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Nissan sees sales double for self-parking, longer-range Leaf

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Nissan Motor, the maker of the Leaf electric vehicle, is aiming to more than double annual deliveries after the revamped model starts hitting showrooms starting next month.

[TOKYO] Nissan Motor, the maker of the Leaf electric vehicle, is aiming to more than double annual deliveries after the revamped model starts hitting showrooms starting next month.

Features like autonomous-parking capability and increased driving range should help boost sales of the new model, the first revamp since its introduction seven years ago, according to Daniele Schillaci, executive vice president for global sales and marketing.

The Yokohama, Japan-based automaker sold 49,000 Leafs in 2016, about 2,000 units fewer than Tesla's Model S, data compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance show.

"I'm not at all worried about cross-shopping" the Leaf and Model S, Mr Schillaci said in an interview.

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"This is part of life and we are very confident."

Nissan has sold almost 300,000 units of the first-generation Leaf and the car's sales remain robust even at the end of its model cycle.

The new model, whose Japanese sales start in early October followed by Europe and the US in January, has a window to build momentum before Tesla ramps up production for its mass-market Model 3 and a large number of other EV models hit the roads over the next few years.

The price of the new Leaf will be similar to the current model, which starts from about US$30,000, according to Schillaci. The Tesla Model 3 starts at US$35,000 before extras or incentives while the Chevrolet Bolt costs around US$37,000, with both cars sporting longer battery range than the 150 miles for the new Leaf's entry offering.

In Japan, the car starts at a price of 3.15 million yen (S$38,990), according to a statement Wednesday.

The Japanese carmaker is also considering a higher-performance option with a range beyond 225 miles to rival the Model 3, according to Schillaci, without saying when the option will be available.

"If the range goes up and the price remains the same, the new Nissan Leaf will continue to offer one of the least expensive and practical ways to own a pure electric car," said Ed Hellwig, a senior editor at car-shopping researcher Edmunds.

"It probably won't offer as much range as the Chevy Bolt, but if the Leaf delivers even a modest bump over its current range, it will be enough to get the attention of most mainstream EV shoppers."

The new Leaf will feature a system that allows drivers to control braking and acceleration with a single pedal and will sport an upgraded version of the ProPilot advanced driver assistance system, making it the first Nissan to be able to park by itself.

Nissan declined to comment on whether the new version will be able to turn around its loss-making Leaf business, which started from Chairman Carlos Ghosn's US$5 billion bet in 2009 that the world's next Ford Model T would be electric.

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