The Japanese automaker Nissan Motor plans to invest 2 trillion yen (15.6 billion euros) in the development and production of electric cars over the next five years. The troubled company, which slipped into a deep crisis after the scandal surrounding the former boss Carlos Ghosn, is trying to build on earlier glamorous times with its investments.
Correspondent for business and politics in Japan, based in Tokyo.
A decade ago, Nissan was the first mass manufacturer to bring the Leaf electric car onto the market. But in the registration statistics, Nissan is now just one of many providers of electric cars.
Only 2 per cent of the cars sold by Nissan in the past fiscal year were all-electric cars. Above all, the American manufacturer Tesla has overtaken the Japanese. In the past decade, Nissan has sold more than 500,000 Leaf units. However, Tesla now sells more than 360,000 units a year of its best-selling Model 3.
The leadership of the car company evokes the past
Nissan boss Makoto Uchida conjured up the past on Monday when presenting the “Ambition 2030” strategy. Nissan has a ten-year lead over other manufacturers in the development of electric cars, said Uchida. Investing 2 trillion yen in five years in electric cars is twice what Nissan has invested in technology in the past decade.
Uchida was silent about how Nissan wanted to finance the planned billion-dollar investment. He is certain that Nissan will be able to cope with spending as a growing company. After two years of losses, Nissan expects an operating surplus of 180 billion yen (1.4 billion euros) in the fiscal year ending in March. Uchida reiterated the goal of increasing profitability to a margin of 5 per cent.
In contrast to western manufacturers such as Volkswagen or Mercedes-Benz and Ford or General Motors, Nissan did not set an end date for saying goodbye to the internal combustion engine. By 2030, the company wants to sell more than half of its cars as electric cars globally – with large regional variations: in Europe, it should be 75 per cent and more, in Japan 55 per cent, in China and America 40 per cent.
Customer demand behavior will determine the future of the combustion engine
Like the dominant Japanese manufacturer Toyota Motor, Nissan is betting that customers will decide on the end of the internal combustion engine with their demand. Of the major Japanese manufacturers, only Honda Motor has so far announced that it will switch entirely to electric cars by 2040.
Nissan understands electric cars not only to be battery-powered vehicles but also to their special “E-Power” technology. An electric motor drives the car, while a small combustion engine generates electricity when required. Nissan has been selling this technology so far in Japan, China and other Asian countries and plans to bring it to Europe in the coming year. Uchida said they wanted to research synthetic, environmentally friendly fuels for this drive technology.
However, Nissan focuses on electrification. The company plans to bring 20 new electrified models onto the market by 2026, including nine battery-powered vehicles. By then, Nissan, together with partners, wants to have almost sevenfold its production capacity for batteries to 52-gigawatt hours per year. By 2030 it should be 130-gigawatt hours.