At a press conference in Beijing’s tallest building, Nissan’s CEO Carlos Ghosn announced today that the Nissan-Dongfeng joint venture will build an EV in China, and that it will be ready by 2015. No, it will not be the Nissan Leaf. It will be a plug-in that will sail under Nissan-Dongfeng’s “Chinese” brand, Venucia. Said Ghosn:
“We see a clear need for cars that are affordable, practical, spacious and zero emission. Nissan is clearly the global leader in zero emission mobility, now with more than 10,100 electric Nissan Leaf vehicles already sold worldwide.”
“We are fully prepared to follow the Chinese government direction to promote the adoption of zero emisssion vehicles. We are ready to produce electric cars locally in China under the Venucia brand.”
Venucia will release its first car in 2012. The EV that will follow in 2015 will officially be an indigenous Chinese product. There have been many rumors about the (not yet announced) Chinese EV subsidy policy. Will imports qualify? Is it ok if the car is made in China? Does the car have to be “Chinese?”
The decision to build a “Chinese” EV instead of simply manufacturing a Leaf in China is indicative of what the rules will be when they are finally handed down:
It must be “Chinese.” It’s o.k. if it is Chinese by name, and if the technology comes from Japan or Europe. There will most certainly be a lot of parts under the hood of that Venucia EV that look very familiar to a Leaf owner. However, if it is “Chinese,” then the IP of the car (not necessarily that of the components) will be owned by the joint venture instead of being licensed from the foreign joint venture partner.
Dongfeng is owned by China’s central government. Or as Ghosn said, the company has “solid relationships with China’s central and local governments.”
Dongfeng should know by now what the rules will be when they have been announced. A lot of people will not like those rules. While U.S. Senators are rattling sabers, Ghosn cuts deals with what could possibly the world’s largest market for electric vehicles.
Make cars, not war.