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USA: Nissan sells 10,000th Leaf in States, ready for next phase of EVs

At some point during the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, Nissan sold its 10,000th Leaf in America. Not bad for an all-electric car that has been on sale for just over a year and is not yet available in all 50 states (this landmark will be achieved by March, though). Brendan Jones, the Leaf’s marketing and sales strategist for Nissan North America, was understandably enthusiastic: “From a Leaf perspective, 2011 was a great year and very positive for the company. [10,000 sales] is more EVs than have been sold in the United States – and 20,000 globally – than all the other OEMs combined throughout the world. So that’s an outstanding achievement.”

This enthusiasm embodies Nissan’s public face about the Leaf and electric vehicles in general, a tone set by Nissan-Renault Alliance chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn. To follow up the Leaf, Nissan and Infiniti will introduce three more EVs in the coming years: the eNV200 van that was on display at the Detroit Auto Show, the Infiniti EV that will be shown in New York later this year and another vehicle. We’ve speculated about this fourth vehicle before, but thought it would make sense to ask Castelli and Nissan spokesman Mark Perry to give us more hints about what we’ll be seeing next. Click past the jump to read more.

According to Perry:

We’re in the mass-market division with the Leaf, a vehicle purpose-built to hit the middle of the mass market. Infiniti is the luxury division and now, a hint toward commercial [indicating the eNV2000, pictured above]. So, what’s left? Well we want to go back into the mass market and figure out what’s the next symbol of our innovation. So we want to maintain our leadership position with zero-emission vehicles, so what do we do next? What we showed in Tokyo were four pretty different concepts. One of those, or a blend, will be the next vehicle. People always say, “Do a sports car.” That’s fun, you can do a sports car, but what does that do for the brand? Some… but is it enough? Do you do an urban commuter car? Yeah, you can do that, but other people are doing that, too. So, it’s finding the next thing. With in-wheel motors, all of a sudden completely different architectures are possible.
This, of course, brought up Nissan’s three Pivo concepts. Perry said that Pivo 3 (pictured below), the most recent one, “was closest to production-capable we’ve done so far.” But, he said, Nissan doesn’t want to signal to the marketplace that EVs have to look that outlandish. “With in-wheel architecture and not having to design around some of the design constraints we have with ICE [Internal Combustion Engine], all of a sudden you can start changing that. But how far do you want to do that the first time?” Not too far, is the answer, argues Perry, so the company’s designers are walking the fine line between what is possible and what can be sold to make sure Nissan’s next EV signals enough change to maintain leadership but doesn’t get too carried away. Perry added, “We’re beyond niche and test markets and playing around. We’ve got billions invested.”


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