proved the principle. Research and technical development will eventually vindicate Ghosn, but short range EV's will never prove popular 'commuter' vehicles
        Marco Polo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        @ DaveMart That's sad ! I can recall a time you were such a fan, I thought you worked for Carlos Ghosn ! But cheer up, Zoe could change Renault's EV fortunes.
      Kenneth E
      • 2 Years Ago
      500k annually, ok? The one way would be to significantly lower the price on the leaf, or keep the price and increase the range substantially, maybe more into tesla territory. I just have a good feeling that there is going to be big news as soon as that Tennessee plant begins production. I sure hope so.
      • 2 Years Ago
      If the "econo Leaf" coming out of Smyrna TN in 2013 has a MSRP of around $27.5K, it might be able to compete with the MIEV and the SmartForTwo ED which are probably going to sell for around $25K. Will Carlos G. and Nissan be able to tighten their money belt that much?
      EVSUPERHERO
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wasn't done! Yes, that last paragraph is sarcasm.
      SVX pearlie
      • 2 Years Ago
      OK, let's look at Renault. Combined global volume is now similar to GM, at 8M annually. 500k is 1/16. So EVs would need to make up 6+% of total. For the US, out of roughly 1.1M Nissan-Renault cars sold, that translates into 69k EVs annually / 5.7k monthly. Again, if you're not Prius, it's not happening. Heck, GM barely managed 5.7k last month, and they sell a lot more in the US than Nissan. The Zoe is presumably essentially similar to the Leaf, leveraging the same platform and technology to keep cost under control. It was supposed to have come out last quarter - is it even going to be sold this year? Sure, there's plenty of time, but I'm still skeptical how fast this can happen, simply because Renault doesn't really extend Nissan scale that much, and hasn't been aggressively moving forward like the other players.
      Marco Polo
      • 2 Years Ago
      @ EVSUPERHERO I think you and Jack Rickard have misunderstood what it means when people say 'oil is traded in US dollars'. This has no more significance than saying that the price of oil is 'calculated' in US dollars. The US is the world largest economy,and therefore the US dollar is the most easily trade currency, but that's all. As for Iraq, despite all the US efforts, the new Iraqi government has joined with it's old enemy Iran, and is diligently selling it's oil to Russia. In fact the new Iraqi government is ending Exxon's leases, and replacing US producers with Lukoil. So much for the Carter Doctrine.
      Marco Polo
      • 2 Years Ago
      Poor old Carlos Ghosn ! Once the hero of the Green Left, now castigated by the same people who failed to buy the car they demanded he produce ! Unlike Toyota's cautious Hybrid approach to EV technology, or GM's more radical EREV product, Ghosn committed billions of dollars to create the first fully functional, mass produced, EV, aimed squarely at the 'green' commuter market. We all cheered Carlos Ghosn in the beginning ! Confident prediction were made as to definite success of the Leaf (unless the oil companies had it crushed) . WKTHEC fans confidently advanced 'proof ' of the need for the average person to only travel 40 miles per day, to heretic's and doubters. It turned out that, outside of Japan, the 'green' commuter market wasn't willing to pay a premium for principle ! So poor ol' Ghosn has been forsaken for a new hero, St Elon of Tesla ! I always thought that pure EV's vehicles like Leaf would be sold in very limited numbers. But my one time critics, (who once yelled heretic) have now forsaken their idol. Carlos Ghosn is a remarkable corporate leader. At the time he authorized the Leaf, he had only just rescued Nissan from almost certain bankruptcy. He has managed to accomplish what was once thought impossible, the yoking of two very dissimilar corporate cultures to form an efficient and effective alliance. The commitment of more than $5 billion into EV development and production, is an astonishing gamble, and the success of the Zoe is crucial. However, the only reason Renault/Nissan could afford to fund the development of EV' s, is due to Ghosn's astute ability to increase the profitability of the conventional auto-manufacture