Nissan CEO is bullish for Leaf's success, says million plug-ins by 2015 is an easy goal

Speaking at the U.S. launch of the Nissan Leaf this morning in Dodgertown, Los Angeles, Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn was supremely confident and optimistic about the chances of his company's first electric vehicle – and plug-ins in general – in the U.S. market.
"This car should sell without advertising," Ghosn said, noting that Nissan's plan to sell a normal-looking (mostly), family-style vehicle with the "free premium" of an electric drivetrain will be an easy sell. Because the Leaf's batteries will be leased, Ghosn said, the Leaf will cost almost exactly the same as a similar gasoline-powered vehicle (it'll be one to two percent higher, without factoring in the cost of the battteries). For someone who drives between 12,000 and 15,000 miles a year, buying the Leaf and leasing the battery will be cheaper than owning a similar gas-powered car and filling up with liquid fuel. Using the "free premium" strategy, Ghosn said, the U.S. can easily reach and then beat President Obama's goal of having a million plug-in vehicles on the road by 2015.

Another bonus of leasing the battery, Ghosn said, is that the consumer won't have to worry about when to replace or upgrade it. Nissan will make that decision for the user, simplifying what it means to own an electric car. Nissan has publicly stated that they expect 10 percent of all cars sold in 2020 will be plug-ins, a number some criticized as too optimistic. But Ghosn said that Nissan's internal polling shows that even today, before most people have driven an EV, eight percent of Americans say they want their next car to be an EV. This gives Ghosn confidence that the 10 percent number is probably too low – and doesn't even account for possible dramatic political or social changes (wars, huge spikes in the price of oil, etc.). The question might not be if Nissan can drum up enough interest in the Leaf, but if they can produce enough to meet demand.

We'll have a full report about the launch – and what it's like to drive the Leaf – up shortly.

Our travel and lodging for this media event were paid for by the manufacturer.

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