By on November 29, 2021

Nissan Motor Co. has confirmed plans to invest 2 trillion yen ($17.65 billion USD) over the next five years to accelerate its electric vehicle development program. Like most major manufacturers, the automaker wants to launch a bevy of electrified products over the next decade and derive a relevant portion of its income from EVs.

As explained by CEO Makoto Uchida on Monday as part of the “Nissan Ambition 2030,” the plan is to launch 23 new vehicles with some amount of electrification while it attempts to implement solid-state batteries into three concept vehicles that supposedly foreshadow future lineups. These include the battery-electric “Surf-Out” lifestyle pickup, “Max-Out” sports convertible, “Chill-Out” regular car, and “Hang-Out” adventure crossover. Though all three appear to be little more than drafts of vehicles Nissan would eventually like to build, boasting technologies that we’re not sure are feasible. For example, the Hang-Out is featured with a polygonal purple awning that oozes impossibly out of the vehicle’s roof. It lacks realism, which ended up being a central theme of the Nissan Ambition 2030 presentation that was broadcast on Monday

Uchida, set in front of a terrible CGI backdrop, opened with an announcement that Nissan was on track to lay the groundwork for progressive change. He then praised the Nissan workforce, saying that it was the people involved that made it possible for the automaker to return to profitability. While Uchida said that the company’s staff served as its inspiration to be more than it was, the reality is that Nissan laid off thousands of U.S. workers in 2020 and thousands more globally as part of its necessary restructuring efforts.

We seem to be off to a bad start.

As the presentation continued, Uchida promised that all future decisions made by Nissan would be informed by environmentalism. Uchida said that the company would need to make changes to combat the climate crisis, which was also listed as “addressing irreversible shifts.” Part two of the plan involved a vague commitment to improving social issues. But the resulting commitment seems like Nissan is trying to tackle everything from generic examples of widespread inequality to there being too many old people in various Asian countries. It was weird, unfocused, and had nothing to do with electric cars. But Uchida remained steadfast that developments in technology and the gradual implementation of artificial intelligence (hung on the catch-all term of “mobility”) would fix everything.

Things sort of came together when the CEO hinted at how transportation should be a social service available to everyone, rather than a personal commodity. It’s the usual Great Reset nonsense we’ve seen a lot of companies parroting lately, where giant multinational entities retain total ownership of products they used to sell to people under the auspices of being progressive. While the details of how this will work were left vague, Uchida said the updated business model would appeal to “savvy customers” that are socially conscious and environmentally aware. Hopefully, they’ll be so pleased with themselves after all that praise that they won’t raise any pertinent questions about how any of this benefits consumers, the actual environmental impact of the plan, or how confident executives are in achieving these goals.

From here, Nissan did what it should have done in the first place and went over its verifiable heritage as an automaker (/ˈôdōˌmākər/ noun: someone who manufacturers and sells cars). But the whole presentation had already been marred by the buffet of nonsense pertaining to the evolution of the industry and how it’s the company that’s going to stop selling cars and start changing the world by addressing societal problems it has no business tackling and has already deemed “irreversible.”

The next few minutes of Nissan Ambition 2030 were a barrage of industry buzz terms. Everything was about a diverse social journey that would not only be empowering but also help deliver mobility on a scale previously unrealized. Electrification would be fully democratized! Economies will be circular! Carbon will be entirely neutral! As this kind of talk is often misleading or totally devoid of meaning, my mind kind of went black until the CEO eventually started talking about specific denominations of money and vehicles Nissan might someday produce.

The relevant takeaways are that the automaker is doubling its spending to 2 trillion yen by 2026, with an aim to launch 23 new electrified vehicles by 2030 — 15 of which were stated to be pure EVs. The brand’s e-Power hybrid system is supposed to begin making more regular appearances in future lineups and it’s reportedly hard at work trying to implement solid-state battery tech.

By the fiscal year ending in March of 2027, Nissan (and Infiniti) hopes to have electrified vehicles (including hybrids) account for more than 75 percent of the total sales in Europe. It’s likewise targeting at least 55 percent in Japan and over 40 percent in China within the same timeframe. However, the United States, which remains an important market for the brand, isn’t expected to see 40 percent EV sales until 2031.

