The Associated Press March 3, 2010, 1:16PM ET

Nissan ready for electric vehicle offensive

Carlos Ghosn, the head of the Nissan-Renault alliance, isn't impressed with competitors' chatter about electric vehicles. They have concept cars. He has a plan.

Custom carmaker Rinspeed presented an electric city car concept, and Tesla showed its new Model S, which it plans to produce and sell within three years.

Ghosn says a concept car is something short of a viable business plan.

"Frankly, I mean so far there is no competition," Ghosn told a group of reporters at the Geneva Auto Show Wednesday. "Let's be serious. It's not because someone is coming with a prototype and one car that this is competition. The question is how much capacity are you building."

Nissan will begin delivering its zero-emission vehicle, the Leaf, at the end of the year. It plans to begin mass production in 2012, with a planned for a capacity of 500,000 electronic vehicles in Japan, Europe and the United States. The car uses a lithium-ion battery, which Nissan is producing in a joint venture.

As a result, Nissan will be the only player able to respond to demand on any scale, he said, saying the numbers planned by Mitsubishi are much smaller.

"What I am sure is that in 2011, I am going to be the only one on the market," Ghosn said.

Ghosn said he already has 56,000 orders for the Leaf in the United States, and they will begin taking orders soon in Japan and Europe. On top of that, he expects fleet orders for taxi companies, post offices and municipalities. Ghosn said the French government wants 100,000 of government vehicles to be electric.

"The numbers are big," Ghosn said. But he said Nissan won't build in more capacity until it can gauge the reaction of the market. The electric vehicle's potential could help save jobs in high-cost production countries in Europe, he said.

Nissan believes that 10 percent of global auto market will be fully electric in 10 years. Ghosn said at the moment there are 3,000 electric vehicles on U.S. roads, out of a total of 200 million vehicles.

"You draw the conclusion. We are going to come with 500,000 globally," he said.

Ghosn declined to discuss the state of any talks with Daimler, saying Renault is talking to many industry players.

"The name of the game is scale and co-investment and sharing technologies. There are a lot of talks and we don't communicate before we reach agreement because sometimes these talks collapse," Ghosn said.


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