One of the biggest conundrums facing the folks tasked with marketing the forthcoming first generation of mainstream electric cars is branding. On the one hand, firms want their mainstream brands associated with the green halo of having an electric car in its portfolio. On the other hand, electric cars aren’t cheap. From a pure pricing perspective, it makes more sense to brand expensive EVs as luxury products. GM struggled with this problem when it developed its Converj version of the Volt, ultimately deciding that the common-sense arguments for branding the $40k Volt as a Cadillac weren’t as important as boosting Chevy’s profile with an EV offering. Nissan, meanwhile, has decided that it has room for both a Nissan-branded Leaf EV and an Infiniti-branded luxury version.
Top Gear reports that the new Infiniti variant of the Leaf:
will use the same platform as the Leaf, but a different body. So it will be the smallest Infiniti. But all Infinitis are supposed to have high performance as well as being luxurious, so the motor power will be turned up compared with the Leaf’s.
Normally this would result in a shorter range, but the Infiniti electric car won’t be launched until 2014 or so, when Nissan is ready with its next generation of battery, which should hold enough charge to cope with the increased power.
At a projected (although not assured) price point of about $25k, there should be more room in Nissan’s portfolio for an upmarket EV, especially since it appears to be quite a few years off. Meanwhile, to make sure that the Leaf is sufficiently pedestrian to be differentiated from the Infiniti version, Nissan has announced [via Treehugger] that the rental firm Hertz will add the Leaf to its lineup starting in 2011.
A fleet queen EV? No wonder a luxury version is being planned. In seriousness though, acceptance of the Leaf by a major car rental firm will go a long way towards alleviating concerns about the pioneering EV. If nothing else, the rental program will be able to help target the leaf at its most important markets, and offer potential customers an opportunity to test the car obligation-free.