Obstacles to selling the next LEAF as a brand-new car haven’t altered, but Nissan NZ will persevere.
EXPECTATION that private importers in pre-owned and parallel-sourced new product will seek to again undermine any chance of the Nissan LEAF being a franchise dealer success has not diminished the distributor’s desire to have ago at selling it.
Nissan New Zealand managing director John Manley has acknowledged that the hostile scenario facing the new model, which Japan recently signed off for New Zealand sale in 2019, is potentially no better than it was for the original car.
Just the second fully electric car to be offered as a New Zealand-new product, the original LEAF was pulled from sale in 2016 by the Auckland-centred distributor after achieving just a handful of sales during a three year push.
Nissan NZ simply could not price to meet the threat from used importers, who were able to deliver the same car in mainly used condition with much lower stickers even after a series of price drops for the NZ-new product that ultimately left it costing $40,000 – about double the price of a three-year-old example.
Ironically, the used import LEAF, which generally sources from Japan or the United Kingdom, has become such a success it was the country’s best-selling EV in 2017. Owners are also undoubtedly benefitting from the factory-funded servicing and support network.
NZ is thought to be the only country where this situation occurs; it is also one of the few places seeking to establish an EV following that does not offer Government incentives to promote a shift to battery-first driving.
However, Manley has always said a lack of subsidies was not the reason why LEAF struggled in its first format.
“Our decision was not based on any action, or perceived lack of action, by the Government,” he was quoted as saying in 2016.
And now a new LEAF is coming. Manley would not be drawn into commenting specifically about whether he thought the scenario would be any different.
Likewise, he had no comment about whether or not Japan head office recognised the unique situation that his operation faced and if it was prepared to provide any support to allow NNZ to fight the imports on equal terms.
Instead, he has offered that “NNZ acknowledge that the sale of LEAF in our market is always compromised by the pricing of used units arriving in our country from markets in which EV receive purchase incentives.”
Even so, he continued, “the car is outstanding and we are determined to bring it to NZ.”
He said the car was not available to NZ until 2019 because of global demand. Because of that timeframe it was too early to talk about pricing, specification or sales strategy.
He has previously cited that launch could not be expected until at least the end of the first quarter – so April at the earliest.
“At this point we have not commenced the negotiations to determine available specification and pricing and do not expect to be able to confirm this until closer to launch.”
At least one ex-Japan example of the new car has been delivered to NZ. There’s every likelihood that a significant-sized population might be established even before it reaches the showroom. But that cannot be helped.
“The vehicle was released … in October with the planned roll-out scheduled for Japan, Europe and then the USA. The rest of the world followed on from that point.
“To date Europe and Japan have booked 40,000 forward orders which is extraordinary (as is the car) but obviously is putting considerable pressure on production capacity.”
Manley was at last month’s three-day long Nissan Futures event in Singapore where it was announced that the car will go on sale in NZ and six other markets in Asia and Oceania during the next fiscal year.
Nissan regional senior vice president Yutaka Sanada said in Singapore that his company is working to bring the new generation of the world’s best-selling electric vehicle to as many markets as possible.
“The launch in so many markets shows our commitment to playing a leading role in electrification in this dynamic region, and to delivering the future of mobility to the region now.”
The new LEAF features increased power and range, and improved refinement, comfort and convenience says Nissan.
The car’s new electric powertrain delivers 110kW of output and 320Nm of torque.
Nissan has sold more than 300,000 LEAF cars globally since the model first went on sale in 2010.