Manufacturers have big hopes but face flip-flops on policy and lagging infrastructur
TOKYO — Makoto Uchida could not have been clearer. Electric cars, the CEO of Nissan Motor said last month, would be a dominant theme for his financially battered company — with China leading the way.
The Japanese automaker was regarded as one of the early front-runners in commercializing electric passenger vehicles with its Nissan Leaf. Now, Uchida said at a news conference on May 28, electric cars would be something “to focus resources” on for its restructuring plan through fiscal 2023, after the company posted an annual net loss of 671 billion yen ($6.2 billion).
By 2023 Nissan plans to launch more than eight new electric models — including the Ariya, hailed by Uchida as the “flagship of the new Nissan” for its advanced driving assistance technology — while cutting the number of models by 20%, compared to 2018. And Uchida expressed particular hope for China.
“China is highly receptive to new technologies, including connected car-like information technologies and electric vehicles,” he said.
Nissan is far from alone in continuing to bet big that Asian consumers will accelerate their shift into electric cars. Shortly after Uchida spoke, Volkswagen announced that it would invest 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) to take a 50% stake in the parent company of China’s state-owned Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Group, or JAC Motors, and take control of its electric vehicle joint venture with JAC by raising its stake to 75% from 50%.
And Tesla, which became the best-selling new energy vehicle in China in May, said on May 8 that the U.S. electric vehicle manufacturer has agreed with a Chinese bank for setting a credit line of up to 4 billion yuan ($565 million) to use for “continued expansion of production at Gigafactory Shanghai.”
But while these investments and plans express optimism in an electric-car filled future, the short term figures suggest consumers are not yet convinced.