Nissan has a good track record of selling affordable cars globally and in the U.S. Every iteration of the Nissan Leaf has been among the most affordable electric vehicles on sale, while the Japanese Domestic Market Nissan Sakura – an ultra-compact Kei car – has been the best-selling EV there since its launch last year. But the current Leaf is on the way out, and nobody outside Japan should count on Kei cars coming their way. So when does Nissan’s EV lineup become more affordable for everyone else?
Nissan CEO Makato Uchida hosted a media roundtable during the Japan Mobility Show this week, touching on topics that ranged from the company’s continued development of solid-state battery technology to the edgy concept cars (all theoretically electric) that were presented on the show stand. As is often the case when a CEO addresses the media, Uchida’s comments hewed closely to established Nissan messaging and known information, but he did have some interesting things to say about bringing affordable EVs to market.
In Nissan’s home market Uchida believes that products like Sakura will help democratize electrified transportation, and saying, “We can do much much more in Japan [to encourage] EV adoption.”
But short of federalizing Sakura for North America – certainly not in the cards – the company still has work to do if it plans to reach the EV-hungry lower-priced end of the U.S. car market. The Nissan Leaf is still attainable for many families, with prices starting just under $30,000. But the larger and more capable Ariya SUV asks in the mid $40,000 range for the small battery (63 kilowatt-hour), front-drive version and moves up to $60,000-plus for top trims. To that point, Uchida maintained that “Household incomes are getting higher and customers are willing to pay more.”
Yet higher incomes don’t tell the full story. After all, rising interest rates in the U.S. alone have contributed to record-high car prices this year, and more and more buyers are sick of high prices – which is one reason they’re keeping their old cars on the road longer than ever. Those trends aren’t great for EV adoption, the climate, or even Nissan’s bottom line.
There is hope for lower-cost products in the future, however. When pressed about lower priced and smaller cars here in the U.S., Uchida hinted that “We do have a plan.” The CEO said that Nissan has found, “...The cost of EVs are going down more than we expected, and ‘acceptable’ priced EVs are coming to market faster than expected.” Uchida also indicated that the speed to market for less-expensive EVs is “accelerated already.”
Unfortunately, the hopeful sentiments lacked any real product-facing detail. Uchida ended his remarks on the topic saying, “Please wait until we’re ready to make an announcement.”
With Tesla slashing prices at a record clip these days, that announcement is more likely to find an interested audience if it comes sooner rather than later.