“The role of companies to address societal needs is increasingly heightened,” Uchida said. “With Nissan Ambition 2030, we will drive the new age of electrification, advance technologies to reduce carbon footprint and pursue new business opportunities. We want to transform Nissan to become a sustainable company that is truly needed by customers and society.”

But the reality is that the automaker is following in the more cautious footprints left by Toyota, which has been spending heavily on the development of battery technologies while planning to rely primarily on hybrid vehicles for consumer sales. That said, both have said they would expand commitments to battery annual production capacities — with Nissan vowing 130-gigawatt hours globally (by 2030) with help from partners. Uchida likewise said that his company planned to begin utilizing solid-state batteries offering double the energy density and increased reliability at lower costs by 2029.

“Battery cost reductions will drastically change the dynamics of EV pricing,” COO Ashwani Gupta said. “We are redefining the role of the car.”

Additional savings were said to be unlocked via the electrification (meaning automation) of Nissan’s production facilities. Combined with alternative energy solutions, Uchida claimed this would reduce CO2 emissions by 40 percent per plant by 2030 (vs 2019 levels). And all of this would be complemented by Nissan developing a comprehensive EV charging system that networks your entire home with the car, making it more of an extension of your domicile than an independent conveyance you park out front. Connectivity didn’t receive a lot of direct attention during the presentation, though Nissan made it clear that it would be a relevant aspect of future products. The only other thing covered in any detail was the battery recycling the automaker has planned, which will undoubtedly be necessary if EVs are ever to become mainstream and manufacturers plan to keep their environmental promises.

Nissan closed on their new concepts (pictured throughout the article), which will reportedly share heaps of components to help reduce production expenses. This is allegedly not a limitation, however, as the planned platform will be designed with solid-state batteries in mind. The company said this would allow for more versatility than any vehicle architecture we’ve seen, attempting to highlight this by showing the Surf-Out, Max-Out, and Hang-Out parked virtually next to each other.

While I understand that Nissan (most automakers, really) feels it’s necessary to lean into the progressive tech jargon to entice investors, people are getting tired of it. This stuff gets heaps of praise online but almost everyone I speak to in the physical realm rolls their eyes whenever I ask them about mobility programs. Nissan has a well-balanced lineup yielding several models that punch above their price point. Maintaining that aspect of the business should remain a focal point of all presentations and plotting while it tries to navigate tomorrow’s world. It would be nice to see the automaker (any automaker) keep one foot planted in reality before it gets whimsical for an hour about the way the world is supposed to be and what role it’s supposed to play in reshaping society.

Unfortunately, we’re seeing Nissan do the same stuff as the majority of its rivals — including blowing smoke up our collective ass. It’s hoping to monetize customer data, discussing ways to alter its business model to deprioritize direct ownership, and spending heavily to advance those programs within broadening financial commitments outwardly attributed to electrification. If we could isolate EVs from the rest of it, it would be for the best. But the industry would lose its ability to lump in nebulous environmental promises with business aspects people are bound to find less palatable. Though the worst part has to be how far in advance industrial commitments are made. By 2030, you probably won’t remember what Nissan or any other manufacturer said it was going to do and I am inclined to think that’s by design.

Try to recall what they said 2020 would be like eight years prior, when the entire industry was teasing the idea of self-driving cars becoming normalized. Back then, we were also hearing murmurings that EVs would be on track to reach financial parity with internal combustion vehicles by 2025 causing sales to skyrocket. Unless you’re counting the massive incentives being thrown around by government bodies, we’re not quite there yet and the goalpost is gradually being moved to 2030. I don’t want to be harder on Nissan than it deserves, even if its recent presentation was indeed abysmal. But it’s past time for the industry to start talking seriously to its customers, rather than crafting an ever-changing fantasy to appeal to investors and obfuscate some of the less-desirable aspects of their updated business plans.

 

[Images: Nissan]

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36 Comments on “Opinion: ‘Nissan Ambition 2030’ Was an Hour of Wishful Thinking...”


