Next Leaf likely to look a lot like IDS concept

Next Leaf likely to look a lot like IDS concept

The first of three features examining current and future Nissan brand models took an in-depth look at passenger cars. The second examined crossovers, SUVs and pick-ups. Now, in the final instalment, the focus is on MPVs/minivans, Hybrids, EVs and PHEVs.

MPVs/Minivans

Nissan's smallest MPV is the NV100 Clipper Rio. It is a Suzuki-supplied micro-minivan and was launched in Japan, its main market, in March 2015. The original model is the Suzuki Every, as was the case with the previous generation Nissan NV100 series. A facelift is due in 2020 and a replacement model in 2024.

In the B segment, Nissan has the Note. Production of this tall hatchback/MPV commenced at Nissan Motor's Kyushu plant in August 2012. Japan was the car's first market, sales commencing there two months later.

Build in Mexico commenced in May 2013. This model, which had its regional debut at the Detroit motor show in January 2013, is sold in North America as the Versa Note. It was new for the region's 2014 model year. Meanwhile, the Note went on sale across Europe from September 2013, production at Sunderland having started earlier that month.

The Note Nismo and Note Nismo S were announced by Nissan in July 2014. The standard car is powered by Nissan's HR12DDR engine, while the S is powered by HR16DDE. Each went on sale in Japan, their first market, in October 2014. A hybrid variant was added in Japan in November 2016, timed to coincide with the Note's mid-life facelift (see below). North America's 2017 Versa Note, which was facelifted, premiered at the LA auto show later the same month.

Nissan Europe will not directly replace the Note as the car has not sold well. Production at Sunderland will end later in the second quarter of this year, allowing the plant to build more Qashqais. There may be a third generation Note for Japan but this could well be sold as a series hybrid only.

A larger MPV, which is known by different names in the various lower income markets where it is built and sold, is a seven-seater minivan. The Livina (also known as the Grand Livina and Livina Geniss) had its global debut at the Guangzhou show in July 2006. Chinese build started three months later and local sales began in the November. The platform is Alliance B.

As well as being made at Dongfeng Nissan's Guangdong plant, since March 2007 the vehicle has been assembled in Indonesia, with build in Malaysia added in December 2007. The right-hand drive model offers the choice of 1.5- and 1.8-litre four-cylinder engines and there is a mock-SUV variant, the Livina X-Gear.

Assembly of the Livina/Grand Livina at Renault's Ayrton Senna plant in Brazil, meanwhile, started in late 2008. The Livina went on sale in Brazil in March 2009, offering the choice of 1.6- and 1.8-litre flexfuel engines. Due to low sales in that country, no direct replacement for the Brazilian built model is expected.

In China, where the Livina is available with 1.6- and 1.8-litre petrol engines, there was a facelift for the car in March 2010. At the same time, the Geniss suffix was dropped.

Nissan's local partner started assembling the Grand Livina in Vietnam in April 2010.

The Brazilian-built Livina was first to reveal a facelift (in March 2012) - models built in other markets were updated accordingly. A facelift for the China-made Livina premiered at the Guangzhou motor show in November 2012.

The next Livina/Grand Livina/Livina Geniss is again expected to be aimed at lower income markets. It is due for release in 2018 and should use the Alliance CMF-B architecture.

Another MPV, to be sized between the Livina and Serena, could be built at Mitsubishi Motors' new Bekasi plant in Indonesia. This factory was opened earlier in April but the Mitsubishi compact minivan which will be its eventual main product is yet to be seen.

One of Nissan's most successful models in Japan is the fifth generation of the Serena. It went on sale there in late August 2016. Nissan Motor also supplies a version of the Serena to Suzuki's Japanese market dealers. This was the first model to feature Nissan's autonomous drive technology, ProPILOT. This can automatically control the accelerator, brakes and steering when driving on the highway, in both heavy and flowing traffic.

The Serena, which uses CMF-C/D, is due for a facelift in mid-2019. The sixth generation Serena is expected to be released in 2022 and to use an update of the same architecture.

The NV350 Caravan is one of four large Nissan minivans. This model, announced in Japan in June 2012, was previewed by the NV350, a van prototype which had its global debut at the Tokyo motor show in November 2011.

In September 2013, Mitsubishi Fuso and Nissan agreed a new deal for the former to be supplied with a version of the latter's NV350 van. This agreement extended a strategic OEM supply which includes Mitsubishi Fuso's supply of Canter light-duty truck (payload: 2.0 tons) to Nissan, and Nissan's supply of Atlas F24 light-duty truck (payload 1.5 tons) to Mitsubishi Fuso.

