What’s wrong with the Nissan Leaf?
Is the Leaf Carlos Ghosn’s biggest mistake?
Happy Fourth of July. Wasn’t going to post anything today, but then I saw the sale’s numbers for the Nissan Leaf. Just 535 Leaf electric cars were sold last month, down from 1,708 last June.
What is going on with Nissan’s plug-in plans? What’s wrong with the Nissan Leaf?
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is easily the biggest EV bull in the major automaker room. And in recent months not only has Ghosn confirmed that he still believes that the Leaf will top 20,000 sales in 2012, but that plug-ins will achieve 10 percent penetration by 2020.
Additionally, over the last several months Nissan has pointed to the earthquake/tsunami, the yen versus the dollar, and the need for US Leaf production as reasons for the Leaf sales slowdown. The point, it seems, is that things are under control at Nissan. Just be patient.
Since there is supposedly still a healthy supply of Leaf back orders, maybe 20,000 Leaf sales this year is possible, but it’s getting harder and harder to believe that story.
The 10 percent by 2020 story; however, appears to be a fable. Recently, Pike Research pegged 2020 plug-in penetration at less than 2 percent. Agree or disagree, but part of the equation for that number was based on the now very “measured” production plans from automakers themselves.
Sure, just like that a sudden and spectacular rise in gas prices, or a completely unexpected battery breakthrough, could rewrite this book. With the war games Iran is playing right now, coupled with the rest of the Middle East tensions, the oil spike potential is a little scary.
Yet, even if both events happened, I’m still not sure I buy 10 percent by 2020.
Then again, Ghosn can always claim he was only forecasting Nissan sales, not making industry-wide predictions. Considering the success Toyota is having with hybrid cars, such a Nissan-only forecast might be conceivable.
Couple that low sales number with the fact that Carlos Ghosn is now on a path to exit Nissan, at least as CEO, and there’s plenty of speculation fodder. For now though, I’ll just leave it there.
Anyway, in my opinion, this has become the story in the plug-in space. While a lack of plug-in success probably isn’t a surprise to many other than hardcore advocates, Nissan’s EV bullishness was a big beacon in this space. And if Nissan falls considerably short of its 20,000 sale’s goal, phrases like ‘EV bubble’ are inevitable.
Of course, like the dot com bubble, plug-ins — just as the Internet — will have the last laugh. Unfortunately, it might be another decade before we even hear a giggle.