Nissan Replaces Electric-Car Unit Executive To Boost Sales

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2013 Nissan Leaf

2013 Nissan Leaf

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It's no secret that Nissan hasn't sold as many battery electric cars over the last two years as it had planned.

The company just sold its 50,000th Nissan Leaf last month, but it had hoped to sell up to twice that number between the start of production in late 2010 and the end of last year.

Now the company is continuing its shakeup of executives overseeing the electric-car unit.

Bloomberg reports today that starting April 1, its COO Toshiyuki Shiga will directly oversee the electric-car business and its share of the associated battery joint venture with NEC.

Hideaki Watanabe, a corporate vice president who had run the electric-car group to date, was shunted aside to become a senior vice president at a supplier.

In the U.S., expected to be the largest long-term market for plug-in electric cars, Nissan sold 9,674 Leaf electric hatchbacks in 2011, the car's first year.

Last year, however, in the face of more plug-in models entering the market, including plug-in hybrids that alleviate range anxiety, Nissan sold barely more than that, at 9,819 units.

Nissan had said for almost two years that it would sell 20,000 Leaf electric cars in the U.S. by this March.

It wasn't until last October that Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn admitted that the company wouldn't reach its ambitious electric-car sales goals.

That month, Nissan appointed Billy Hayes as its global electric-vehicle sales chief, and reorganized some of its U.S. communications functions as well.

Hayes reports directly to Ghosn, as does COO Watanabe.

Last summer, Nissan's U.S. sales chief Al Castignetti attributed the low sales to three factors: a transition from online reservations to standard dealership retailing, a core misunderstanding of electric-car buyers and what they might want, and greater competition in the key California market from a greater range of plug-in vehicles.

Car dealers and local salespeople may be the weakest link in electric-car sales, in fact, for those reasons and more.

The 2013 Nissan Leaf went into production in January at the company's assembly facility in Smyrna, Tennessee, with some equipment upgrades, a new base trim level, and lower prices.


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Comments (32)
  1. Don't these guys get it? Change the body style (a la Tesla) and they'll sell like hot cakes!

  2. Don't know why you were down-voted, Danny. Most call it ugly, some call it quirky, but nobody calls it beautiful.

  3. I think it's because the problem with the Leaf isn't styling. It's problem is largely range and battery longevity related. Those two things aren't easy to fix.

  4. my thoughts exactly when i asked them how often i could use their quick 30min charge station they said it is for emergencies only not to be used on a regular basis i was like ok then you need to increase the range to at least 240 miles before i can use it as my daily driver double what they have now

  5. Agreed. Nissan did a good job addressing the price and (to a lesser extend) the range issue so far but at the end of the day if it doesn't look cool it's just going to be a hard sell.

  6. The range issue is not what you think. Average distance driven daily in 2012 was UNDER 30 miles. medium distance in the mid 30's. So the LEAF can cover a LOT of people's need but how to get them to correctly evaluate their needs is the issue.

    a while back, someone asked me if they should get a LEAF, i said yes but they were hesitant over the range and got a Volt. Last time i saw him, he had had the Volt just under a year and was still on his original tank of gas.

    But fear not. the LEAF is not Nissan's end game nor is it the real reason TN was built. The real fun starts late next Spring!!

  7. That's funny, David. There's a Volt driver here that uses very little gas yet resists the idea that a pure EV would have worked for him. I like the Volt a lot but a lot of people overestimate what they really drive per day. There is an app for iPhones that you can use to track your daily driving mileage. It is called iEV 2. Your phone keeps track of what you actually drive per day to then make a recommendation of what battery pack size you need. Perfect to dispel the internal idea that your EV needs to go 300 miles on a charge!

  8. I think you're fooling yourself to think range doesn't matter. In terms of range, because of the battery degradation (after having owned the car for more than 5 years you'll see a 15-25% loss), winter, rain, etc. I also think people tend to take a few medium length trips a couple of times a month.

    I'm not one of the people who thinks you need a 300+ mile range. 100-140 would be plenty. On the other hand, the lower priced S is perfect for people who don't drive those extra miles and just want a lower cost alternative. I can see that hitting a sweet spot.

  9. A sedan-styled LEAF is on the way… nine more months till 2014:

  10. There are more comments in this thread
  11. LEAF sales appear to be picking up… 50,000 last month compared to 42,700 reported on Nov 9, 2012 in GCR post:

    That's almost a 20% increase in global sales over the last four months! Perhaps the year-end incentives & lower MSRP have spurred sales momentum? Will be interesting to see US sales numbers in next couple months as TN ramps up its production capacity.

  12. "a core misunderstanding of electric-car buyers and what they might want"

    I would love to read more about that. Will you please devote an article to it?

  13. @Annatar: Did you click the link in that same sentence? The answer is here:

  14. No I did not. "attributed the low sales" did not tell me anything, so I overlooked it. Sorry about that.

  15. "Change the body style (a la Tesla) and they'll sell like hot cakes!"

    While very important indeed, styling is not everything.

    Range needs to increase to at least 300 miles. Even the biggest "gas guzzlers" manage a 300 mile radius.

    Charging needs to be on the order of five minutes, going from completely empty to fully charged. Right now, charging takes hours. That is unacceptable to most people, as evidenced by low take rate.

    Infrastructure for re-energizing is simply not there. Electric vehicles are purely in the domain of enthusiasts right now.

  16. Five minute charging is not required. Just takes a re-adjustment of how you charge. Do it while sleeping, shopping, eating, working, and not making a dedicated trip and standing beside the car while you fill it up. Which is really more convenient?

    Most charging can be level 2 240V 20-40A. It does not have to be expensive high power DC chargers except on interstate highways.

