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Nissan Leaf unlikely to retain $39,990 pricetag

Cost question: Australian pricing and spec is a long way off, but don’t expect the same $39.990 driveaway pricing as before with the new Nissan Leaf.

More powerful Nissan Leaf to broaden reach, but for a cost

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Nissan logo8 Sep 2017

By DANIEL DEGASPERI

THE second-generation Nissan Leaf is unlikely to retain its $39,990 driveaway pricing when it lands in Australia late next year, with the new electric vehicle (EV) set to cop an unspecified price rise despite being no costlier in overseas markets.

At the global reveal of the new Leaf in Tokyo this week, Nissan executives emphasised that while the new EV has scored more power (up 30kW to 110kW) and torque (up 60Nm to 320Nm) and a greater driving range on a single charge (up 150km to 400km), the Leaf would start from ¥3.15 million – or $A36,000.

Increased volume has clearly played a part in Nissan’s decision to keep Leaf pricing steady in its home market, with expectations that the car-maker expected to double or even triple sales of the Leaf there following its October on-sale date.

Down Under, however, the Leaf has been tagged as an important brand builder with qualities that should incrementally grow EV volume in a market without government incentives or widespread battery recharging infrastructure.

Speaking with GoAuto at the global reveal, Nissan Motor Corporation Australia product management general management Chris Shultz insisted that the $39,990 driveaway pricetag was not the true cost of the outgoing Leaf that sold locally.

“$39,990 is a pretty discounted price really, because of overstocks and the situation with the car industry, so I wouldn’t be confident at $39,990 (for the new model),” he explained.

“But we’re still talking about pricing.”

Asked whether the pricetag needed to start with a ‘4’ or could withstand a ‘5’ given that the original Leaf launched in 2011 for $51,500 plus on-road costs, he replied: “I think it just needs to be competitive.

“For us we’re not driven by volume. Maybe mistake isn’t the right word, but we had very aggressive targets for the first Leaf – whereas this one is really about showing our direction.

“It’s actually the conversation we’re having internally at the moment as far as targets go and how many we think (we will sell) per year. (But) what we’re doing is creating a market with Leaf where it’s not going to be a volume-driven game.”

The Leaf managed just 635 sales in Australia across five years, between 2011 and 2016 – an average of 127 units annually. Globally, the original EV has shifted almost 300,000 units across the same period.

Mr Shultz did expect, however, that the new Leaf would reach a broader audience than before, thanks not only to its increased range – which given Australia missed the 250km update made available in overseas markets, moves from 170km to around 400km – but also its greater technology.

Asked to nominate competitors for the Leaf in our market, Mr Shultz said: “I think with this technology and range it’s going to be broader than just EVs.

“We’re starting to get to a point where cost of ownership, as we get to the next few years, it will start making EVs a lot more attractive.”

With Holden ruling out a return of the Volt, or its Bolt sibling, Renault still not having confirmed the Zoe for Australia – although it is becoming likely – and Volkswagen still working on a business case to bring the e-Golf to our shores, it leaves only the $60K-plus BMW i3 and forthcoming Tesla Model 3 as rivals.

Even then, however, he suggested that premium EVs were different to the Leaf.

“Premium in EV is really interesting because they are going to be aiming at different segments as well, from a size perspective slightly different customers,” Mr Shultz said.

In addition to offering higher outputs and greater driving range, the Leaf does employ premium driving technologies such as semi-autonomous driving at freeway speeds, and automatic park assistance technology that can take control of the steering wheel, throttle and brakes – rare features in any current vehicle.

Despite no movement from the federal government relating to the creation of infrastructure or incentives for buyers of EVs, Mr Shultz said he also believed that the market was shifting naturally in ways that should help the Leaf.

He said government and fleet buyers will become a target audience that already looked at total costs of running vehicles over an up-front purchase price: “We’re talking about now government and state mandating a certain percentage of their fleet has to be EV, or green, so I think it (buyers) will start to broaden out a bit.

“It’s not just about purchase price, it’s about cost of ownership. I know maybe that’s not where things have been in the past, but with EV things do need to change a little because it does become a different proposition when you talk about cost of ownership.

“Fleets are interested in cost of ownership, they’re not interested in up-front price. They want to know what the cost of ownership price is, what the retail price is, so I think there’s a target market there and as people start to see those on the road and see the cost is not just this initial price, I think it will change perceptions.”

Mr Shultz further revealed that Nissan Australia had conducted research that showed Australians drive between 500km and 600km per week on average, while taxis drive around 350km per day – both in the ballpark of Leaf’s range.

“Where the market for us is going to change a little bit is the thing about EV is perception, and if you’re not paying for fuel over five, six or seven years, the cost of ownership starts to look quite good,” he added.

Asked if there was hope for federal government interest in EV infrastructure or incentives, Mr Shultz said: “They have now got more manufacturers (producing EVs), they’ve for the Electric Vehicle Council that will really start pushing (and) the government itself are going to have to look at ways of incentivising it.”

Regardless of the local outlook, however, Mr Shultz said he believed that in future global regulations will make engineering internal combustion engines (ICEs) more expensive while EVs will become cheaper.

“If you look at Euro 6 emissions regulations for Europe, diesel is getting harder to meet the regulations, so over the next few years there will be some changes,” he added.

“Emissions regulations (are) going to increase the price of ICEs, so the price (of petrol, diesel and EVs) is going to come together in a few years anyway.”

The Nissan Leaf will continue to be produced in Oppama, Japan, and is expected to arrive in Australia in late 2018.

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