Nissan and G.M. Execs Deliver Electric Cars, and Take Jabs at Toyota Prius

After years of watching Toyota receive adulation for its ultra-green 50-mpg Prius, competing major automobile manufacturers finally are selling vehicles that take fuel-efficient motoring to a new level. Not missing a beat after delivering their first electric cars, executives from Nissan and General Motors in the past few days have thrown barbs at the Prius.

“We commonly refer to the geek-mobiles as the Prius,” said Daniel Akerson, General Motors C.E.O., while speaking last week at the Economic Club of Wash., D.C. “And I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Prius.”

Last month, the E.P.A. announced that the Chevy Volt will carry a rating of 93 mpg (equivalent) while running purely on electricity, and 37 MPG in so-called “charge-sustaining” mode—with 60 MPGe as its best “composite” number for the plug-in hybrid. The Volt was last month named “Green Car of the Year” at the 2010 Los Angeles Auto Show.

Wade Hoyt, a Toyota spokesman, replied, “Toyota has sold more than 2 million Prius hybrids worldwide, and counting. Those buyers can’t all be geeks.” (Akerson’s use of “geek” as an insult is an odd choice of words, considering the high-tech electronic nature of all electric cars.)

Then, this weekend in San Francisco, Nissan handed keys to Olivier Chalouhi, the first owner of its all-electric car, the Nisan LEAF—which the E.P.A. said has a fuel efficiency rating of 99 MPG equivalent. Carlos Tavares, chairman of Nissan Americas, praised Chalouhi for riding an electric bicycle to work, and quipped, “While we at Nissan like bikes, we assure you that [the Nissan LEAF] is an upgrade.”

He then pointed to Tom Franklin, the second Nissan LEAF customer, who was in attendance at the San Francisco ceremony. “For those of you looking for a used Toyota Prius, please see Tom because he’s also about to upgrade.”

Indeed, this month marks the beginning of a new era in the green car market. The gas-electric hybrid—the conventional kind without a plug—has been upstaged by electric cars. Despite the fact that Toyota will globally sell more Priuses in a month than Nissan and G.M. sell LEAFs and Volts combined in all of 2011, Toyota will have to withstand the ribbing. That could last until 2012, when the Toyota delivers the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid and its first two electric cars—an all-electric version of the Toyota RAV4 and a small commuter EV based on the Scion iQ.

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  • Shines

    EVs have finally arrived. Wow, that’s pretty cool…
    Think about it…

  • Annie Bea Lincoln

    I am a huge fan of hybrids and earth-friendly alternative vehicles, and I have loved my Toyota Prius for seven years (120,000 miles without needing repairs; only tires, oil changes and wiper blades). I am also DELIGHTED that other auto manufacturers are finally being forced to evolve, because that means I will have many good vehicle choices if I should ever need to replace my trusty Prius. Watching these new models roll out instills me with hope, if not promise, of a gentler and more sustainable future.

    Sadly, I find the absurd grandstanding by the G.M. CEO, Daniel Akerson, to be offensive and immature: “And I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Prius.” Why can’t we have intelligent and informed discourse in this country without indulging our pitiful ‘egos’ with such unproductive and divisive discourse? Shame on you, Mr. Akerson, for being so dismissive of the car many of us geeks know to be extraordinary and before it’s time — not because it wasn’t both time and mechanically possible to build hybrids and electric cars like your EV1 sooner, — but because the childish whims of our domestic auto industry, in incestuous league with the oil industry, has found untruth to be so incredibly profitable.

    You make it hard for me to buy from you, and your antics are an embarassment to Americans everywhere, whether “Geeks” or not.

  • Rob Acree

    GM comes out with a viable green car over 10 years after the Prius was first delivered to customers in North America and suddenly it has the right to trash talk the greenest non plug-in production car ever?
    I love the Volt because it’s nice seeing plug-in cars taking over, but the words from GM’s CEO only further deepen the rift between myself and their company. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a GM vehicle…except maybe the Volt. However, I’m starting to question GM’s motivations behind making the Volt.

  • DownUnder

    Don’t give Daniel any attention. Just another cowboy

  • Anonymous

    it took toyota 10 years to get prius the way it is today. GM has been advertising an unavailable car for at least 4 years but has zero track record. it makes me wonder how long will it take GM to make the volt as reliable as prius? i’d not hold my breath but i hope someone else can afford the cash to be a test subject so that someday everyone can buy it with confidence….

  • FamilyGuy

    I agree, poor form for the GM to be talking trash. What’s next for GM? Toyota has multiple hybrids, a plug-in coming and an EV coming in the next few years. GM has sold how many Volts? Other Volt like choices in the works for the GM lineup or what? And he wouldn’t be caught dead in a Prius. Give me a break.

  • Scott Z

    I know I am dealing with an old out of touch person when they think “geek” is a insult or a bad thing! 🙂

    I had hoped for more from GM but it seems the company has not changed much. I still hope the Volt is a success but I for one would rather not use any oil. Go Go EVs.

  • Scott Z

    I would also like to see GM comment on this story!

  • jims1961

    What kind of gas mileage does a Prius get when the throttle sticks and the car is going 90 MPH while the driver desperately mashes the brake pedal and the car careens off the road and crashes and burns?

