business / retail

Nissan is in no mood to go nice and slow with electric vehicles

Japanese carmaker is taking a big bet on electric and Ariya SUV in comeback bid

Nissan is staking quite a bit of its future on the all-electric Ariya SUV. Arriving in showrooms in Japan mid next year, the model has a claimed range of 480 kilometres or thereabouts.
Image Credit: Nissan
Business Editor

Dubai: Nothing will be gradual when it comes to chasing change at Nissan any longer. For the Japanese carmaker – battling the biggest financial crisis in its history – now is the time to go all in, all out.

This will be the approach it takes with the electric vehicle project, now centred around the Ariya SUV unveiled in July, and which will reach showrooms in Japan and North America next year. Prices would be from $40,000. And the range comes to a quite impressive 480 kilometres or so.

But this is not just another electric vehicle launch for Nissan – the times will not let it be. Not when it recently reported losses of $6 billion plus and still working on ways to distance itself from a Carlos Ghosn shaped past.

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“We don’t create very-limited production vehicles to test the waters - and then perhaps bring them to market gradually,” said Makoto Fukuda, Development Chief Product Specialist at Nissan Motor Co.

“That’s not Nissan - we go straight ahead, as we did by making the (all-electric) Leaf a mass-market vehicle from launch.

“The Ariya is an indicator that the automobile is evolving. When I went to motor shows, I often saw exciting vehicle concepts - but when the production versions came out they looked very normal.

“I wondered why car companies couldn’t make the production version look as exciting as the concept. With the Ariya, we took it from concept to production virtually unchanged.”

Makoto Fukuda, Development Chief Product Specialist at Nissan
Image Credit: Nissan

Pandemic-fuelled

After the COVID-19 struck them from nowhere, global automakers have finally got a marker on what they should be doing to fast-track their EV launches. This reality check applies to all manufacturers not named Tesla.

In recent days, Cadillac and Hyundai unveiled new labels – Lyriq and Ioniq, respectively – to highlight their EV aspirations.

Fukuda, however, won’t be too fazed by the opposition. Apart from the looks, he’s sure that the technology embedded into the Ariya will make it one of the electric frontrunners.

“It showcases all of Nissan’s ‘Intelligent Mobility’ technologies,” he said. “It’s not simply the next all-new EV after the Leaf - it is something entirely new.

“There is often talk about EVs and their 0-to-100 kph time; but actually it’s easy for EVs to achieve good acceleration times. Therefore, I don’t consider being just fast in a straight line to be an intelligent use of power.

“The Ariya is fast in a straight line, but it provides maximum, usable performance in various driving situations, such as on a snowy mountain road or on wet city streets. [The] e-4ORCE (Nissan’s drivetrain) possesses more technology than many of the competitors’ models, despite many of them being in premium segments.

“We wanted to create an intelligent vehicle. Naturally it has intelligent power, intelligent driving, intelligent integration. But to me, Nissan has always been about making cars for drivers.”

Can Ariya do it for Nissan?

Mid next year is when the model starts selling in Japan and followed by the US and Canada. By then the first rush of electric vehicles from legacy carmakers would be hitting the markets, and one can always trust Tesla to keep springing surprises.

The Ariya is “not just a next-generation vehicle from Nissan, but something that brings back that old Nissan DNA that characterized the brand back then (the early ‘90s),” the project chief said. “I want customers to say: “Yes, Nissan did it”, when they see and drive this vehicle.

“I’d like them to see that Nissan has taken the automobile forward… in a future direction.

“The Ariya is the first to feature the latest combination of all of Nissan’s advanced technologies. For example, we have a new HMI system that uses two 12.3-in. screens that we call the “monolith”. You will be seeing this in future Nissan vehicles.

“In the early ‘90s, Nissan produced many interesting models, such as the Figaro, the 300ZX (Z32), the Silvia (S13) and the first-generation Japan-market-only Cima. They were unlike anything other manufacturers were doing.

“You would see them on the road and know they were a Nissan. I wanted the Ariya to bring back the feelings of those cars, especially the Cima. Although it was a luxury vehicle, it gave off a bad-boy attitude; it was a bit edgy and possessed a lot of brashness.”

Getting all those attributes into the Ariya could be just what Nissan needs now.

Nissan Ariya 2
Image Credit: Nissan