  17. the biggest reason is the customers perception of their driving need. they want a no compromise vehicle of which there is no such thing. Even a Tesla 85 has compromises (mostly the price!) so everything has compromises but most dont realize that the LEAF provides more than enough range to cover 95% of their driving needs. THAT is the issue Nissan alludes too.

    so what can they do? increasing the range 50% will require a big jump in price, a complete redesign of the car (cant just throw a few hundred lbs of anything into a car and not have it matter)etc and it would all be for nothing.

    What is really needed is for people to simply create a driving log. write down how far they drive every day and do it for 2-3 months...simple as that

  18. It is simple.

    Make the Leaf cheaper, longer range with better battery design...

  19. Agreed, but is that really simple?

  20. Nissan sort did 2 out of 3 in their 2013 model changes, didn't it?

  21. When I went to check the leaf out at my local dealer the sales person knew very little about the car and had to keep asking someone else that know much either. I knew more about the car than both of them and never seen one before. I ended up buying a 2011 leaf in Georgia with 700 miles on it for $21,000 , the car was a dealer demo. I put over 1000 miles a month on the car and I'm happy with it. The car charges while I sleep and I use the level 1 charger that came with the car. Charging this car is fast and easy. The car isn't for everyone, you have to be willing to change your driving habits.

  22. why must I repeat myself over and over again...IT'S THE BATTERY, STUPIT!

    Double the energy density and you will ,qua-triple the sales. PERIOD?

  23. Nissan has improved the Leaf year over year, so it's a bit better than it was last year. Pricing is also a bit better and there are a few more charging stations, so the uptake should continue to ramp up and pricing should trend down to some extent.

  24. i believe a 200 mile range is the lowest range a company should put on their EV's most people commute to work something like 60 miles round trip and if you work outside its easy to hit 200 or even 300 miles a day make cars that get 200 miles or better per charge and the quick charging on those said batteries more reliable if its a heat issue fix it i'm hoping that this----> will be coming to market sooner rather then later

  25. I have a Leaf and I have too much range. Over one year I drove 20 miles per day. If only I could have less range. I never use all of the battery I paid for. I can't imagine owning a car with more range than this. It would be such a waste of money to have a bigger battery than is required for what I actually use.

    I paid $190 in electricity for the 7300 miles I drove.

  26. Well, lucky for you then.

    Because somewhere in the extreme cold and with some aging degradation, your Leaf will be a 40 miles per day car...

    Remember? 80 mile range with 70% for aging (after 5 years), 70% for extreme cold weather with heat usage and 80% for high speed cruising and charge up to only 80% of full battery will give you 80x0.7x0.7x0.8x0.8 = 25 miles worst case range...

  27. ...which is already pretty good, because, by the same logic, the Volt for example would have died and give you 0 mile at that same 5-year mark.

    That's how long its drivetrain is warranted for, isn't it? Or does another logic apply just for ?

  28. Are you seriously asking that about the Volt?

    First of all, Volt only uses about 10.5KWh out of the 16KWh battery. So, Volt already did the "degradation" for you and NOT 100% charging. And in 5 years, the Volt would still be under the Warranty. Volt in CA are warrantied for 10yr/150k miles.

    Now with that range, Volt will lose about 20% of its range in very cold weather, sometimes even more with more heat usage. So, let us say about 70% of that range in cold. But Volt doesn't lose nearly as much in its high speed driving as the Leaf due to its second motor to increase the efficiency of main traction motor at high speed. It loses about 10-15% of its range at high speed.

    So, 38x0.7x0.85 = 22.61 miles worst case. Oh, no need for a tow.

  29. " by the same logic, the Volt for example would have died and give you 0 mile at that same 5-year mark."

    I don't know what logic do you use, but most of the time, when you multiply a positive number by a fraction, it will never reach zero....

    If A is greater than 1 and B is between 0 and 1.

    AxB^n > 0 (for n= 0, 1, 2....)

  30. Nissan guarantees that the battery of the Leaf will have retained minimum 70% capacity after 5 years. Amusingly, 5 years is also the amount of time Chevrolet guarantees the Volt drivetrain for.

    If you go by the worst case for the Leaf (70% at year 5), then it's only fair to go by worst case for other vehicles incl the Volt: drivetrain quits at year 5 -- therefore going 0 mile per charge/tank from then on.

    If you think this approach is flawed, good, that's exactly what I was trying to illustrate: obviously the overwhelming majority of vehicles -- not just your favorite brand -- will vastly exceed the minimums set by their respective warranties.

  31. @Just O,

    So, you are talking about the warranty of the ICE powertrain of the Volt vs. its electrical drivetrain. The battery and electric motors are considered as part of the "emission" system in order to qualify for the 10yr/100K miles warranty in CA. So, in this case, the "apple to apple" comparison is 10 yr for Volt and 5 yr for Leaf.

    Also, another flaw in your logic, a "failed" powertrain and a "low" range battery are completely different thing. I don't think I need to go into details on that.

    Nissan's warranty doesn't apply if you still have 70& of the range at 5 yr. Volt's powertrain has no capacity limit.

    Also, you can buy extended warranty on Volt's powertrain, can you buy the same on Leaf's battery?

  32. NISSAN LEAF Rush hour on the 405 Southbound in L.A. rush hour traffic driving a hair-raising 10 mph. Hybrid, at least because of braking the vehicle regenerates the Electric Motor. What about the Nissan Leaf or any other electric car energy level? Will it be white knuckle time?

    I want to go on vacation from Los Angeles to New Orleans. Hybrid will get me there without flaring up my Acid Reflex disease. What about the Leaf or any other Electric vehicle's range getting me there? I would not want to conk out on I-10 and the I-8 interchange south of Tuscon, summer, 110 degrees in the shade.

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