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Nissan says it has 56,000 Leaf preorders in U.S. alone

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Nissan says it has 56,000 Leaf preorders in U.S. alone

03/04/2010, 2:02 PMBY MARK KLEIS

While speaking at the Geneva Auto Show, a confident Carlos Ghosn, Nissan-Renault alliance head, spoke of the coming year and his planned dominance of the EV market. Ghosn pointed to competitors speaking of concept cars, while he has a tangible product that he believes will have no competition in the market.

As it stands now, Nissan is essentially a non-player in the hybrid and eco-conscious markets, having only one borrowed hybrid drivetrain from the Toyota Camry hybrid for its Altima sedan. But Carlos Ghosn has a tangible plan and product planned to help change the face of Nissan across the global markets – especially in the U.S. where having eco-alternatives is essentially a requirement for success.

“What I am sure is that in 2011, I am going to be the only one on the market,” Ghosn said, regarding a pure EV with mass production capability.

“Frankly, I mean so far there is no competition,” Ghosn told a group of reporters at the Geneva Auto Show Wednesday. “Let’s be serious. It’s not because someone is coming with a prototype and one car that this is competition. The question is how much capacity are you building.”

Ghosn said Nissan will become the only major player to be responding to demand on any scale, with Mitsubishi’s figures being much smaller. Ghosn also cited that only 3,000 or so of the 200,000 million cars currently on the road in the U.S. are electric vehicles, and he believes that will change to 10 percent, globally, in 10 years.

Nissan’s Leaf, its first in-house electric vehicle of any kind, will begin production at the end of 2010, and should enter large-scale mass production by 2012. Nissan has planned capacity of 500,000 annual units of its Leaf between the U.S. market, Europe and Japan. Ghosn said that it has already accumulated 56,000 orders in the U.S. alone – with public ordering to begin in Europe and Japan soon.

In Europe, the French government has already ordered 100,000 battery-powered cars, and the start-up Better Place has ordered another 100,000 to be delivered over several years. Better Place plans to allow users to swap in freshly charged batteries at a network of stations in Israel and Denmark.

“The numbers are big,” Ghosn said. Ghosn also went on to explain that Nissan won’t make further investment into additional capacity for Leaf production until it can gauge market reaction. Ghosn also suggested that some of the otherwise unsustainable high-cost jobs in Europe may be savable with Leaf production.

Ghosn also briefly answered questions regarding the possibility that the automaker may be in talks with other automakers, namely Daimler, in regards to possible platform and technology sharing, but stopped short of confirming the talks. “The name of the game is scale and co-investment and sharing technologies. There are a lot of talks and we don’t communicate before we reach agreement because sometimes these talks collapse,” said Ghosn.



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