SHANGHAI -- Nissan CEO and EV champion Carlos Ghosn says he is disappointed with electric vehicle sales in China and that the government needs to step up incentives to help the green cars.
Nissan Motor Co., which sells a Leaf-based EV here through its Venucia domestic brand, has no plans to introduce more EVs until it can crack the code on selling that one, he added.
“The question we are all a little bit worried about is the fact that electric cars are not taking off in China, while in other markets they are taking off,” Ghosn said during a news conference today, the first press day of the Shanghai auto show. “The consumer’s not buying.”
Dongfeng Nissan Passenger Vehicle Co., Nissan’s local joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Co. and parent company of Venucia, launched its rebadged Leaf as the e30 last September.
At the time, Nissan said the e30 is eligible for a purchase tax exemption as part of the Chinese government's support for developing new energy vehicles. The e30 was initially launched in nine Chinese cities in fall last year, and Nissan said it aimed to sell it nationwide sometime this year.
Ghosn’s downbeat assessment comes as global automaker grapple with how to introduce battery electric cars to China, perhaps the one country -- with its vast pollution troubles -- that needs the zero emissions vehicles the most. Also at the Shanghai show, General Motors unveiled a concept electric sedan, the Chevrolet FNR, and also displayed the Bolt EV concept.
In March, sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in China totaled 14,122 units, triple the number of deliveries in the same month a year earlier, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Automakers sold 9,390 EVs, and 4,732 plug-ins, the association noted.
In the first three months, sales of EVs and plug-in hybrids jumped 280 percent year-on-year to 26,581 units. Those sales included 15,405 EVs and 11,176 plug-ins.
Nissan would not disclose e30 sales figures.
According to Chinese regulations, only EVs built in China are eligible for a government subsidy of as much as 57,000 yuan ($9,300). Imported electric vehicles such as the Tesla Model S, Toyota Prius or the Japan-built Nissan Leaf would not qualify. The e30, however, is being produced at Dongfeng Nissan's Huadu plant in south China's Guangdong province.
Yet Ghosn said Beijing isn’t helping enough.
“I don’t think we’re going to bring a second car and a third car. Today the challenge is sell this one,” he said of the e30. “The main challenge today is really to encourage, put more incentives, in order for the consumer to buy in. Before adding more cars and bringing more technology, we just need to make sure we can sell the technology we already put into the ground.”
Ghosn maintained that EVs will eventually catch on in the world’s biggest market.
“I think it will happen,” he said. “But it will need probably more concerted action between government, local governments and car manufacturers.”