CEO behind Leaf and Nissan's early electric push says current EV plan is timid

Carlos Ghosn, the former Nissan CEO who oversaw the launch of the Leaf and was later arrested for alleged financial misconduct, has resurfaced with some harsh criticism of automakers’ current EV plans.

In a nearly two-hour interview first noted by Automotive News, Ghosn lays into plans from Nissan and established automakers, calling their plans to expand production of electric cars timid and claiming the industry’s current leadership lacks vision.

Automakers are clinging to the internal-combustion engine, Ghosn said, claiming this is why the stock market has made Tesla the most valuable automaker by far despite its tiny market share. The market is betting on electric cars, and established automakers just don’t understand that, Ghosn said.

2011 Nissan Leaf

2011 Nissan Leaf

Ghosn was credited with turning around Nissan and its alliance partner Renault before his arrest and subsequent escape from Japan to Lebanon. During his tenure, Ghosn managed the launch of the Nissan Leaf, setting ambitious sales goals that weren’t met. But by making one of the first commitments by a major automaker to sell a modern EV, Ghosn styles himself as an electric-car pioneer on the same level as Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

“We were the two first people betting on electric cars,” he said.

Ghosn devoted plenty of time to criticizing his former employer, claiming the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance is now “a disaster at all levels.” He said Nissan has regressed to the state it was in before he took over as CEO in 1999 when, as Ghosn sees it, the automaker followed rival Toyota rather than charting its own course.

2023 Nissan Ariya

2023 Nissan Ariya

Nissan passed 500,000 global Leaf sales in 2020 after 10 years on the market. Under Ghosn, Nissan originally aimed to achieve 500,000 EVs sales by 2012. Nissan has lowered the price of the 2022 Leaf as it prepares to launch a new spread of EVs. The automaker announced earlier this year that it’s targeting 40% battery-electric models by 2030.

The Nissan Ariya crossover is scheduled to start deliveries next year, and the automaker recently unveiled several concept vehicles showing a glimpse at its next steps—perhaps including a Leaf successor.

Nissan also been reportedly considering a compact electric pickup, one that might also have been hinted at by another recently unveiled concept.

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