In a move which has surprised many people in the electric car industry, Nissan Motor has today confirmed that chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga will be taking direct control of the company's electric vehicle business. While the company has yet to really expand upon the reasons for the change in personnel, it is believed that the group's chief operating officer has been parachuted in because of disappointing sales relating to the electric car industry.
The Nissan Leaf
The Nissan Leaf has been one of the bestselling and most popular electric cars of all time. However sales of the vehicle failed to hit even half of the 20,000 unit sales target in the U.S. As a consequence, the company is now re-evaluating its approach to the electric vehicle market and the zero emission sector as a whole.
While the high ranking change in personnel associated with the company’s electric car unit has obviously caused headlines around the world, in the longer term it is a very positive move. The company could have scaled back its electric vehicle production in light of the disappointing sales figures to the U.S. last year but instead the company has decided to reinvest more time, money and effort into making electric vehicles a viable option going forward.
Market share for electric vehicles
It is unclear at this moment in time whether Nissan has called the market wrong or is indeed just one or two steps ahead of consumers. During 2012, the company was very upbeat about the outlook for electric vehicles and indeed believed that they would make up around 10% of automobile sales by the end of the decade. At this moment in time a 10% market share is some time off but it will be interesting to see how the next couple of years go.
Quote from ElectricForum.com "Now Nissan has announced a new greener, better (obviously), UK-made (surprise!) Nissan LEAF that will be available from spring 2013 in three versions: Visia, Acenta and Tekna."
One thing which is becoming more apparent is the fact that electric vehicle manufacturers are now looking towards entry-level versions of their more popular electric cars. Indeed Nissan brought out a cut-price Nissan Leaf during 2012, ahead of the 2013 version, which will be all singing and all dancing with the latest technology. The fact is that an entry-level vehicle should attract the attention of more motorists around the world and ultimately each entry-level vehicle purchased could in due course be upgraded to the latest Nissan Leaf.
The U.S. market is most certainly the one to crack with regards to electric vehicles and, to a lesser extent, hybrid vehicles. Even though it offers some of the cheapest gasoline prices around the world there is still a significant price incentive for motorist to move from traditional gasoline powered vehicles to hybrid/electric cars.
One element of the gasoline powered market which is becoming more widely known is the fact that to all intents and purposes the U.S., which imports around $1 billion a day of foreign oil, is more dependent upon overseas oil producers than ever before. This means that the country and motorists, to a greater extent, are at the beck and call of not only overseas oil companies but also of the underlying oil price.
While the headline news would suggest that Nissan is taking radical action to try and resurrect Nissan Leaf sales in the U.S. in particular, this change in personnel is certainly a positive move going forward. The electric vehicle division will now figure more prominently in the company's long-term sales strategy and therefore will likely receive greater attention.
It will be interesting to see whether Nissan is able to resurrect sales of the Nissan Leaf in particular in the U.S. Having falling well short of the 20,000 units expected in 2012, the company is now looking towards a new start for this revolutionary vehicle and its electric vehicle division.