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.
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.
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."