Entry-Level and Electric Cars in US, Says Nissan’s Ghosn
By Brendan Moore
In a wide-ranging interview given to two reporters from Automotive News (paid subscription required), Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has stated that he sees some small entry-level vehicles in the US market from Nissan in the future, and the continued development of the electric car market, starting with the 2010 launch of the Nissan Leaf EV.
Ghosn noted that Nissan does not want to abandon the entry-level price point segment to other automakers in the US, and therefore is intent on bringing a couple of sub-$10,000 cars from Nissan’s Mexican production facilities into the US market. He was not more specific than that, but there is an existing car or two made in Mexico now that would fit the bill in this instance, most notably the Nissan Aprio, which is a Nissan clone of the Renault Logan, the entry-level car that has set sales records in Europe for the past few years.
The Nissan CEO was asked if he foresaw low-cost cars manufactured in India coming to the United States, as Renault-Nissan is starting to do in Europe, and Ghosn replied that he didn’t see that happening since it wasn’t Nissan’s preference, and that the production facilities in Mexico were a better choice in terms of cars sold in the US owing to proximity and currency exchange issues.
Ghosn had a fair amount to say about electric car (EV) sales in the US in the upcoming decade.
For those of you that follow the auto industry, it is quite obvious that Nissan, like a few other auto companies, has decided to more or less “leapfrog” hybrids and go right to the EV. Nissan has a hybrid platform that is offered currently, but it is a placeholder – Nissan is putting all of their non-gasoline-engine R&D resources into EV technology. The first result of those efforts is the Nissan Leaf, which will be launched next year in the US, and launched globally in 2012. Ghosn said that Nissan wants leadership on EVs, and is making a large bet on the technology and the market appetite for electric vehicles in the United States in the next decade.
Although he wouldn’t be pinned down on a number, Ghosn sees a significant part of the American market captured by EV sales by 2015, and thinks Americans, particularly young Americans, will embrace EV technology in the next ten years. He wants Nissan to be out in front of this next technology adoption wave.
On another subject, Ghosn stated in the same interview that Nissan sees the overall US auto market coming back gradually over the new few years, but said it will be “a very long time” before the market returns to an annual rate of 15 million units.
He also noted that the US dollar’s continuing devaluation against the Japanese yen makes profit forecasting difficult and also makes the case for moving more vehicle production to the US and Mexico more compelling by the day. Ghosn also left the door wide open on the possibility of exporting Nissan production from the US and Mexico to other markets in the world.
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