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Nissan CEO abandons ’12 electric vehicle sales target

Washington — Nissan Motor CEO Carlos Ghosn finally admitted the automaker will not meet its sales target for its all-electric Leaf — in another sign of the broad struggle of the electric vehicle industry.

“The forecast we have given ourselves for the year will not be reached,” Ghosn told Bloomberg Television in Mexico City on Thursday.

Despite months of lagging sales, the Japanese automaker has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that it could not double sales in 2012 to 20,000 after selling nearly 10,000 in 2011.

In October, the Leaf also had its best month all year, selling 1,579, up 86 percent from a year ago. For the year, Nissan has sold 6,791 Leafs, down 15.6 percent from this time a year ago.

Nissan sold 9,679 all-electric Leafs in 2011.

In April, Nissan said an executive misspoke when he said the company was not likely to double sales of its all-electric Leaf in 2012.

Ghosn has previously predicted that 10 percent of all vehicles sold by 2020 worldwide will be electric vehicles.

Ghosn told reporters in November 2010 in Washington that the alliance would sell 500,000 EVs a year by the end of 2013. In a video posted last month by the company, the Renault-Nissan now says it is “committed” to sell 1.5 million EVs “cumulatively” by 2016.

Ghosn — who has been far more bullish on EVs than any other major auto executive — said at the New York International Auto Show in March that the company would double sales of the Leaf in 2012 to 20,000. “We’re not worried about it,” Ghosn said then. “I feel very good about this objective.”

Company executives have internally spent months debating how to officially abandon the sales target — even after Ghosn in April publicly affirmed it would meet the target.

As recently as October, Andy Palmer, Nissan’s executive vice president of product planning, said the automaker is not giving up on its plan to double electric vehicle sales, but that sales are not meeting expectations.

Palmer said the company has made some mistakes in how it has marketed the Leaf and has named a new vice president to oversee Leaf sales globally. Nissan and its alliance partner French automaker Renault have invested $5.6 billion in electric vehicles in recent years.


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