of the alliance. Sure his predictions are often wildly optimistic, and the vehicles may not be perfect, or appeal to as many as he once thought, but Ghosn's faith in the future of modern EV's has never dimmed. There are no ''EV's being crushed" under his watch ! Ghosn is still forging ahead, not as fast as he once hoped, but covering ground towards his goal. If anyone is entitled to be called the 'Father of the Modern EV'', it's Carlos Ghosn. He's managed to produce and sell more than 60, 000 EV's . Only a few years ago, that was an impossible dream. I have always felt that trying to sell 'limited range' EV's , outside the specialist market, is not viable. The whole notion of trying to demand that people buy cars they 'need', rather than cars they want, is a recipe for disaster. (This explains the success of Toyota, and GM's Voltec technology) But, I pay sincere homage to the foresight and courage of Carlos Ghosn. If he can persist long enough, hold on to his position long enough, keep the support of his shareholders and the Governments of France and Japan, long enough, the development of newer and more efficient ESD technology may see Carlos Ghosn triumphant ! I sincerely wish him well in his difficult quest. But win or lose, he deserves respect for attempting to make a dream reality
        Nick
        • 1 Hour Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Couldn't have said it better. The popularization of EVs is not a sprint but a marathon.
      Giza Plateau
      • 2 Years Ago
      Lowering the price closer to cost is sure to help sales. A better looking design couldn't hurt either. In general the Leaf fell very short of what it could have been.
      DaveMart
      • 2 Years Ago
      I wonder if anyone has any idea what this means: 'overall EV sales in the US: hitting 10 percent market share by 2017 (eight percent globally), even though it's dropped to 7.9 percent in the US for the first 10 months of 2012, down from 8.2 percent at the end of 2011.' I certainly can't translate that into a meaningful English sentence.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        @EV: The problem is that Nissan has no hybrids in production, neither mild hybrids like GM's eAssist, nor strong hybrids like Toyota / Ford, nor PHEV like Toyota (Nissan killed the Toyota HSD-based Altima Hybrid). With just one horse (Leaf) in the race, how are they going to get to 500k?
        EVSUPERHERO
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Ghosn knows things that the public is not privy to. David Martin, Nissan Leaf has a problem with their instrumentation not their battery packs. Their packs can take the heat but their instrumentation cannot. SVX Pearlie, the Nissan/Renault is most likely bigger than the new GM and if they are counting hybrids when they refer to EV's, like GM does, then they might well make it to 500k by 2017.
          EVSUPERHERO
          • 1 Hour Ago
          @EVSUPERHERO
          So sorry David Martin, I just thought, since you love to rag on Nissan about their pack when ever you get a chance, I would set you straight. The content of this article is poorly presented. ABG is always apologizing to me these days.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Hour Ago
          @EVSUPERHERO
          I don't know what the batteries have to do with how the sales percentages are presented, which is what my comment was about.
        JakeY
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        If you read the source article, it's pretty clear the entire section (10% market share in the US) there refers to Nissan sales overall, NOT EV sales. That's a correction Autobloggreen would have to make.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Hour Ago
          @JakeY
          I usually go to the source article to translate ABG articles into comprehensible English, but in this case we are told it is behind a pay wall, and I can't be bothered to hunt for the Rosetta stone on the net.
        SVX pearlie
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        @Dave: Yeah, that was pretty mystifying, as it didn't match the numbers. I believe they're talking about overall USDM share, not EV sales. CYtD, Nissan has sold 946k cars out of 12.0M cars = 7.9% If they were talking about USDM EV share, then it's 6.8k out of 38.1k = 17.8% (was 9.8k out of 17.4k = 56.0%).
