NISSAN has confirmed it will sell the Leaf electric car in Thailand next year, first as an import from Japan, but later as a locally made model if it gets the right deal with the Thai government.
“Nissan is the first manufacturer to officially announce its intention of offering a mainstream intelligent EV (electric vehicle) in Thailand,” Antoine Barthes, president of Nissan Motor Thailand, said at the global unveiling of the new Leaf in Japan yesterday.
Nissan is now working with the Thai government to strike the right conditions for EVs, he said.
Besides the electric powertrain with a range of 400 kilometres, the Leaf also comes with Pro Pilot, Nissan’s version of autonomous drive, using various sensors including cameras and a sonar.
Barthes told the press in Bangkok last week that Nissan is interested in producing EVs in Thailand, but needs to ensure that they are affordable and that production makes business sense.
Last week Barthes told Thai media that Nissan is interested in electrifying its product range in Thailand, and is seriously looking at possibilities of introducing a series-hybrid version of the Note subcompact.
Nissan became the first carmaker to commercially offer an EV with the first-generation Leaf in 2010.
Pricing of the new model has not been disclosed, with the Japanese version to be available next month.
Hiroto Saikawa, president and CEO of Nissan, told international media that he is confident that sales of the Leaf would double with the new model, and hopes that the figure could even triple.
“Japanese customers like new technologies,” Saikawa said.
The new Leaf could evolve into a mainstream model for Nissan thanks to its eco-friendly and advanced technologies.
“While the first-generation Leaf was considered as a pioneer model, the second-generation model can become one of our core models,” he said.
“We plan to be more aggressive (with marketing) and let more people touch and experience our product.”
Nissan sold 280,000 first-generation Leafs and is the leader in this market, but others are coming up fast, including American brands like Tesla and General Motors.
Nissan hasn’t considered electrification for high-end vehicles, offering the technology only in two other models – the Serena MPV and the X-Trail SUV.
Next year, a premium version of the Leaf will be introduced, offering more power and mileage.