The Chinese government is currently aiming to have at least 5 million electric cars on its roads by the year 2020 — largely as a means of cutting down on the country’s very high levels of air pollution. Unsurprisingly, this stated goal looks like a giant money sign to many auto manufacturers — as the country offers very substantial incentives to electric vehicle buyers.
The CEO of Renault-Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, recently commented on this matter, revealing that the company has high hopes for the Chinese electric vehicle (EV) market — especially as it pertains to low-cost cars that could appeal to the broad demographics unwilling to plop down the cash for luxury EVs, like those on offer from Tesla currently. Or even the much-lower-cost Nissan LEAF, for that matter.
Ghosn commented: “The Nissan LEAF is sold in China. It is a very nice car but it is selling a few hundred per month. We envision much bigger (sales) than that. We know price is a handicap. For me the solution will be a very cheap electric car.”
Going on: “Obviously, however, with very low performance you can manage that. So the question is, what is the best compromise between an acceptable performance and the lowest price possible? This is something that doesn’t exist today and we are willing to find a solution. I bet there is going to be a lot of development work on very affordable electric cars.”
Our sister site Gas 2 provides more context and quotes:
Chinese regulations make it essential for foreign companies to build their cars in China with a local partner in order to avoid steep import duties. Nissan is partnering with Dongfeng to make a version of the Renault Fluence for the Chinese market. Thierry Bollore, Renault’s chief competitive officer, says that he expects sales to be in the thousands of units per month.
But mass sales will depend on Nissan and Dongfeng producing a very inexpensive electric car. “The Chinese government wants more electric cars, so we say ‘yes’, but the customer wants them to be cheap and there is a limit to how much of a (government) incentive they can put on every car,” Ghosn tells Autocar.
Bollore adds that any new government legislation could force a rapid pace of change among China’s car owners. He points out that when China put regulations in place that favored electric scooters, gas-powered scooters disappeared from China’s roads almost overnight.
“China is typically a market where things can move very suddenly. It could move very quickly if the government decided to make it a state project,” Ghosn continued.
With Nissan’s apparently glacial speed of change in the US EV market over the last few years, I do have to wonder if it’s simply (or partly) that the company has prioritized the Chinese market over the American one. The American auto market is, in general, expected to contract over the coming decades, while the Chinese one is expected to continue growing… fast.