Back in 2011, just a year after Nissan had begun sales of its all-electric LEAF hatchback in Japan, Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn confidently predicted that the two automakers would collaboratively produce and sell a total of 1.5 million electric cars by 2016.
Now, just over two years later, Ghosn has been forced to admit that his original estimates won’t be met…by a very long way.
Talking to the Financial Times (via Green Car Reports) Ghosn said despite billions of dollars of investment, sales of electric vehicles weren’t as high as he’d hope. The reason? Slow infrastructure roll-out, not lack of consumer interest.
“We will not be there,” he said of his own 1.5 million car sales target for 2016. “At the speed right now, I’m seeing it more four or five years later. We have to admit, it is slower than we thought. But it is slower for the reason that we thought infrastructure building would be faster. It is not.”
In both Europe and the U.S., the Renault-Nissan alliance has worked hard to help speed up the installation of public electric car charging stations through the donation of DC quick charge stations in the U.S. at Nissan dealerships and dual-standard DC and AC quick charge stations to both dealerships and motorway service stations in Europe.
Dismissing claims that both Nissan and Renault electric cars are still too expensive for many buyers, Ghosn reiterated his belief that charging infrastructure has been the number one reason for poor sales. “I don’t think the main issue today is the cost of the car,” he said. “The main issue is infrastructure. It is normal. I would not buy a gasoline car if there were no gasoline stations.”
But as research from many automakers — including BMW — shows, installing charging infrastructure is as much about providing a perceived cure for range anxiety in potential EV owners as it is actually providing charging for plug-in drivers. With average daily commutes being well under 30 miles a day, most EV owners don’t need to charge anywhere during the day, but like the knowledge a filling station is nearby, many more car buyers would buy an electric car if they knew they could recharge in an emergency away from home.
To date, the Renault-Nissan alliance has sold more than 120,000 electric cars so far, placing them ahead any other plug-in manufacturer in the EV sales charts. Even with other mainstream automakers like BMW, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz readying aggressive plug-in car sales strategies to try and steal the EV crown from Renault-Nissan however, Ghosn isn’t worried about competition. Nor does he appear worried that Tesla, with its plans for an affordable 200-mile EV in a few years, will have what it takes to knock Renault-Nissan from its lofted EV sales position.
“Today there is nobody, but they are coming,” he said. “Some of our German competitors have announced that they are coming. They will be our main competitors. And that’s about it. others have announced one car here, one care there.”
Meanwhile, regardless of a lack of charging infrastructure being actual or perceived, the Renault-Nissan alliance is working hard to try and encourage more sales by accelerating the deployment of quick charge stations in its key markets around the world.
But will it work? Or are there other reasons why sales have been lower than Ghosn predicted? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.