A facelifted model is due out in Japan towards the end of this year, with the next generation NV350 due for launch there in 202.

The Elgrand is another big passenger van which is sold mainly in Japan. The third generation model was launched in Japan in August 2010. Both 2.5- and 3.5-litre gasoline engines are available, as are seven- and eight-seater model variants. A facelifted Elgrand premiered at November 2013's Tokyo motor show and went on sale in Japan the following month. The fourth generation model is due for release in the third quarter of 2018.

Nissan North America's (new for that region's 2011 model year) Quest is a slightly restyled version of the third generation Elgrand and so it uses the front-wheel drive D platform. Build is by Nissan Shatai at its Kyushu works.

Despite being more conventional in its appearance than the controversial 2004-2009 model year Quest, the current one, like its predecessor, has never sold well in what should be a strong market, the USA. It is also available in China but due to it attracting import tax, high pricing has limited its potential. Quest production is likely to be wound up in late 2017 after seven years of production. Nissan North America might at this point withdraw from the minivan segment, or it may instead be planning to take on the Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey with a replacement which is better tailored to the US market. It is also possible that it might give such a vehicle a fresh model name.

Nissan's biggest passenger van is the US-made NV. This 12-seater was announced by Nissan North America in November 2011 but was not seen until the Montreal auto show in January 2012. The NV3500 HD (Heavy Duty) Passenger Van is basically a Nissan NV full-sized van with seating arranged over four rows. The same 4.0-litre V6 and 5.6-litre V8 engines feature.

The NV3500 HD Passenger Van went on sale in North America in March 2012, new for the region's 2012 model year. Its rivals are the Ford Transit, plus the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana twins.

Much to NNA's frustration, the NV has failed to live up to the division's sales expectations. Just 4,533 units were sold in the USA during the first quarter. In the same period, Ford sold more than 42,000 units combined of the E-Series and Transit. 

NNA is expected to release a facelifted NV for the 2018 model year and then replace this model in CY2021 or 2022. The next generation NV should use a modified version of the Titan pick-up's body-on-frame architecture. Production would logically remain at Canton in Mississippi.

Battery electric, Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid passenger vehicles

An A segment/city car EV is believed to be on track for release in Japan first and then for export markets from the third or fourth quarters of 2017. This stems from a statement issued to the media by Mitsubishi Motors and the Renault-Nissan Alliance in November 2013. The companies said at the time that they intend to "co-develop a new small-segment car including a specific electric version that can be sold globally. The basis for this product will be from a jointly-developed 'Kei car' platform of the type popular in the Japanese domestic market. Further details of all products, markets and manufacturing will be announced separately".

MMC is expected to manufacture the small electric model at Mizushima. This is the same plant which builds Nissan and Mitsubishi's Kei mini-vehicles for the Japanese market as part of the NMKV joint venture. Details of the Nissan models were published in part 1.

In the B segment, Nissan now has the Note e-Power, a series hybrid which is available mainly in Japan, where it is built. It was released in the Japanese market in November 2016, timed to coincide with the arrival of the Note's mid-life facelift. Just like in the Chevrolet Volt, the front wheels are always driven by an electric motor. The stored energy in the batteries can be topped up by the car's petrol engine, as is the case with the Volt.

As Nissan Europe will discontinue the Note later in 2017, the e-Power will not be sold in this region, nor will the facelift reach European countries. A second generation Note e-Power is likely to be released in Japan during 2019 as part of a next generation Note range.

In September 2015, Nissan Europe confirmed that Sunderland in the northeast of England would be one of the plants building the future Juke. There should also be a variant with a powertrain similar to that in the series hybrid Note. This is expected to be called Juke e-Power. Drive will be to the front wheels via an electric motor with a back-up combustion engine. Production should commence in 2018, some months after the arrival of the Juke 2.

The Leaf, Nissan Motor's bespoke electric car, is now in the last months of production. Build started at Oppama in Japan during October 2010. This five-door hatchback was launched first in the home market and certain US states the following month. Sales in certain European markets as well as the Canadian province of British Columbia commenced in early 2011, while the Mexican market launch followed in September 2011.

For the region's 2012 model year, Nissan North America rolled the Leaf out to many states and standardised some formerly optional features such as a DC fast charge port. This allows the vehicle to be charged at 480V, reducing the time it takes to recharge the car from a fully depleted state to 80% of capacity in fewer than 30 minutes, Nissan claims.

The original Leaf had laminated compact lithium-ion batteries which stored power of "over 90kW", while the electric motor delivered 80kW/280Nm. Nissan has a battery-making joint venture in Japan with NEC, called AESC.

