Carlos Ghosn: With Support, Nissan LEAF Sales In U.S. Could Top 50,000 Eventually

Back in December, the Nissan celebrated the sale of the 150,000th Nissan LEAF to have been made since the all-electric family hatchback launched in late 2010. Then in March, Nissan North America celebrated the sale of the 75,000th LEAF to be registered in the U.S.

Nissan's Carlos Ghosn says it's possible for the LEAF to hit 50,000 annual sales target in the U.S.

Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn says it’s possible for the LEAF to hit 50,000 annual sales target in the U.S.

In recent months, sales of the LEAF have cooled somewhat, driven in part by cold weather and anticipation that Nissan will be unveiling its second-generation, LEAF — with a range potentially double that of the existing model — some time in the next year.

Despite that however, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn says he’s confident that total sales of the LEAF in the U.S. this year could one day top 50,000 cars per year. There’s just one little catch: the U.S. needs a better charging infrastructure.

Talking with AutomotiveNews (Subscription required) at the New York Auto Show last month, Ghosn said that Nissan is working hard to increase lithium-ion battery cell production at its custom-built manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tennessee. Located near to the production line where Nissan manufacturers all of its North American-market LEAFs, the battery facility is ramping up to produce enough cells to cope with an increase in LEAF sales.

Last month, Nissan celebrated the sale of its 75,000th LEAf in the U.S.

Last month, Nissan celebrated the sale of its 75,000th LEAf in the U.S.

“Selling 50,000 EVs in North America should not be, in my opinion, a task which is beyond our capacity,” he said. “I feel very good about the capacity we have today.”

During the first quarter of this year, Nissan sold just 4,085 LEAFs in the U.S., a 21.2 percent drop on the same quarter last year. For the remaining three quarters of the year, Nissan would have to sustain an average monthly sales total of at least 5102 cars per month in order to meet Ghosn’s targets.

It’s a figure that isn’t impossible, but one that is improbable, especially given the fact that sales of a vehicle tend to peter out as it heads towards a known mid-cycle upgrade or next-generation replacement.

Yet Ghosn says the key to reaching the 50,000 car target for this year in the future is easy. Local and national government, along with public-private coalitions need to invest more in public charging infrastructure. In short, he argues, governments need to agree to support electric car charging infrastructure, and then build it, before electric cars become mainstream.

More charging provision is key, says Ghosn, to mass-adoption.

More charging provision is key to mass adoption, says Ghosn.

“As long as you don’t have charging infrastructure, you know, we’re not going to see a very strong development of the electric car,” Ghosn said. “And the countries which are going to have this charging infrastructure are going to see a very big burst of zero-emission [vehicles].”

“Unfortunately, it’s decisions made by government, and execution made by the state, the cities and the communities, which means that we’re going to have to be patient,” he said of areas where electric car charging provision is sub-par.

While many would argue one solution to that particular problem — specifically range anxiety — is to improve the battery pack, Ghosn prefers to focus on ubiquity of charging.

“First car I bought — did I care about the range of the car?” he said. “No, I didn’t care about the range. And you know why? Because we have a gasoline station every three, four miles, wherever I am. So I don’t care about the car driving 300 miles.”

Given most people find their bladders need emptying before that magic figure arrives, we think he might have a point. But as we’ve covered recently, charging networks around the world are already in a crisis caused by incompatible software, unreliable hardware, and terrible management.

Do you think Nissan will one day reach 50,000 LEAF sales total per year in the U.S? If not, why?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

[Edit: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the target as being 50,000 cars for 2015. The target set by Ghosn is not specifically for 2015, but for future years. Thanks to Nissan for pointing this error out.]


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  • vdiv

    The reason why not has little to do with Nissan and their willingness and more to do with the rapid decrease in EV incentives (and increase in EV fees) across key states. Ghosn’ comment that Nissan is prepared for that eventuality is somewhat harder to accept.

  • The Nissan Leaf is fine car. But here in Canada, they are not trying to sell it. Was rebuffed at every opportunity, “don’t you want a gas car”, four dealers, same thing. Went to Smart dealer and they refused to let me drive the gas version, he told me to wait till they had the electric in for test drives. Came in the next week, drove the Smart ED and bought one on the spot. Dealers are one of the major reasons…

  • jeffsongster

    I think it could easily happen under those circumstances. I worry however that the politics of the Creepy big oil oinkers may continue to try to undermine it. All the misspent money chasing the fuel cell unicorns is going nowhere towards the more immediate goal of charging. It should all be simple… Level 1 or 2 for long term charging at places we will be for 8 or more hours. Level 2 at places like shopping malls and theatre parking garages. Level 3 scattered along routes to and from other areas at reasonable spacings of every 20 to 50 miles and otherwise… the more chargers the merrier. Tesla is looking out for itself… Nissan is helping Tesla( via adapters), KIA, and Mitsubishi with CHAdeMO. The other automakers are stalling the installs of DC QC by being useless splitters. Would be nice if the CCS guys would abandon it and get in line with the CHAdeMO guys since they really haven’t sold many with CCS anyway… ( any breakdowns on how many CCS cars actually are sold with it?) and there seems to be no great rush to install the elusive CCS beast anywhere so far. nGhosn is right… now I just hope we can get them installed around enough metros even with 2 nozzles CHAdeMO and CCS that we can keep the crazy righties from destroying the movement in the next few years. They’ve done that before… this time it seems we have more mo.

  • James

    Ghosn has public charging wrong. The problem with public charging is that there is not reasonable economic model to support it. Any reasonably sustainable markup for the business is outrageous for the consumer. In short the electricity is just too inexpensive to begin with required a three to four hundred percent markup for a company to scrape by. To make matters worse level 2 charging competes with home charging and is not all that necessary. If Ghosn were serious he would have taken an approach closer to Tesla. Instead of installing level 3 chargers at Nissan dealerships, he should have created transit corridors for cities purchasing leafs with L3 chargers every 40 miles between common destinations. This would create much more value for EV owner and help drive sales.