By on March 23, 2010

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.

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10 Comments on “Infiniti Version Of Straight-To-Rental Nissan Leaf Planned...”

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    “the forthcoming first generation of mainstream electric cars is branding.”

    I object, The first generation of Electric cars was before 1920, back when they were the respectable choice for well to do women like my Great Grandmother. If there is a new generation it should either be designated the second, or the last, which is more likely.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    Look at lawnmowers. Electric ones are cheapies.Premium ones have 4-stroke engines , Executive models have overhead valves. Do Honda mowers have overhead cams and variable timing ?

  • avatar

    It’s not the motor that costs so much, it’s the batteries.

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    I agree the rental presence will be helpful to raise the car’s profile, but can you imagine the nightmare that Hertz will go through? They’ll need to offer a 30-minute instructional workshop before even sending someone out the door.

    “Hello Enterprise, can you pick me up? No, I’m not at home I’m stranded at the side of the road in a sketchy part of town – please come quickly.”

  • avatar

    I do a lot of one-day biz trips to San Jose and would *love* to be able to rent a car without the hastle of dealing with fuel surcharges & refilling the tank. There are few things more annoying than only driving a rental car ~30 miles total, but having to stop by a gas station at the end of the day b/f making the flight home.

    That said, I expect the rental companies will not enjoy losing out on the gas revenue; I expect it’s a major portion of their profits.

  • avatar

    At least one car rental company in Los Angeles offered electric cars a few years ago. It was a disaster.

    A reporter for The Economist writes about his experience renting an electric car in Los Angeles in the book Power to the People. He missed many of his appointments. Charging stations he counted on using turned out not to be working. Or not to exist at all. It just did not work out.

    That was five or ten years ago. But I think the same would be true today. Most people who rent cars would find an electric car not reliable enough for their needs.

  • avatar

    GM won’t be pricing the Volt at $40k, or $60k, or whatever the Volt really cost to develop, build, and market. Remember this poster?

    Volts will be priced at far less, because you and I are going to be buying them for people with our tax dollars and devalued savings… just like we now buy houses, via Fannie, Freddie and HUD, for people who can’t afford them.

    That’s why we need a total consumer boycott of Government Motors. The only way to stop them is to shut them down.

    • 0 avatar

      Not to worry; normal market forces are doing that already. The Volt will have very limited appeal even at $40k. A $60k Converj should really be named “Cimarron” if it hits the market.

      If the Leaf is priced around $25k, at least it won’t offend consumers. As for an Infiniti version, Nissan should be very careful.

  • avatar
    Pat Holliday

    Here in the UK, its been reported that Mitsubishi plans to charge nearly £34k for the i-MiEV. I know straight currency conversions are flawed, but just to give you some idea, that’s around $50,000…

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