Nissan pushes electric cars, a lot of them

Posted by: David Welch on April 8, 2009

Ready or not, here come the electric cars. Nissan Motor has said that it will build an electric car in 2010, and the company has several more coming after that. In fact, Nissan and partner NEC are tooling up a plant to make enough battery packs for 53,000 electric cars a year in the next decade, Nissan North American Executive Vice President Carlos Tavares told me at the New York Auto Show. “One day zero-emission vehicles will be the cost of entry,” Tavares said.

One day, maybe. But right now with gasoline being so cheap in the U.S., hybrids and other thrifty models aren’t selling so well. Even though Nissan can make more than 50,000 EVs a year, the company has no idea how many it can actually sell. “What sales will be, I don’t know,” Tavares said. “It depends on the consumer.”

That’s the tough quandary carmakers are in. They have to invest in fuel economy, hybrids and advanced electric batteries. But no one really knows how well the cars will sell. But Tavares says all carmakers have to push ahead with the technology to meet future fuel economy regulations and because eventually there will be demand for efficiency. A global recession has pushed oil prices down. “When the economy comes back, oil prices will rise again,” he said. Maybe then, green will be red hot.

Reader Comments

Tom

April 9, 2009 9:26 AM

Ah, yes - the gas guzzlers lame argument. Just because gas prices are low at this moment in time makes rolling out electric cars a bad idea right now? Please - use your head! Toyota rolled out the Prius when gas prices were low also - and they got a HUGE, almost insurmountable lead on the US with hybrids. The Japanese put out small, highly efficient cars when gas prices were low and its serving them EXTREMELY well. And now you're disparaging Nissan for trying to get ahead of the electric car curve?

I'll give you an answer to your previous question in the blurb you wrote about Hyundai's minivans and how we got to that point. - Because of stupid thinking like yours that doesn't look to the future and tries to protect the status quo as much as possible. Glad you're not in control of the Big 3, but honestly with your mindset, you really wouldn't be able to tell the difference between you and current GM management.

CanadaMark

April 9, 2009 2:38 PM

Tom is correct! the 'Little3' are mostly in the spot they are (possible Ford exception) due to a complete lack of foresight, just look at the GM Aveo as an example of how to make no investment in the future and be left with no even vaguely competitive product. Our family is ready to replace our 2001 Echo and an all electric city car is the perfect answer, but it won't be from GM or Chrysler.

Paul

April 10, 2009 12:00 PM

"But no one really knows how well the cars will sell" Of course not! No-one knew how well VCRs or 42" LCD TVs would sell either before they hit store shelves but some companies are simply smarter than others.

If NEC, Panasonic, Toshiba, LG and Samsung etc are all placing billion dollar bets on EV batteries... do you see these companies placing stupid bets?

Once your average driver hears that their neighbors EV costs 1/10th the cost of running their gas guzzler... they won't be able to make enough EVs to keep up with demand for years to come... it's no joke!! 50,000 EVs a year will hardly make a dent!

GM

April 10, 2009 12:50 PM

GM would have been a leader in EVs if not for those vision-less and cowardly "Executives." who killed off EV1. Will GM finally start to envision the future and not just blindly got the nose lead by profit margins? Game is almost over... Is the lesson learned?

Paul (Vw)

April 10, 2009 7:37 PM

>>> That’s the tough quandary carmakers are in. They have to invest in fuel economy, hybrids and advanced electric batteries. But no one really knows how well the cars will sell.

I think this is where government could step in and provide a degree of certainty. Instead of choosing who or who is not CEO of GM, the government could do more good by creating market conditions which directly affect consumer preferences.

Set a basement level for gas prices which make fuel efficient cars desirable. Say, $3 a gallon (as a result of increased taxes). Then offset the increased tax revenues with tax cuts/rebates (favoring the more income disadvantaged). The government has to have tax revenues no matter what, we might as well gather them in such a way to provide car makers with more predictable consumer demand (with regards to fuel economy). And greater fuel economy will further depress global oil prices...meaning greater government gas-tax revenues.

Then again, I can't balance my checkbook...so what do I know?

David Welch

April 13, 2009 9:59 AM

David Welch here. I'm BusinessWeek's Detroit bureau chief and writer of this blog post. Please check out the comment from Paul (Vw) who makes a great point. Regular readers may recognize that Paul and I have tussled on a few occasions. Here he hits it right on the head.

Tax gasoline and consumers will pay more for efficient technologies, thus giving carmakers a clearer view of how they should invest their R&D and new-product dollars. There's another benefit. If the government taxes fuel and then drops income taxes for lower-income taxpayers, then those consumers will use the freed up income to purchase less gasoline (since they'll probaby be driving something more efficient) and buy something else. Since we import most of our oil, there's a better chance that the other goods those buyers purchase are American made. This could be reade deficit poisitive.

thevoice@voicedup.com

April 14, 2009 12:23 PM

BYD, the worlds largest automaker?
Warren Buffett believes their chances are good. BYD sells electric
cars in China and in October became the bestselling vehicle in China,
surpassing Toyota Corolla and Volkswagen Jetta. With companies such
as BYD emerging current car companies will have a difficult time
competing.

hsr0601

April 18, 2009 6:20 PM

New Toshiba Battery Recharges In 90 Seconds, Faster Than Gas Pump

mattias

November 10, 2009 10:53 AM

good very good

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Want the straight scoop on the auto industry? Our man in Detroit David Welch, brings keen observations and provocative perspective on the auto business.

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