Nissan Responds To Fiat’s Criticism of LEAF: “Either you’re committed to it or not”

5 years ago by Jay Cole 21

Sproule Angry, Sproule Smash

What started out as some off the cuff remarks by Fiat at the Los Angeles Auto Show, while promoting their upcoming Fiat 500E (all the car’s details here), has turned into a back and forth battle of the relative aesthetics of the two electric cars, and the willpower of the companies behind them.

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne Is Not Happy About Having To Build EVs, And He Probably Is Not Happy His Head Of Marketing Starting A Mini-War With Nissan Either

While promoting the Fiat 500E, an unfortunate remark about visual pollution was made in reference to another competitor’s vision of the all-electric car.

And while that company was never specifically impugned, it was no secret Fiat was talking about the Nissan LEAF.

Matt Davis, head of Fiat Product Marketing told Bloomberg: “Let’s be honest, ugliness is probably one of the worst forms of pollution. The Fiat 500e proves that you do not have to give up on good looks to deliver an electric car.”

Design of the LEAF has always been a bit of a hot topic with Nissan, as they feel they designed a car that is both acceptable functionally and visually for a global market, so it is not surprising they responded.

In hindsight, starting this verbal war was probably not what Mr. Davis had in mind as Fiat really has no intention of selling this car for profit (or to compete against the LEAF), but rather to simply satisfy strict emission regulations requirements in the US.

Fiat’s CEO Sergio Marchionne himself is not a believer in electric vehicles at all in this early stage, and insists the company will lose up to $10,000 for every car they sell.

2014 Fiat 500e

Simon Sproule, who is Nissan’s Head of Global Marketing Communications, decided that he wasn’t going to take Fiat’s critism lying down, as he retorted with his thoughts on Fiat’s product to Automotive News Europe:

“Let’s face it, Fiat has not shied away from controversial styling themselves,” while noting that unlike the Fiat 500E, the LEAF is a fully functioning car for daily family life. 

“I think we got the balance right.  You’ve got enough uniqueness and visual clues to tell its something different, but it’s still very recognizable as a five-seat hatchback, fully functioning, absolutely competitive with the packaging of the Golf or any other mainstream vehicle.”

Mr. Sproule also said it “disingenuous” for Fiat to criticize Nissan, who has invested billions into making EVs and expanding the charging infrastructure, while Fiat is simply offering a car to appease regulators.

“They chose the smallest vehicle in their range with the least amount of passenger functionality. I don’t think they have the credibility or the hardware to stand behind these kind of statements. Either you’re committed to it or not.”

(AutomotiveNews Europe)

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21 responses to "Nissan Responds To Fiat’s Criticism of LEAF: “Either you’re committed to it or not”"

  1. Schmeltz says:

    I vote that Davis and Sproule go to the mat in a celebrity boxing match at this year’s Detroit Auto show. Bob Lutz could be brought in as the referree and the winner gets commercial bragging rights during the Superbowl.

    Just an idea.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Guilty confession time: I spent more time hunting for a picture of Nissan’s global marketing chief looking angry in front of a LEAF than I did in putting the story together.

      …its all about the priorities

      1. Brian says:

        I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of that labor!

      2. Open-Mind says:

        Now that photo just needs a llama in the background.

        😉

        1. Jay Cole says:

          I’ve had the llamas taking an extended vacation for quite awhile…they may be due for another appearance soon, lol.

      3. Marc Lee says:

        Yes the FrankenSproule bit was very funny.

  2. Open-Mind says:

    They’re both right. Fiat is uncommitted to EV tech, and the Leaf is ugly EV tech.

    1. Brian says:

      Kinda. Except that he said “The Fiat 500e proves that you do not have to give up on good looks to deliver an electric car.” In order to be the one to prove something, there has to be remaining doubt when the 500e arrived on the scene. Personally, if I were Elon Musk, I would also be offended by this statement. Tesla proved this fact years before the Leaf even existed with the original Roadster. So, Mr. Davis, you’re telling me that the Fiat 500e is a better looking car than the Tesla Roadster? Somebody needs to get his head checked!