  • avatar
    FAHRVERGNUGEN

    “Additional savings were said to be unlocked via the electrification (meaning automation) of Nissan’s production facilities. Combined with alternative energy solutions, Uchida claimed this would reduce CO2 emissions by 40 percent per plant by 2030…”

    Well, yeah, getting rid of workers on the line will be cleaner…but does Nissan factor in the robot farts?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “Unfortunately, we’re seeing Nissan do the same stuff as the majority of its rivals — including blowing smoke up our collective ass.”

    No doubt this is the first time a corporation has blown smoke up our a**es about future product plans.

    But said plans here involve electric cars and the environment. Why, the unmitigated gall! It’s like Karl Marx was reincarnated and took over Nissan.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Nissan had a jump on other manufacturers when it came to EVs and rather than building on it they decided to repeatedly smack their d*cks with a hammer.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Good Lord!! All they were missing was unicorn farts and rainbows!

    The Kool-Aid is in this one strong, it is!

  • avatar

    There has not been a single battery fire with the Nissan Leaf. Unlike the Bolt, the Leaf has not been recalled. Nissan is now nearly twice the size of GM, and outsells GM vehicles by a several hundred thousand cars annually.

    GM – what a disgrace!!!!

  • avatar
    Varezhka

    All the corporate speak aside, it’s good to see Nissan actually spending money on R&D because they’re still on a shoestring budget for a company their size.

    And I’m sure the “23 new electrified models” will just end up being Rogue e-Power, Altima e-Power, Pathfinder mild hybrid, etc. Less ambitious and exciting than it sound but something actually doable.

    Nissan always had the bad habit of implying a lot more than what they plan to deliver (their financial reports also have their flairs of embellishments). As bad or worse than the pre-bankruptcy GM. Please, please, do away with your low budget CG mockups.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “Unfortunately, we’re seeing Nissan do the same stuff as the majority of its rivals — including blowing smoke up our collective ass.”

    EV’s don’t emit smoke… but hey, kinda like when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, “He’s Rollin’ “

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Deep, deep in a Nissan warehouse in Yokohama, Nissan should have a 240Z and a Hardbody truck in mint condition. Have all of their high-ranking executives drive them. Make those executives understand why people loved them.

    After the corporate poobahs discover that vehicles should be fun, a long phone call needs to be made to Toyota. Ask Toyota to send some quality control folks over to help out a bit.

    Let’s assume this Nissan-Toyota phone call was made on a very secure line. the top Nissan dude might suggest that Toyota-San use keiretsu money to buy out the hated French and make Nissan 100% Japanese. Again and how it should be. Toyota should even make them a wholly owned subsidiary. The gray-pinstriped, buttoned-down Toyota board could say, as needed, this too nuts; it’s zany, give it to Nissan.

  • avatar
    mcs

    $75 per kWh by fiscal year 2028 is what NIsssan is saying. Tesla might already be below that or the same with the 4680 and a structural pack. Sodium-Ion should be mainstream by then and they could be in the $35 dollar range at the pack level (they don’t need the management systems Lithium-Ion requires) by then. Hybrid Sodium/Lithium packs could be well below that as well. CATL is saying 2023 for mass production of their sodium-ion cells. Then there is Toyota with their battery in 2025. Ford may have one by then as well. Nissan is in trouble.

  • avatar
    VWGolfGuy

    If they installed more chargers at work I’d buy a Bolt. Think it is a good blend of the leafs low cost and model threes range. We currently only have 4 chargers at work with about 10 Tesla’s, three Bolts, one Mach E, and a handful of Fusion/Prius plug ins. With a 160 mile round trip commute, up and down a 4,000ft mountain, the Bolt just about makes enough range to make this do able, if I can top off at work.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “more chargers at work”

      My office has zero chargers for ~700 workers. We have maybe 4 BEVs in the parking lot (2 Teslas, a Bolt, and my Ioniq). Pittsburgh isn’t exactly EV friendly, despite being solid blue for a century.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @VWGolfGuy: Yeah, mountians are trick for EVs. You use a lot of power going up, but then gain some back. It’s difficult to calculate. I used to drive my Leaf between the Boston Area and Vermont. Always had to leave extra power for the climb over the mountains. You had to have extra padding.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        @VWGOlfGuy: It’s also a good time to wait on an EV purchase. The next generation batteries should start trickling out over the next two years. LiFe is in production now. Teslas 4680 plants are under construction and CATL is getting sodium-ion production going next year. Sodium-ion and LiFe should have a bigger impact on grid-storage than directly going into EVs, but they’ll have the effect of taking pressure off of the lithium-ion market.

