Nissan’s first mass-produced electric car, the five-door LEAF hatchback, has sold more than 83,000 units worldwide since its launch in 2010. Yet its quirky looks, high-gadget appeal, high price, limited range and tree-hugging name put many buyers off.
But what would happen if Nissan took the LEAF’s all-electric drivetrain and put it into one of its more popular, mainstream models, like the Qashqai compact crossover SUV, popular with buyers across half the world? Or perhaps the Nissan Rogue, the Qashqai’s larger North American cousin?
Either way, what about a larger, more conventional-looking electric car, based upon one of Nissan’s most popular cars?
Would more people make the switch to electric then? And would Nissan make it?
While we can’t answer the former, AutoCar attempted to answer the latter last week by broadcasting the news that Nissan executives weren’t discounting the possibility of producing an all-electric second-generation Qashqai, some time in the future.
Due to replace the current generation Qashqai early next year, the all-new second-generation Qashqai will launch with a choice of new, high efficiency gasoline and diesel engines. Sadly, a plug-in option won’t be available at launch, as Nissan’s European sales and marketing boss Guillaume Cartier told AutoCar, but as a future drivetrain option, it couldn’t be completely ruled out.
Of course, at this point, it’s worth cautioning against AutoCar’s logic. Just because an automaker won’t rule out the possibility of making a particular car doesn’t mean that it will happen, either.
But there is some logicality to AutoCar’s story, with caveats in place. Nissan is working hard to expand its range of plug-inc cars.
Next year, the LEAF will be joined by the e-NV200 light commercial vehicle. Based on the gasoline NV200, the plug-in minivan is aimed at small businesses and delivery companies operating predictable urban routes.
By targeting these commercial buyers, Nissan hopes to not only gain a market leadership in the commercial vehicle segment, but also to help raise the profile of electric vehicles in the public consciousness. While LEAF buyers may geek out on the car’s high-tech features or make a political stand on its environmental credentials, commercial buyers make their vehicle choices based on practicality, reliability and cost. The eNV-200 should tick every box.
With the LEAF and eNV-200 on the market next year, a third, larger plug-in car for the Nissan brand could place Nissan in a powerful market position. An electric Qashqai, based on the soon-to-release second-generation platform, would fit that requirement nicely.
Alternatively, of course, Nissan could also go the other way, electrifying its smaller Micra platform. But in terms of market share, we’d have to say electrifying the Qashqai, perhaps using its larger footprint to squeeze in a larger battery pack and thus more range than the LEAF, would be the smarter move.
Sadly though, we have to concede that while we’ve enjoyed dreaming about what cars Nissan could electrify, it’s worth remembering that until Nissan makes its future electrification plans known, we shouldn’t get too excited just yet…
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