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Nissan exec challenges Tesla, pushes Leaf ‘advantages’

Leaf green: Nissan is insisting its new-generation Leaf will be more than just an electric vehicle (EV), but instead adopt a more holistic approach to alternative energy transportation.

Leaf aims for mainstream, yet becomes a more advanced Nissan: exec

Nissan logo12 Sep 2017

By DANIEL DeGASPERI in TOKYO

NISSAN Motor Corporation (NMCo) has shifted its new Leaf design and marketing tactics with the focus moving towards broader virtues intended to better challenge both internal combustion-engined rivals and EV models from Tesla.

Speaking at the reveal of the new Leaf in Japan last week, NMCo executive vice president Daniele Schillaci said while the new model broadens its reach with autonomous driving and connectivity as well as EV technology, the likes of Tesla still lack the expertise of the Japanese car-maker when it came to producing EVs.

“When the Nissan Leaf first premiered, our competitors said we were crazy,” he said of the original-generation model that was released in 2010.

“Now almost every automaker is following our lead. They are now discovering what Nissan has known for a long time – that electric vehicles will drive the future of our industry.

“I welcome them to the EV game (because) when they deliver good products to the customers it makes us all better. But when it comes to the experience, the technology and the reliability of our EVs, Nissan stands head and shoulders above all others.”

In a clear attempt at reasserting its position as a producer of EVs in the seven years since the first Leaf launched – over which time the BMW i3, Chevrolet Bolt, Tesla Model S and Model X, Volkswagen e-Up! and e-Golf among others have come to market – Mr Schillaci reminded the media that the first Leaf has basically been fault-free since its launch.

“We have two key advantages that our competitors like Tesla don’t,” he outlined.

“First, the Nissan Leaf is the world’s best-selling EV. Why is this important? Because we collect more information and have more experience to make the new Leaf even better.

“We also have 84 years of history designing, engineering and building cars. So while it’s easy to introduce more technology that gets the headlines, it’s harder to engineer it with the precision, the economics and the safety that makes our customers’ lives better.

“Consider the facts – nearly 300,000 Leafs have been sold, which makes it the best-selling EV in the world Nissan Leafs are sold in 49 markets, and Nissan Leafs have driven more than 3.5 billion kilometres without any critical battery incidents. The record of quality and reliability of our EV battery technology is simply unmatched.”

However, the replacement for the original Leaf also ditches its unique look within the Nissan line-up to adopt a corporate V-Motion grille and boomerang-shaped headlights shared with most models in the Japanese car-maker’s range.

Mr Schillaci said that it was reflective of the new Leaf becoming tagged inside the company as “more than just an EV”. Also, Japanese sales are expected to double – or triple – with the new model as it gains greater mass-market appeal.

In the time since the original Leaf launched, autonomous driving capability and smartphone (and in the case here, home and electricity grid) connectivity had become important enough for Nissan to launch the new Leaf as also a leader in these areas, the executive vice president asserted.

“Sure, it’s driven by an all-electric zero emissions powertrain, but to call the new Leaf only ‘just an EV’ does not tell the full story of the ingenuity behind this vehicle,” he said.

“Nor does it represent its massive potential. While an EV is an exciting technology, it is not enough to move people to a better world. To do that you need a bigger vision and a broader strategy. You need a vision that considers EVs as part of a larger package of ingenuity which delivers an exciting drive (and) an enhanced ownership experience. That’s why the new Leaf is not only an EV.”

Autonomous and driver assistance technologies fall under the banner of Nissan Intelligent Driving and include hands-free driving at freeway speeds for a brief period of time with the active cruise control and steering wheel-mounted Pilot button engaged. The Leaf can also park itself without the driver using steering wheel, throttle or brakes.

Intelligent Power, according to Mr Schillaci, “makes the drive more exciting but also cleaner and more efficient – this includes zero emissions and electrification technologies”.

Meanwhile, a third “pillar” of the strategy dubbed Intelligent Integration, means that “our customers will be able to actively manage their own energy consumption”.

When local area power supply is high, the Leaf can connect with an electricity supplier when housed in its garage and briefly use its battery to offset spikes in the power supply using its stored energy – owners will be paid money for this, but the energy taken is minimal and is almost immediately returned.

Via a Nissan Connect app, Leaf owners can also program the vehicle to recharge at certain times, or actively communicate when power supply is at its most affordable and only recharge its batteries then.

Although the likes of autonomous driving and EV technology have become Tesla hallmarks, Mr Schillaci insisted that only the new Leaf was able to deliver the three above pillars in the one package.

“The new Leaf takes our EV leadership to the next level,” he continued.

“While many of our competitors focus on only one of these pillars, the new Nissan Leaf allows our customers to experience intelligent driving, power and integration all at once.

“Nissan is not just a dreamer, we are a doer – and this is reflected in our EV leadership. The new Nissan Leaf has the most technology and the widest reliability among all EVs in the market. The Nissan Leaf continues to be a true mass market leader.”

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