In June 2009, Nissan North America said that it would build electric cars at Smyrna from late 2012. As well as the capacity for up to 150,000 EVs a year, the Tennessee plant was expanded to manufacture 200,000 battery packs. The battery operation opened in December 2012 and series production of the Leaf commenced during the following month. In July 2011 came news that NNA's Decherd powertrain plant, also in Tennessee, would gain a new assembly line from 2013. This has the capacity to build up to 150,000 electric motors annually for the Leaf.

Confirmation that the Leaf would be built in England, meanwhile, came in March 2010. The car had its regional debut at the Geneva motor show in March 2013, with production starting later the same month. The Leaf is made on the same line which built the first generation Qashqai, and capacity was originally set at up to 50,000 units/annum.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance's European battery cell production plans initially called for a 50,000upa battery plant to be built at Aveiro in Portugal, with the first cells from there due to be ready in 2012. However, in December 2011, Nissan suddenly announced that the project had been suspended. This was no doubt as a result of research showing that the Leaf was unlikely to be a strong seller.

In December 2011, Nissan stated that it was planning to deliver 60,000 units of the Leaf globally in 2012. The target was not met: in February 2013, the firm told the media that it had just crossed the 50,000 mark for global sales. Four months later, Nissan said it had built the 70,000th Leaf. In November 2013, the company stated that it had sold more than 87,000 units of the car globally since December 2010, with the 100,000 mark announced in January 2014.

In November 2012, Nissan launched a mildly facelifted model in Japan. North America's 2013 model year Leaf had the same styling update. This car premiered at the Detroit auto show in January 2013. The 2013 Leaf also had a major price cut to US$28,800. Nissan Europe cut the price of the Leaf in relevant markets too from January 2013.

The 2016 model year Leaf was announced in September 2015. There was a new battery pack, which Nissan claimed meant the range was extended by up to 26% to as much as 250km. The 24kWh battery was retained for the cheaper model variants, while the newer 30kWh pack weighs 21kg more but fits in the same space. The introduction of carbon, nitrogen and magnesium to the electrodes is said to have improved performance, while the change to the cell layout was also claimed to contribute to the gain. The newest battery is covered by an eight year, 160,000km warranty. Since then, there have been no changes for the car.

A second generation Leaf is expected to be revealed to the media in September. An additional bodystyle might feature too: most likely it will be a crossover. Sources claim Nissan is hoping to improve the range of the Leaf to 300km, and 400km for the presumably more expensive crossover.

The IDS concept from the 2015 Tokyo motor show (pictured above) is said by insiders to have given some indication as to the styling direction of the Leaf 2. The architecture will be CMF-C/D.

Nissan sells an electric minivan in many countries. This model, which has various names, started off as the e-NV200 concept, a world premiere at the Detroit motor show in January 2012. This plug-in version of the NV200/Vanette would be built at Nissan Europe's Barcelona plant from some time in the 2013 fiscal year, the company announced in May 2013. The global debut of the production model was at March 2014's Geneva motor show. Production started in May 2014.

The e-NV200 is available as a light commercial van, passenger vehicle and electric taxi. Representing an investment of €100 million in Nissan's Barcelona Plant, as part of a wider €431 million spend on its Spanish operations, the e-NV200 was initially exported to some 20 international markets, including Japan. Just as with the Leaf's introduction, the number of markets rose after the initial launch. In some markets, the model name is e-Vanette or Evalia Electric. Alliance A is the platform. A facelift for all variants is due towards the end of 2017 or early in 2018. A next generation model should appear in 2021.

The X-Trail Hybrid/Rogue Hybrid is the smallest of three Nissan petrol-electric SUVs. The X-Trail Hybrid was announced for the Japanese market in April 2015. It went on sale three months later.

A 2.0-litre ('MR20DD') petrol engine powers this parallel hybrid, in combination with one electric motor. What Nissan terms an 'Intelligent Dual Clutch Control' drives the wheels and regenerates electricity via the motor. One of the two clutches decouples the motor from the engine. This allows EV mode driving at high speeds.

In May 2015, Hitachi Automotive Systems identified itself to the media as the supplier of this model's battery pack. This comprises a module which houses the cylindrical battery cells and a Battery Management System (BMS). The cells manufactured by Hitachi Vehicle Energy are assembled into packs at the Kentucky Plant of Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas.

Nissan Thailand added assembly of the X-Trail Hybrid in November 2015.

