Nissan plays safe with new Leaf
Nissan Australia will target government and corporate fleet buyers with its new secondgeneration Leaf electric vehicle, but is not expecting a huge uptick in sales volume compared with the original model until there is sufficient charging infrastructure in place across the country.
Set to hit Australian showrooms in late 2018, the new Leaf hatch is likely to be priced at about the $50,000 mark – a leap over the $39,990 driveaway price of its predecessor but closer to its original launch price of $51,500 plus on-roads – with the variant lineup, specifications and official pricing to be confirmed closer to launch.
The new Leaf is already proving to be a sales success in its home market, with more than 9000 orders placed since it went on sale in Japan in early October.
Nissan Australia general manager of corporate communications Karla Leach told Goauto the company would actively seek out fleet business for the new Leaf.
“We think that fleet probably comes in lots of different iterations,” she said.
“Fleet potentially is local government, state government and also larger corporates that have a corporate social responsibility policy as well as smallto-mid-size fleets that want to make a more conscious decision about the vehicles they buy.”
Ms Leach said Nissan was not anticipating a huge increase in sales compared with the first-generation Leaf, given the low take-up of EVS and lack of charging infrastructure.
In Australia, Nissan sold 635 examples of the Leaf in its five years on the market. It was discontinued earlier this year after launching in 2012 – but globally Nissan has shifted 280,000 units, making it the world’s bestselling full-electric vehicle.
“Based on the current market in Australia and the regulatory environment, I don’t think it is probably fair to say that we expect a big uptake because something needs to change for that to happen – a fundamental shift,” Ms Leach said.
“And it is not only us that is saying that, it is most manufacturers.”
Ms Leach said the company was nonetheless in a better position to bring the Leaf back to Australia, with shifting consumer attitudes, industry changes such as electricity companies getting on-board with home recharging units and improvements to the new model, such as more refined styling and better battery performance.
Nissan Motor Corporation chief vehicle engineer for the Leaf, Hiroki Isobe, said the shift to a more conventional design for the second genera- tion was a strategic move to appeal to a wider buyer group as the company wanted to target more than just early adopters.
“This time, our styling designer tried to express its performance, with a low and wide dynamic feel, rather than the futuristic style,” he said.
“And also, since the battery performance has improved, customers will choose the Leaf because they have less anxiety about the range.”
Nissan’s executive vice-president for global marketing and sales, zero-emission vehicles and the battery business, Daniele Schillaci, added buyer satisfaction for the Leaf was higher than other Nissan models.
“Satisfaction with this product probably the best,” he said.
“We have statistics where in all of our line-up, we have customer satisfaction with the products, which is good, but with Leaf it is simply outstanding.”
Nissan Australia is in the process of determining whether all dealers in its network will sell and service the Leaf, but Ms Leach said this was complicated by the level of staff training required for the EV tech and infrastructure investment at dealerships.
The company is also looking into offering a home charging system, potentially bundled into the price of the car, but this is yet to be confirmed.
Nissan is also in the process of developing a wireless charging system that will start to roll out in 2020.
The Leaf uses a carryover version of the EV platform that underpinned the previous model, but with improvements to the battery pack that have increased the driving range to 400km, up from 170km in the previous Australian-spec car.
Nissan does not think the new Leaf will sell in its thousands in Australia but is confident of pulling in new buyers this time around. Given it does not look as sci-fi as the previous car it should stand a better chance of appealing to the public than the original. is
EASY BEING GREEN: Nissan has taken a deliberately conservative approach to the design of the Leaf to ensure it appeals to more buyers.