TOKYO -- Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn made it clear two years ago that he intends to put four all-electric vehicles into the U.S. market, not just the Nissan Leaf model that it is already selling.
Three of the planned models are known: the Leaf, an electric Infiniti luxury sedan based on the Leaf, and a small electric van that will be sold as a commercial van and taxi. But what will EV No. 4 be?
Nissan is now debating that internally -- as well as what might come after No. 4. Insiders say the company is weighing three possibilities for the U.S. market:
-- One candidate is a small city car -- smaller than the entry-level Nissan Versa but larger than a Smart car. Nissan is developing the next Smart model for Daimler AG in a partnership between the two automakers, but Nissan officials say there is no plan to create a Nissan version of the Smart.
-- The second option is an electric sports car, heralded by the sleek Esflow Concept car unveiled at the Geneva auto show in March. Nissan sees that path as a good way to sharpen the image of EVs in general in the minds of doubting consumers. But Nissan is focused on introducing high-volume products, and sports cars are typically niche products.
-- The third idea would be a crossover vehicle, represented on stage last month at the Tokyo Motor Show by the Townpod EV Concept. The concept, which debuted at the 2010 Paris auto show, is best described as a small minivan with ample cargo space and easy-access wide-swinging rear doors. Some U.S. executives believe the roomy utility of the Townpod makes it more appealing for the crossover-rich U.S. market.