The question isn't, "Why electric?" It's, "Why gas?"
And with those eight words, Nissan marketers crossed a line that no other established carmaker has dared to cross.
In a 20-second ad for the 2013 Nissan Leaf electric car now running on television--you may already have seen it--Nissan said it out loud, or at least hinted it: Electric cars are better and nicer than gasoline cars.
We couldn't find the ad on Nissan's YouTube channel, but you can view it by clicking the link below.
VIEW AD: Click here
And "better" and "nicer" are values that everyone can connect to, no matter what their varied reasons for buying a plug-in car may be.
2013 Nissan Leaf, Nashville area test drive, April 2013Enlarge Photo
It's a positive message, versus early ads that--as Hollywood producer Dean Devlin pointedly said last year--marketed electric cars as "medicine," something that's good for you even if you don't much like it.
Tesla Motors has said electric cars are better for years, of course. But Tesla is a startup carmaker that builds no gasoline cars at all, so it's hardly transgressive coming from them.
Nissan, on the other hand, still sells gasoline cars and will do so for many years to come.
In fact, its gasoline cars provide all the profits that subsidized the development of the battery-electric drivetrain that powers the Leaf and the car itself.
Less than 2 percent electric
For the first eight months of this year, more than 98 percent of the 782,000 Nissan vehicles sold in the U.S. were gasoline-powered--even without counting the Infiniti luxury brand, which offers no plug-in cars today.
2013 Nissan Leaf 'Facts' television ad, frame captureEnlarge Photo
The 14,123 Leafs sold from January through August represented just 1.8 percent of total Nissan sales.
Nonetheless, Nissan has come out with another ad that quietly breaks barriers in presenting electric cars to the public in an entirely different way.
It follows a previous ad in which the Leaf's abiilty to pre-heat the cabin proved a lure to a stylish couple on a date: electric cars as fun and sexy.
The ad even quotes Brian Maragno, Senior Manager, Dealer Network Development Strategy Americas at Nissan North America.
"If the car [were] invented today," Maragno says in a friendly, smiling tone, "it would be the 100-percent electric Nissan Leaf."
The ad hits many usual talking points: It notes that Leaf owners have now covered "200 million gas-free miles" and highlights the Leaf's single-occupant access to carpool lanes
But we still think that positioning a volume-priced battery-electric car as simply better than its gasoline equivalent marks a step forward.
And we haven't seen that grateful polar bear for a good long time now.