Global sales of the Nissan Leaf rose 22% last year but that’s still about half of what it had targeted.
In a bid to give the electric car a jump start, Nissan has announced an 18% cut in the price in North America after beginning local assembly and improved the range compared with the 2013 model.
Chief executive Carlos Ghosn wants to increase sales by 20% this and believes that a new base price of US$28,800 could result in transaction prices as low as $18,000 with federal and state incentives factored in.
The company can now afford to drop the price following the start of production at Smyrna in Tennessee where the batteries and electric motors are also made.
The lack of a recharging infrastructure remains a problem but the latest Leaf features a beefed up charging pack which allows the battery to be replenished within four rather than eight hours.
Nissan also has volume aspirations with the revival of the Datsun brand for low cost cars in emerging markets. The company globally has about 6% of the overall market, and a profit margin of about 6%. Its Power 88 programme aims to raise both to 8% by 2016.
In the US it wants that share to be around 10% by 2016 which Ghosn considers a legitimate return on its investments there. Last year its share was 7.9%, down from 8.2% in 2011.
Ghosn described this as a “hiccup,” and predicted share would increase this year.
Nissan will launch a Datsun vehicle in India at the end of this year, and in early 2015 Renault and Nissan will introduce a new platform for low-cost cars in emerging markets.
Ghosn said: “Dacia is a low-cost car in Europe, but in India it is in the middle of the market.”
Nissan sold 4.9m units around the world last year, short of its 5m target as fourth quarter sales in China stalled when consumers spurned Japanese brands because of a dispute between their country and Japan over the ownership of several islands in the Pacific Ocean.