Nissan North America added this model for its 2017 model year: while the model name is Rogue Hybrid, this is the same vehicle as other markets' X-Trail Hybrid. The Rogue Hybrid is not available in Canada, nor is the X-Trail Hybrid sold in Mexico.

A next generation model is set for release from the fourth quarter of 2019. Its architecture will be CMF-C/D.

A larger SUV, the Pathfinder Hybrid, has been in production for almost four years now. This petrol-electric version of the FWD-AWD Nissan D platform Pathfinder had its world premiere at the New York auto show in March 2013. It went on sale in the US, its main global market, four months later. Nissan then revealed its Russian-made Pathfinder Hybrid (and Pathfinder) at the Moscow motor show in August 2014.

The model was discontinued in North America at the end of that region's 2015 model year but continues to be available in other markets. St Petersburg is now the only plant which builds it. Given its lack of success, no replacement is expected (non-hybrid versions of the Pathfinder remain in production in the USA and a next generation model is due to enter production at Smyrna in 2019).

Another petrol-electric SUV is the Murano Hybrid. As the US is easily the world's largest market for the Murano, it came as no surprise when Nissan North America stated in January 2013 that its Canton plant in Mississippi would build the replacement model (this commenced in November 2014). The former model's main plant was Kyushu in Japan.

While the standard Murano had its world premiere at the New York auto show in April 2014, there was no word about a hybrid derivative. Less surprisingly, there was no mention of a replacement for the slow selling Murano CrossCabriolet. The Hybrid then turned up later that month as a world premiere at Auto Shanghai, Nissan China stating that it would begin selling the Murano Hybrid "in the summer". Production by Dongfeng Nissan at its Xiangyang plant in Hubei province commenced in August 2015.

The Murano Hybrid uses the same powertrain as the Pathfinder Hybrid. This is Nissan's supercharged QR25DER 2.5-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine. A 15kW electric motor is paired with a compact Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery. The Nissan Intelligent Dual Clutch System (one motor/two clutch parallel system) also features to provide extra torque.

Hitachi Automotive Systems is the supplier of the lithium-ion battery pack. This comprises a module containing the cylindrical cells and a battery management system in a single housing. The cells are manufactured by Hitachi Vehicle Energy.

A facelifted model is due for release in 2018, and then a new generation model should follow in 2021. That vehicle would use CMF-C/D.

The Fuga, a large hybrid sedan, is the twin of the Infiniti Q70 Hybrid (formerly the M35 Hybrid). It went on sale in Japan in November 2010 as a rival for the Toyota Crown Hybrid, though unlike Nissan, Toyota has since then launched its luxury brand in the home market.

Unlike some rivals, the car's transmission is a conventional seven-speed auto (i.e. not a CVT). Electric drive is provided by a single motor sandwiched between the engine and the transmission. Two electronically controlled clutches sit on either side of the motor allowing the engine or the engine/motor combination to be completely decoupled from the transmission.

Nissan says the motor has an output of 50kW (67hp) and 270Nm (200 lb ft) of torque. The system is able to propel the Fuga/Q70 electrically at speeds of up 100kmh (62mph). The engine is a 3.5-litre version of Nissan's VQ V6 modified to run with an Atkinson cycle for greater efficiency.

A facelifted Fuga Hybrid (and Fuga) went on sale in Japan in January 2015. No further changes are expected.

Finally, the largest of Nissan Motor's EVs or PHEVs: the Cima. The fifth generation of this big, pricey sedan is sold mostly in Japan. At launch in May 2012, Nissan set an annual sales target of just 1,000 units.

In July 2012, Mitsubishi Motors launched its own version of the Cima/Infiniti M35L in the Japanese market. It is sold there in small numbers as the Dignity. It was launched at the same time as the Mitsubishi Proudia, which is a version of the Infiniti Q70 (formerly Infiniti M sedan).

  • Nissan Fuga & MMC Proudia: same cars as the Infiniti Q70
  • Nissan Fuga Hybrid: twin of the Infiniti Q70 Hybrid
  • Nissan Cima & MMC Dignity: apart from badges, identical to the Infiniti Q70 L Hybrid

Once Infiniti is launched in Japan as a separate division, the Fuga Hybrid and Cima should be replaced by the next Q70 Hybrid and Q70 Hybrid L respectively. That should happen in 2018. These cars will be rivals for the Lexus LS 500 and LS 500h.

Future model plan reports for other manufacturers can be viewed in the OEM product strategy summaries section of just-auto.com.

Future product program intelligence

Additional data on vehicle lifetime and future product plans, such as model codenames, are available in PLDB from QUBE.