Renault and Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn continues to be evangelical about electric vehicles. The problem is, he's preaching to the choir.
Ghosn believes – still – that by the end of this decade, one in 10 cars his companies sell will be electric. While 70,000 customers are happy with their EVs (the Nissan Leaf and more recently the Renault Zoe), they're nowhere near 10 percent of the global automaker's sales. Denmark has been one of the markets where EV adoption was expected to take hold. Three years after introduction, only 73 Leafs have been sold there.
Back in 2009, Ghosn's companies invested $5 billion in EVs in an effort to lead the revolution of this new technology. Today, his strategy remains the same: have EVs on the market waiting for customers to buy them. To that end, Ghosn recently placed his COO Toshiyuki Shiga in charge of EVs, reinforcing the message that Nissan is deeply committed to electrification. The Leaf is now being produced in the US and the UK and the company has made arrangements to build an EV in China as well. That plant will be able to produce 50,000 units a year by 2015, as many as Nissan makes at its Leaf factory in Japan today.
The public still remains skeptical. While the MSRP for the 2013 Leaf dropped by $6,400 and government incentives are available, the price is still too high for many car shoppers. Range anxiety is still there, with charging stations few and far between. Nissan was only about to hit half of its original US sales target in 2012.
Investors are being a bit skeptical as well, disappointed with Nissan's EV sales so far. "When we see this situation of Nissan missing targets in several markets, the atmosphere of trust has begun to deteriorate a little," said Takashi Aoki, a Tokyo-based fund manager at Mizuho Asset Management Co. "As long as Ghosn meets profit targets, investors won't fret."
"As long as Ghosn meets profit targets, investors won't fret."