Nissan CEO: Easily More Than 1 Million Electric Cars On US Roads by 2015

Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn making remarks at the US unveiling of the Nissan LEAF.

(Photo: Nick Chambers)


Back on the campaign trail last year, President Obama set a goal of having 1 million plug-in hybrid and electric cars on US roads by 2015. Since the campaign promise, the Obama administration has made available billions of dollars for the development of plug-in hybrids, electric cars, and smart energy grids—mostly for the ultimate goal of actually reaching 1 million plug-ins on the road by 2015.

Last Friday, at the Los Angeles unveiling of the upcoming Nissan LEAF electric car, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn indicated that the president’s goal of 1 million electric cars was quite obtainable, in fact he said that number will be easily surpassed.

“We’re not saying we’re launching ‘electric cars,’ we’re saying we’re launching ‘affordable electric cars’—which is completely different,” remarked Mr. Ghosn. “You can go buy an electric car today at $100,000 or $50,000, but that’s going to be a leach. Who’s going to buy an electric car at $50,000 or $100,000? I would like my neighbor to buy an electric car, but I don’t want to buy an electric car with such a premium. The only way you’re going to mass market electric cars is by offering zero emissions as a free premium.”

If the car makes economic sense, he continued, and the zero emissions comes as a free premium, there is “absolutely no reason that you won’t have much more than 1 million electric cars in the United States before 2015. ”

In the past Nissan has made forecasts that by 2020, 10 percent of the car sales in the world will be zero emissions. For those statements, the company was heavily criticized as being overly optimistic and bullish. But Mr. Ghosn responded by saying, “Zero emissions technology is going to become much more popular than we think.”

“We made surveys in Japan, in western Europe and in the United States asking people a very simple question: ‘You have a choice for your next car between an electric car, a plug-in hybrid, a hybrid, a clean diesel, and a gasoline internal combustion car; what will you select as your first choice?’ Eight percent of people in the United States say today that the electric car comes first,” said Ghosn. “There is an appetite, there is a spontaneous demand for something that would represent a breakthrough from the past and would ensure for the consumer that when he buys a car and drives a car the guilt of emitting is completely dissociated from the pleasure of driving.”

While I’m not a big believer in the accuracy of results from surveys, Nissan’s claims certainly seem like they may have legs. For a company of Nissan’s size to devote this much energy and time to the development and marketing of electric cars indicates that they’ve done loads of market research. I’m still not convinced that there will be “much more” than 1 million electric cars on US roads by 2015, but Nissan makes some persuasive arguments. Your thoughts?

Disclaimer: Nissan provided transportation and accommodations for the author’s travel to Los Angeles

Nick Chambers

Not your traditional car guy.