Nissan is rooting for Tesla.
The Japanese car company best known for the legendary Z-car and the monstrous GT-R supercar also makes the Leaf, an electric five-door hatchback that gets about 100 miles per charge.
In an interview with Automotive News this week, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn applauded the avalanche of Model 3 preorders that Tesla has tallied so far.
The hundreds of thousands of potential buyers who put down a $1,000 deposit make for some “good competition,” Ghosn said.
Globally, Nissan blows away the competition in electric-vehicle (EV) sales. The company and its French partner, Renault, sold 302,000 electric vehicles worldwide in 2015 – 43,700 of those were Leafs. More than 17,200 Leafs were sold in the US last year.
Ghosn said that the Model 3’s potential success will help spur further EV development.
“The fact that so many people are willing to pay a down payment to get this car is a good sign,” Ghosn said. “Competition for EVs is picking up.”
For various reasons, automakers at large have waded cautiously into the EV market. Low gas prices in the US have been driving sales of trucks and SUVs – which in turn yield impressive profit margins for carmakers. And consumer appetites for those vehicles routinely outpace America’s old workhorse, the family sedan – which, by the way, is dead.
Additionally, demand for EVs hasn’t quite caught up to the rest of the market. Despite a record 17.5 million new cars and trucks sold in the US last year, plug-in vehicles account for just under 103,000 of that total, according to Autodata.