After nearly five years and more than 180,000 global sales, Nissan’s first mass-produced electric vehicle — the 100 percent electric Nissan LEAF compact hatchback — is currently the world’s best selling electric car.
As with any five-year old model however, the automotive world is eagerly looking towards its successor, due to debut in either 2016 or 2017 as a 2017 or 2018 model-year car. Expected to offer a range in excess of 150 miles per charge, the next-generation LEAF is also expected to be less nerdy and more conventionally designed than its predecessor in order to appeal to a wider segment of mainstream buyers.
It will also likely be priced in order to compete directly against Chevrolet’s upcoming Bolt EV, a $35,000, 200-mile all-electric hatchback due to enter production next year as a 2017 model year car.
Another given, at least until now, has been that the next-generation Nissan LEAF would take on the same compact hatchback form factor as its predecessor. But says UK magazine Autocar, the next-generation Nissan LEAF could spawn a variety of different body styles in much the same way that the Toyota Prius family has grown to become a family of different vehicles.
The source for that claim is none other than Nissan Executive Vice-President Trevor Mann, who said in a recent interview that he believes the LEAF could become more than just a single car, encompassing a variety of different body styles to suit different needs.
“There could be more than one LEAF,” he told AutoCar. “We’ve always said it needn’t be one car.”
“We’ve got the e-NV200 electric too,” he continued. “But obviously we’re still studying other opportunities. What we’ve got to do is to make sure the market is right.”
To date, Nissan has relied heavily on the feedback from its early-adopting electric car drivers to help shape future decisions on both the Nissan LEAF and e-NV200 lineup. For example, Nissan decided to introduce LEAF battery leasing in some markets to help offset the initial sticker shock of buying an electric car after feedback about early LEAF pricing. It also brought a 7-seat variant of its e-NV200 minivan to market following customer demand for such a vehicle.
A similar system would be used for the evolution of the LEAF name into a sub-brand for the Japanese automaker, said Mann, adding that “we have an enormous amount of feedback [from existing customers] that we can recycle into what we do in the future.”
Sadly, neither Mann nor Nissan is willing to explore quite what models could be born for a LEAF family of vehicles, but here at Transport Evolved, we’d guess it would follow a similar evolution to the Toyota Prius hybrid, a vehicle whose transition from niche-market car to high-volume vehicle is well-known.
That would translate to a smaller, city-oriented runabout similar in size to the Toyota Prius C, a mainstream hatchback similar in size to the current Nissan LEAF, and perhaps a wagon variant for those with larger families or more luggage to carry.
Another option, posits AutoCar would be a LEAF model with a higher seating position — possibly a crossover model similar to the Nissan Juke or Nissan Qashqai — which would give a far more commanding view of the road ahead as well as improved ground clearance.
We feel at this point the need to reiterate that the AutoCar interview does hinge on a few choice statements from one single Nissan executive however. And as much as we’re sure many of our readers would love to see the Nissan LEAF expanded to include a wide variety of different models, this particular report is far from confirmed corporate strategy.
That said, we’re keen to hear what you think of the prospect of a Nissan LEAF sub brand of electric vehicles? What sort of car would you like Nissan to make under the LEAF name, and what sort of cars do you think buyers would be encouraged to switch cars for?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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