SIX months have gone by since Nissan announced that it will sell the Leaf EV electric car in Thailand, but the company has yet to finalise the official launch period for the new model.
Stating only that the Leaf will be launched “within fiscal year 2018” (ending in March next year), Nissan has already exhibited its latest electric vehicle (EV) at two major motor shows – the Thailand International Motor Expo in December last year and the Bangkok International Motor Show last month.
Nissan Motor (Thailand) Co Ltd (NMT) president Antoine Barthes told Thai media at the company's mid-term press conference yesterday that Nissan is trying to educate not only its own customers but also the general public about the EV technology and lifestyle, before the official market launch of the Leaf.
Asked whether Nissan is waiting for the right timing and market environment, Barthes agreed, saying that Nissan has been working hard in educating the public about EVs at the two motor shows. The company has received a promising response from prospective customers, he said.
He said many Thai consumers are willing to purchase an EV, even at higher retail costs than comparative models running on traditional internal combustion engines (ICEs).
“According to a regional survey on EVs by Frost and Sullivan that includes Thailand, as much as 44 per cent of Thais interviewed said they are willing to consider purchasing an EV even if the retail price is 50 per cent higher than conventional ICE vehicles,” he said.
Nissan is working hard to grow its market share in Thailand, after being knocked from the No 3 position by Mazda - a much smaller automaker that has enjoyed tremendous growth in recent years thanks to highly attractive products - in the passenger car market.
But after being lambasted by Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi chairman Carlos Ghosn during a visit to Thailand in April last year as being “not good enough” in its performance, NMT lost little time in clawing back 1.3 percentage points of market share to finish 2017 with a 6.9 per cent share.
Barthes said that in the mid term, Nissan wants to raise its market share to figures in the double digits.
Significant growth is expected later this year with the planned introduction of the Terra, a PPV (pickup passenger vehicle) based on the Navara 1-ton pickup truck. Nissan and Mazda were the only major pickup producers in Thailand to not offer a PPV model, and over the years its executives had always denied any plans to build one.
But the Terra project has finally come to life, with the PPV launched in China this year. Thailand, already the global production centre of the Navara, automatically qualifies as a production and export site of the Terra.
Production of the Terra is expected to help drive up Nissan's total output in Thailand. Barthes said Nissan will increase its production in Thailand this year by 23 per cent, but did not specify from which model range.
Barthes said Nissan expects the Thai auto market to grow at an average of 5 per cent a year over the next five years, with 950,000 vehicles to be sold in fiscal 2018 (April 2018 to March 2019).