Conversation tends to drift toward Tesla and its competitors when the topic of discussion turns to electric cars.
That happens because Tesla is a sexy topic. Its cars are fast, beautiful, expensive, and represent some of the most advanced technology in the auto business. Both mainstream and upstart automakers want to compete with Tesla.
Audi and Porsche are scrambling to field a competitor to the Model S, while Karma Automotive teases us with the rebirth of an early EV. But these are all cars that will require an executive salary to afford.
The real money, though, is probably found where very few are currently looking: the mass market.
The most popular all-electric vehicle for sale today is the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf has sold over 180,000 units, while its Renault brethren in Europe ups the tally to over a quarter million. Nissan has sold more electric cars than any other company.
So why isn’t it going after Tesla?
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn doesn’t think the small uptick in sales would be worth the trouble. Instead, he said, “Frankly we are concentrated on the mass market, the core market.”
In the short term, Nissan is likely to prioritize the next-generation Leaf, which is expected in the next year or so and will likely offer a trim with a 200-mile range.
From there we could see an electric crossover, but no official plans have been announced.
I like that Ghosn used the term “mass market” because it opens up a lot of possibility for the Leaf. In its current form, the Leaf is a misshapen oddity that clearly calls attention to itself for being electric. It has a mass-market price, but its design is far from having mass-market appeal.
The next Leaf could change that. If the 2017/2018 Leaf dumps the quirky looks for a more aggressive and mainstream design, while keeping its price in check, sales could skyrocket. If that happens, Nissan could be the company credited with finally making the electric car a household item.
Will Nissan’s mass-market strategy for electric cars pay off?