        With the new plants in operation, Tesla might see its waiting list shrink. If that happens, since they seem to market price their vehicles, their prices should go down. I’m thinking that could take 2 years though. Full 4680 production along with complete Austin and Berlin ramp ups.

  • avatar
    multicam

    Oh my god, it’s so hard to care… when’s the shoe going to drop on this climate change #%[email protected]? I remember thinking, back in 2000 or 2001, “man, in 2020 or 2025 we’re all going to look back on this inconvenient truth %#!& and laugh our @$$’s off.” But here we are still planning what we’re going to do 8 years from now to save ourselves from 18 years from now. What a %*¥?ing joke.

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      ^ This.

      Climate change is the disaster that’s been 10 years away–for 40 years.

      Unfortunately most of the public is so ignorant regarding science that they can’t see through the BS we’re being fed by journalists. The world’s current “expert” on energy policy is an 18 year-old Swedish high school drop out.

    • 0 avatar
      don1967

      Personally, I like “climate emergency” better than “climate change” or “global warming”. It really captures the human drama – the existential angst of a doomed generation – which will make it all the funnier when the glaciers get here.

  • avatar
    wolfwagen

    If those vehicles are Nissan’s future, they might just want to pull the plug now. Ugly is an understatement. Further, when companies start talking about addressing social issues in broad terms, they lose me.

  • avatar
    watersketch

    My work will put in chargers but it will be to charge the fleet vehicles. We could easily move half of the fleet to EVs and if the government subsidizes it we will quickly shift a few Mailbus and Edges to Bolts and Niros.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Good write-up.

    It’s stunning to witness how Nissan led with the Leaf in 2011 but has done only one refresh on it in a decade, with no other EVs offered in the meantime.

    Unlike Tesla or even GM (!), Nissan still hasn’t sold enough EVs to use up its Federal EV subsidy.

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    Does anybody know of any studies that show the raw materials, manufacturing facilities, and electricity are likely going to be available for the all the EV’s that are coming in the next few years?

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Posky

      We’ve posted more than a few here over the years. There’s a lot of conflicting evidence but it looks like we’re going to have some trouble sourcing nickel and lithium. Cobalt is also likely to be a problem and there are ethical issues stemming from the child labor that’s often used. Most country’s power grids have also been deemed totally insufficient to handle even a market that’s 50 percent EV.

      Just chuck any of the relevant terms into our search bar and you’re bound to get something back.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        By the time the auto pool (not sales) is 50% EV, most of us will be in the ground.

        The grid will have plenty of time to expand for that, just as it has for every other tech innovation in the last century.

        As for cobalt, Tesla for its part is already shipping LFP batteries with no cobalt content from its Shanghai plant, and some of those packs have been sold in the US.

        • 0 avatar
          la834

          Was gonna say. The cobalt “they’re using child labor to produce it!” narrative is used by certain ppl to try to counteract the aura of progressiveness tied to EV adoption and by extension, environmental awareness. Repetition of obsolete data or just plain misrepresentation of the facts.

  • avatar
    BSttac

    Hit it on the head! Fully agree. Not even sure why the CEO had to be here for this. It was a marketing presentation that had nothing concrete or realistic. Whats crazy is when you think of what a head start Nissan had in the EV world when the Leaf debuted in 2010. They spent the last 12 years doing absolutely nothing and it shows. Even there Nissan Aryia which is a day late and a buck short, lends little to be excited about about.

  • avatar
    BSttac

    Hit it on the head! Fully agree. Not even sure why the CEO had to be here for this. It was a marketing presentation that had nothing concrete or realistic. Whats crazy is when you think of what a head start Nissan had in the EV world when the Leaf debuted in 2010. They spent the last 12 years doing absolutely nothing and it shows. Even there Nissan Aryia which is a day late and a buck short, lends little to be excited about.

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