Nissan is biding its time before launching a renewed assault on Australia’s fledgling electric car market, with the next-generation 2018 Leaf green-lit for a local launch.
The second iteration of Nissan’s pioneering EV is expected to premiere in 2017, with the drip-feed of information likely to start trickling out of Japan around April. Given lead-times, an Australian launch in 2018 seems likely.
If concepts are to be believed, and we always take them with a substantial grain of salt, the next Leaf should look a little bit like the slick autonomous IDS concept from 2015, and will naturally sport a much longer range than before.
Reports suggest the next model will come with various battery pack options a la Tesla, with the top version expected to offer a range of up to 550km.
Meanwhile, entry versions will be priced at similar levels to conventional small cars thanks to economies of scale (leveraged by sharing components with the next Renault Zoe and new Alliance Partner Mitsubishi), and government incentives.
We spoke last week with Nissan Australia managing director Richard Emery, who said the company was raring to reboot its EV presence now that a host of rivals are either here (one example being the BMW i3), or coming (Volkswagen I.D and Tesla Model 3).
“We’re absolutely committed to continuing with the Leaf in Australia,” he said, adding that there’s a level of “romantic” appeal here because some of the car’s components are made at Nissan’s Melbourne casting plant.
“… Nissan Japan remains keen to take advantage of our electric positioning in Australia. The Leaf has been out there for a while and though it hasn’t done a lot of volume, it presents as a key player here.”
Nissan has sold 635 Leafs in Australia since 2011, peaking at 188 in 2013. Tiny numbers, sure, but still more than any mainstream rivals.
The original Leaf was years ahead of its time at launch in 2010, taking the mantle of world’s top-selling EV, but in terms of connectivity and battery power, the Nissan has nevertheless fallen behind pricier segment leaders.
Stock of the current car will run out around mid-2017, and Nissan won’t bring the updated version here because of the proximity time-wise to the all-new one.
This new Leaf can be expected to do much better because of the growing maturity of the EV market, and because it’ll be right back at the cutting edge, says Emery.
“Once the newest and greatest is made public really there’s not a lot of appetite for the old car,” he said. “With conventional product you can keep selling the old car in runout once new car arrives [to bargain hunters], but EV demographics, they want the latest piece of tech.
“… The car won’t be isolated, there will be a broader appetite for EV,” he suggested.
Of course, a key element to the global rollout of EVs across the world has been government help. There’s an obvious correlation between places with buyer incentives (tax breaks, government-backed charging points, subsidies) and stronger market penetration. Look to Norway for one example.
Emery has previously been one of many Australian car company executives to criticise to minimal efforts successive governments have played helping the rollout of alternative-fuel cars here. He commented again to us.
“Am I resigned to the fact [we won’t get help]? No, this is an all-in conversation. We have a role to play, but governments need to play a role too,” he argued.
“They’ve already flagged they want to move on CO2 emissions out of the vehicle carpark. They tend to use a ‘stick’ approach and legislate rather than using a ‘carrot’. I don’t see that changing unfortunately, though I think public perception can change that.