NAPA, Calif. — A perfect storm of pandemic delays, production challenges and trade policies has hamstrung Nissan's shot at redemption in the electric vehicle segment that it pioneered more than a decade ago.
Nissan's Ariya electric crossover, originally scheduled to launch in the maw of the pandemic, arrived in the U.S. in late 2022 — about a year behind schedule. Now, manufacturing line problems have Ariya production reportedly running at least a third below plan.
Meanwhile, the Japanese-made model does not qualify for the $7,500 federal EV tax credit in the key U.S. market, leaving it flat-footed against some U.S.-built competitors.
Nissan is "studying" its options, Aditya Jairaj, the brand's U.S. head of EV strategy and transformation, told Automotive News this week.
"In the last few years, if there's one thing that we've learned, it's to be agile and nimble," Jairaj said at an event here to reveal the all-wheel-drive Ariya variant that goes on sale at the end of March. "There is nothing called "normal" anymore. You have to continually adjust to [ensure] there's value for the customer."
Jairaj, a mechanical engineer by training, wasn't ready to reveal the game plan to adjust to the early curveballs, but it could include tweaking Ariya pricing.
"We will remain competitive on the retail and the lease side," Jairaj said. "We'll do all that it takes to make sure this is a very important model for us."
Jairaj punted on the near-term prospect of bringing Ariya production to Nissan's North American factories, which would fulfill a key requirement for the federal incentive under the Inflation Reduction Act.
"Are we going to build the first-gen Ariya in the U.S.? I can't say yes; I can't say no," Jairaj said. "But overall, the industrial strategy is being monitored to make sure that we are the most efficient."
Jairaj is optimistic that as supply chain shortages ebb, soaring raw material costs will subside, giving the automaker greater flexibility on pricing.
"It's fair to say [high material costs are] temporary," he said. "Is it three months, six months, 12 months? I'm not a magician or an economist, so I can't say."