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

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn Welcomes Tesla Model 3 Hype, Calls It “A Good Sign” and “Good Competition For EVs” Worldwide

As the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer by volume to date, you’d think Carlos Ghosn, joint CEO of Japanese automaker Nissan and French automaker Renault, would be more than feeling somewhat threatened by the more than 300,000 people around the world who have stumped up $1,000 each (or their local currency equivalent) to secure themselves a place in the queue to order the recently unveiled Tesla Model 3 electric car. That figure, for the curious, is almost the same number of cars sold by the Renault-Nissan alliance since they started mass-producing electric cars in 2010.

Ghosn: the Tesla Model 3 is good for all electric cars.

Ghosn: the Tesla Model 3 is good for all electric cars.

When you consider that The Tesla Model 3, with an entry-level price of $35,000 before incentives, is the first electric car from Tesla to enter into the mass-market, affordable car segment, you might be forgiven for thinking that he would be feeling doubly threatened. After all, mass-market, affordable electric cars — as opposed to high-performance, premium-market ones — has been Nissan’s electric car bailiwick all along.

But just as Tesla CEO Elon Musk has historically welcomed any and all competition in the electric car marketplace, Ghosn is keen to welcome the massive hype surrounding the Tesla Model 3 launch, calling the massive interest in Tesla’s latest electric car some “good competition” that will accelerate demand for electric cars.

The Nissan LEAF might be far less tech-filled than the Model 3, but it too will benefit from Tesla's success.

The Nissan LEAF might be far less tech-filled than the Model 3, but it too will benefit from Tesla’s success.

As AutomotiveNews (subscription required) explains, the comments were made to members of the press by Ghosn this morning during a visit to one of Nissan’s engine plants in Iwaki, Japan. It’s not clear from the report if Mr. Ghosn’s comments were prepared in advance or if they were in response to a question from a member of the assembled press, but they certainly leave no doubt over his reaction to the Model 3.

“The fact that so many people are willing to pay a down payment to get this car which becomes available at the end of 2017 is a good sign,” he said. “Finally, good competition for EVs is picking up.”

Ghosn has placed electric cars at the forefront of Renault-Nissan’s long-term future strategy ever since Nissan unveiled the LEAF hatchback in 2009. Since that time, the Renault-Nissan alliance has spent tens of billions of dollars developing a wide range of electric vehicles, including the Nissan LEAF, Nissan e-NV200, Renault ZOE and Renault Twizy to name a few. By the end of the decade, it will have launched many more, more than doubling the range of Renault-Nissan plug-in vehicles on the market worldwide.

Ghosn has previously paid compliments to Tesla’s Elon Musk over the California automaker’s Model S electric sedan, but has never sought to make Tesla a direct competitor. “We’re happy that other people are going premium — it shows EVs are versatile, and exciting,” he told BBC Top Gear Magazine back in June last year. “[But] Tesla is not our rival — it is an ally.”

It was a sentiment Ghosn repeated at the start of this year during a presentation at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit. Reminding attendees that all-electric car manufacturers are working towards the same goal, Ghosn was asked if he would accept the nickname ‘Mr. Electric Car.’ His response was short and to the point.

“I’m used to many nicknames, but no, I don’t think so. That belongs to someone else you know very well,” he joked.

Ghosn: we're all in this together.

Ghosn: we’re all in this together.

“We are all part of the same thing,” he continued when questioned about the upcoming 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV — a car which will come to market this fall and offer a claimed 200 miles of range per charge at a similar price point to the Tesla Model 3. The explosion of the electric car market thanks to companies like Tesla, he explained, wouldn’t obliterate other electric cars but actually help them.

Essentially his argument follows some simple logic: the more electric cars there are on the road, the better it is for anyone who builds an electric car.

While not every automotive executive shares his enthusiasm, it’s worth noting that Elon Musk has also spoken enthusiastically about the expanding width and breadth of the electric car market, admitting that while Tesla can certainly play a pivotal part in the electric car revolution it would be impossible for just one company to turn the world from fossil fuels to renewable energy on its own.

Every company, every vehicle, plays its part.

Having covered the electric car industry for many years, we’re pleased to see a level of camaraderie still present between different electric automakers and a shared goal of seeing a transition away from fossil fuels towards electric cars. And while the world has gone Model 3 crazy for now, we think it’s worth reminding ourselves as enthusiasts, owners and advocates that the net effect of that transition far outweighs the badges on the cars making that transition possible.


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  • vdiv

    Nissan is not going to turn over their lead in EV sales and just quit. Expect great new models from them. Tesla’s success has only justified Ghosn’s investment.

    May we live in interesting times 🙂

    • What you said times a million. Moreover, I’d suggest that Nissan could bring a car to market in far less time than Tesla, given its copious amounts of cash-in hand.

      At the end of last year, Nissan had $7.3 billion cash in hand. Tesla doesn’t. That doesn’t mean Tesla will struggle (it has more than enough support now and enough pre-orders to secure it the credit it needs to bring the Model 3 to market).

      The difference? Tesla is borrowing to make Model 3. Nissan (if it wanted) could just write a cheque.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        I’m glad you covered this. I was going send a link to John on GCR.
        I’m sure Ghosn is looking at this Tesla Model 3 and saying Infiniti blew it.

      • John Tamplin

        Any of the traditional manufacturers *could* have made a decent EV that people wanted to buy, but they haven’t. One reason is that doing so would cannibalize their existing sales, which include high-profit service that their dealers care about. I also doubt they can do it in less time – it took years after the Model S was introduced for automakers to make something to compete – how long was the Audi R8 eTron in development? What about Porsche Mission E which is still a few years away. Existing manufacturers have slow model development cycles in general, plus they are weighed down by the baggage of still wanting to sell ICE cars. Moreover, most of their proprietary expertise is in the engine, so if they switch to EVs they are just buying components from others or playing catch-up.

        Even when they do build something competitive on paper, such as the Bolt, how long did it take after they knew exactly what Tesla’s plan was? And they still haven’t figured out that you need a charging network for a large battery car to be useful – putting one CCS charger at each Chevy dealership is nothing to compare to the Supercharger network.

  • Daniel Zamir

    I expect some easier times for Ghosn within Nissan headquarters pushing more aggressively for electrification.

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