  • JamesDavis

    Daniel Akerson, G. M.’s C.E.O., while speaking last week at the Economic Club of Wash., D.C. said, “And I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Prius.” That’s right Mr. Akerson, you wouldn’t be caught dead in a Prius, but you would be caught dead in a Lear Jet sticking your hand out to suck in taxpayers welfare. How two-faced of you, Mr. Akerson. You also accepted an unearned award for the “Volt” – the honored “Green Car Of The Year Award”. A $40,000.00 gas guzzler cannot be a “Green Car”. …The Nissan Leaf is a Green Car…

    For decades, your company have lied to the American people about electric cars and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Do you remember the “Hydrogen Skateboard Fuel-Cell Battery on Wheels” your company bought from a private inventor -See Alternative Fuel Vehicles with Alan Alda from American Scientific on PBS- and hid it on your shelf in the closet at GM?

    The only people you are deceiving that the $40,000.00 Volt is a Green Car is yourself.

  • Dan L

    The “geek-mobile” remark explains it all. Apparently mr. Akerson is unaware that geeks buy cars. Either that or he just isn’t interested in selling cars to highly paid technical professionals.

  • Mr. Fusion

    Disrespectful, dishonorable, cocky, and brash.
    We all know what happens to these kinds of characters in the end.

  • PaulRivers

    lol, typical GM. They have a mindset and apply it to everything no matter how stupid that is.

    Who do you think buys electric cars? “geeks”. So who do they insult? The very market they’re targetting. Dumbass.

    It’s like they released a new pickup truck and say “I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Toyota Tundra – only backwoods rednecks and suburban sissies drive a Tundra!”.

    LOL, seriously…it’s kinda funny…

  • bhgdrn

    And still no hybrid mini-van.

  • Baltimore Prius Owner

    Dear Mr. Akerson,

    Congratulations on portraying yourself as the biggest ass in the automotive industry. If it weren’t for extraordinary cars like the Prius, GM would never, ever build a ‘green car’. Please Mr. Akerson, step down and let a professional executive run the company!

    To the GM board members: Seriously folks, this is the type of executive you want running your company?

  • Shines

    jims1961 – what you describe has never happened. Over 2 million Prius sold and Never happened…

  • Northman

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments, Annie Bea Lincoln. I’m proud to be a Prius Geek!
    Surprising comments and somewhat smug from the CEO of a company who tried to overthrow Volkswagen with the ill-fated Corvair and brought us the Chevy Vega to combat the Japanese imports of the time! Then finally went bankrupt at the expense of shareholders, bondholders and taxpayers.
    This type of rhetoric nearly always comes back to haunt the source.

    Not everyone can benefit from a plug-in electric or hybrid. The plug-in part won’t work for me in my apartment condo, whereas my 2010 Prius works perfectly. Plus I never have to worry about the state of battery charge.
    I understand the next gen. Prius will offer a plug in option, but continue along the same general design path with the exception of substituting Lithium Ion batteries for the current NiMH batteries.

    The Leaf is doomed from the start owing to insufficient infrastructure support and the dread of running out of battery power far from home or other charging facilities.

  • Dom

    Quote: Carlos Tavares, chairman of Nissan Americas, praised Chalouhi for riding an electric bicycle to work, and quipped, “While we at Nissan like bikes, we assure you that [the Nissan LEAF] is an upgrade.”

    OMG! He’s trading his electric bicycle for a car that like gets much worse “fuel economy”! How totally un-green is that?!?!? He should have ditched the electric motor and pedaled it himself! That would have been a green upgrade!!

  • DownUnder

    Daniel reminds me of Bob L. with his famous saying “crock of s…”

  • Anonymous

    @ jims1961

    Don’t know, because it never happened. Please try it and let us know…

  • veek

    Mr. Akerson’s comments seem immorally arrogant — first, because the Prius is a sensible car, and second, because the “New” GM was built on the backs of the bondholders and retirees of the “Old” GM who were stiffed by the government and whose confiscated assets paved the way for GM (and the government) to repudiate GM’s debt. Mr Akerson should have apologized to, and deeply thanked, those people, and could have had the decency to offer them a couple of thousand dollars off the price of a new product from the company they supported with their labor and their savings.

    GM’s track record for introducing radically new models is not at all encouraging. Better enjoy your time in the sun, Mr. Akerson, because it probably won’t last long. Soon enough, you’re likely to be explaining to customers why their Volts are running out of volts.

  • XW4024

    The Volt’s mpg will far exceed the Prius mpg if daily driving stays, mostly, within the all eletric mode. I can drive for months without buying gas. And, in my case, the car is charged from a home PV system for –Zero emissions charging– WOW! what a deal!!!

  • J.B. LIKES

    I agree with you completely. He looks fully grown but it is no wonder they are so far behind in intellect and social skills. Sad to think he is the best they could get to lead them.

  • JN

    @XW4024: Not everyone’s driving needs will be such that they’ll be in electric mode all the time. Besides, the Volt costs about $10,000 more than the Prius does. How many billions of dollars did GM get in its bailout from taxpayers again? It’s around $50 billion. I’ll have to pass on getting a GM car.

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