Navigating the new world of electric vehicles takes leaps of faith and lots of planning. It also requires someone at the helm who's ready to try different things and also stick to his guns. In other words, it's not easy. But Renault and Nissan head Carlos Ghosn keeps on moving forward.
Speaking at the Geneva Motor Show this week, Ghosn said the EV automotive landscape is changing ("I think the breakthrough will come from China," he said), but his key EV strategy remains the same: be ready to sell plug-in vehicles when customers are ready to buy them. Together, Renault and Nissan have sold 70,000 electric cars already, so Ghosn has some experience in this arena.
"What is interesting about electric cars is that the perception has changed," he said. "Four or five years ago, when we started with electric cars, people considered the electric car like a golf cart. But with with Leaf and now the Zoe, these are very good cars – performance, acceleration, styling, comfort. The 70,000 people today who drive our electric cars are very happy with them."
"The 70,000 people today who drive our electric cars are very happy with them."
It's not just a matter of buying a plug-in vehicle and loving it, Ghosn said. A robust local infrastructure combined with a suitable range are the big factors that play into how happy people are with their EVs, he said. Basically, if you have range (or charging everywhere), then you like your EV. If you worry all the time, you don't.
Of course, having a variety of models can't hurt, either. Ghosn said Nissan will have more electric models coming but, for now, Nissan and Renault approach EVs in their own way. "Each company is going to have a different strategy," he said. "Nissan preferred not to have cars which are not gasoline engines transformed into electric cars. And Renault said, "I am going to move directly with these cars first: Fluence, Kangoo. Nissan said I'm going to start with the Leaf which exists only as an electric. The Zoe and Twizy exist only as electrics, and from time to time having different strategies is not so bad. You don't need to put all your eggs in one basket and have the same strategies just because you are allied. You can test different solutions and different approaches, as long as you share basic elements."
"You don't need to put all your eggs in one basket."