Detroit — Once an electric skeptic, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is now the electric vehicle’s most zealous true believer. He says that 10 percent of the global car market will be electric by 2020. He says his company’s coming Leaf EV will go 100 miles on a charge. He says he can make money without government subsidies. He says a lot of dreamy things.
Why? Because he’s dreaming that the Leaf will be Nissan’s Prius — the first all-electric car. How do we know? The Leaf’s chief designer tells us so. “We want to be first on the market,” says Masato Inoue, “and the Prius (business) model is proven.”
So Nissan has staked a claim to be king of the niche. For everyone else, electrics are a necessary, pain-in-the-amps investment to hedge against Big Government emissions edicts.
Take Honda. “We lack confidence” in the electric-vehicle business, Tomohiko Kawanabe, president of Honda R&D, told Bloomberg this week. “It’s questionable whether consumers will accept the annoyances of limited driving range and having to spend time charging them.” He says Honda plans to sell electric cars in the U.S. to help meet California emission rules. “We are definitely conducting research on electric cars, but I can’t say I can wholeheartedly recommend them,” adds Kawanabe
Hardly a ringing endorsement of Nancy Pelosi’s car of the future.
“It’s time for a reality check,” says CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets analyst Kanehide Yahata, warning against MSMers who mistake Ghosn’s niche dream for a larger market trend. He estimates that combined electric and plug-in hybrid sales will account for no more than 1.5 percent of global demand in 2015 due to battery costs.