      SVX pearlie
      • 2 Years Ago
      "Nissan thinks it will be selling 500,000 electric vehicles a year. For the short term, he's not backing off the claim that Nissan will sell 1.5 million electric vehicles across its brands by 2015." I wonder what Carlos is smokin', 'cuz that dude's high as a kite if he thinks that's going to happen. Getting to 500k *annually* says they're going to outsell the Toyota Prius, despite years of marketing, and now on it's 3rd generation. GM is catching flak for projecting a grand total 500k "electrics" sold in the US by 2017, from a base of 60k cars in 2012. GM is including eAssist mild hybrids, and a conservative no-growth case gives 300k. GM getting to 500k requires less than 30% year-over-year compound growth. Nissan is smaller than GM or Toyota, with a much narrower range of "electrified" and "hybrid" product to sell. To get to 500k from their paltry EV sales means that 11% of their global fleet will have to be EVs. Pretending that they can maintain ratios across all markets, then Nissan would have to sell roughly 9,400 EVs each month in the US (annual total, 100k). That is, every Nissan would have to sell as many EVs that they sold full year 2011. For a near $40k car that isn't a Benz or Bimmer, I just don't see that happening.
        JakeY
        • 2 Years Ago
        @SVX pearlie
        The 500k/year number is worldwide if you read the quote: "Are you concerned that you may have overinvested by rolling out global capacity for hundreds of thousands of EVs and their batteries? I don't think so because our investments today correspond to about 500,000 cars a year. We feel very comfortable in the potential for at least 500,000 cars a year. We're following carefully what's going on in China. We're following very carefully the new incentives that are in France to encourage electric cars..." If they include Renault (like they do in the 1.5 million by 2015 target), it's definitely possible, given Renault sells multiple EVs that are much cheaper than near $40k. Plus their factories in the US and UK will bring down the cost (and likely price) of their EVs overall.
          SVX pearlie
          • 2 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          I am very well aware that the 500k EVs/year is a global number, hence my calcuation "11% of their global fleet will have to be EVs" (Nissan sells under 400k cars/mos globally / under 5M cars/year globally). I just don't believe that they're going to get to 500k annually before GM sells 500k total "electrified" in the US (2017), much less GM hitting 500k "electrified" annually, much less GM hitting 500k plug-ins annually.
      Marcopolo
      • 2 Years Ago
      @ EVSUPERHERO I like your excellent use of sarcasm and emotive comparison with addicts ! It makes so much better reading than the usual dour ant-oil company rants ! ( although it's vicious not viscous, unless you are making a really clever pun :). It's hard to remain rational among passionate advocates ! Oil is the world's most successful and profitable product. (Oil, not gasoline). The wealth the oil industry has generated, far exceeds all other substances, gold, precious metals, iron and coal, even food ! More importantly, oil has created the huge surpluses of vast wealth that made possible the amazing advanced that occurred during the twentieth century . These are facts, not conspiracy theories, but facts. Oil created the basis for the vast expansion of technology, and all the other benefits (and drawbacks) of the modern world. Oil created the present world economy. Setting aside environmental considerations, the 'Age of Oil" is drawing to a close! Oil depletion is real, and although not an immediate threat, the first signs of oil depletion are becoming evident. Nothing will save this process. There will never be another 'Saudi Arabian' oil field. Drilling thirteen miles deep in terrible conditions, at huge risk, is the sign of a dying industry. Advancing technology may slow the speed of oil depletion, but within my children life times, oil as a energy/transport fuel will become uneconomic. This is inevitable. It's pointless ranting, and inventing good guy's and bad guy's, about a substance which affects every aspect of modern life. Nor can economies easily disengage with such a huge factor in the economy. Simplistic ranting won't help. Nor will pretending that uneconomic or logistically impractical 'solutions' exist, and can be put into practice. The change will be painful and involve many phases and a wide range of technologies. But, make no mistake, change is inevitable ! Shouting abuse, while having not alternative, is not helpful. Our best hope is to prioritize the issues that can achieve the greatest gain, with practical solution that can be implemented with the greatest amount of acceptance an popular support. EV, old mate, sometimes it all looks so easy to win the game when you're sitting watching it on TV, but when you're actually on the ground playing, well .....iyou suddenly learn it ain't that easy !
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