Carlos Ghosn

Nissan's Leaf strategy: battery powered confusion?

November 18, 2010: 1:18 PM ET

Nissan really wants to be the leader in electric vehicles. Maybe that's why it's being coy about how many they plan to sell.

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 25JAN08 - Carlos Ghosn, Pre...

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Nissan executives have been notoriously optimistic about the electric vehicle market, and not without a vested interest: they hope to become the leading manufacturer of green cars. So far, the company's image has done well from the refresh. Nissan has received plenty of press for its aggressive pursuit of building lower-emissions vehicles and has run a big advertising campaign to reinforce that position in consumers' minds.

But some recent press seems to indicate they may be listening to their own hype. On Tuesday, it looked a lot like Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told a crowd of reporters covering the market debut of Nissan's battery-fueled electric plug-in car that the company expected to sell 500,000 units during the 2013 year. (The New York Times coverage of Ghosn used the words "hit 500,000 units a year in three years.")

That's shooting very high. And apparently not actually the message the company was trying to convey. Fortune followed up with a Nissan (NSANF) spokesperson who clarified that Ghosn meant the company will be able to make 500,000 cars by 2013, even if consumer demand doesn't actually meet that number. The spokesperson said the company doesn't even forecast that far out. But being able to make half a million cars isn't the same as selling them, though that's the impression Ghosn probably made in most reporters' minds and notebooks. (When asked, Nissan said it wasn't in any rush to ask the Times for a clarification or correction.) More

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