    2. Brian says:

      P.S. I personally prefer the looks of the ugly Leaf to the very ugly Fiat 500e.

      1. Open-Mind says:

        IMHO, the Leaf is weird-ugly like a possum, while the 500e is almost-cute-ugly like a bulldog. The Tesla Roadster and Model-S are beautiful like a cheetah and stallion, respectively.

        But I don’t like bulldogs either. 😉

  3. James says:

    Fantastic job! – ( I actually thought the guy was looking Sergio
    in the eye and sayin’ “Bring It On Pasta-Boy!” ) lol

    If you were a Photoshop whiz – one of those big head-
    cartoon body deals with the cartoon bodies sporting
    huge boxing gloves would’ve been cute too!

  4. Dave K. says:

    I personally don’t much care for the Fiat, and every time I look at my power bill (driving for 1cent/mile) my Leaf looks more and more beautiful! He’s right, only Nissan, Tesla, GM and maybe Ford are really commited, everyone else is just doing the minimum.

    1. Schmeltz says:

      I thought I remembered reading that as recently as last year Chrysler was testing a group of Ram 1500 pick-ups with PHEV drivetrains. Then, I believe they ran into some problems with the battery packs and no further mention was made. So, I don’t know if that was the only iron Chrysler had in the fire or where they are with the whole EV thing. You may recall back under Cerberus ownership, (in 2008 before the banruptcy) Chrysler rolled out none other than 3 different EV prototypes—an EREV Jeep Wrangler, an EREV T&C mini-van, and an all-electric sports car. Unfortunately not one of the 3 prototypes came even close to being produced. It seems once Fiat took over, or maybe more specifically Marchionne, any plug-in pursuits from this company were canned.
      Does anyone at InsideEvs know of any other EV projects at Chrysler..besides the 500e?

      1. Jay Cole says:

        I think you mean this in regards to the truck/van plug-in fleet with problems:
        http://insideevs.com/chrysler-pulls-plug-in-test-fleet-due-to-fires-battery-cell-upgrade-in-progress/

        While the name is Chrysler/Dodge on the front emblems, it probably should have been the DoE’s, as they really paid for those 130-odd to get made.

        AFAIK, the whole Chrysler ENVI team got let go or re-assigned and they have nothing in the works for the short-term horizon.

        That being said, (and personal opinion only), I think they have something cooking with Fisker, or at least they are contemplating it. Whether that be on a single car, or some kind of equity share I don’t know.
        http://insideevs.com/exclusive-fisker-plans-entry-level-car-to-take-on-chevrolet-volt-general-motors/

        1. Schmeltz says:

          Yes, thank you… I couldn’t specifically remember what was going on with the Plug-in Rams, but you found it.

          If Chrysler or Fiat have nothing else in the oven, (which would be sad if true), then maybe there best bet would be a partnership with a Tesla or Fisker as you mentioned. Either one would be interesting.

  5. evnow says:

    Really, when was the last time visual pollution accelerate climate change ?

    1. Steven says:

      What? You forgot the Edsel already?

  6. James says:

    My Leaf is definitely an ugly car. It’s goofy, but it is spacious inside and has a decent trunk that I can use to pick up people from the airport. Just looked at the Ford Focus, and as much as they are handsome, you lose a ton of trunkspace to their batteries. Telsa is the only company thus far that really knows how to make a handsome production EV that is also roomy and practical. The Fiat is handsome, too, but it’s California dreaming.

  7. Tom K says:

    Ya… Where are the llamas?

  8. Stoaty says:

    What’s with this “Leaf is ugly” BS? All of the women I work with think my Leaf is really “cute”. The Leaf as a chick magnet???

  9. KSNOGAS says:

    Ugly? The other day the teenager at the McDonald’s said it was cute. Given that I was interested in the Aptera, goofy and/or weird and/or ugly doesn’t necessarily apply to my car choices. I love my Leaf.