Nissan's COO Airs Frustration Over Slow EV Sales

Speaking at the mid-term results press conference at Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama recently, the company’s Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga said he was “disappointed and frustrated” by lackluster sales of electric vehicles in general and the Leaf in particular.

His emotional appeal to recognize Nissan’s pioneering efforts in zero emissions technology had undertones of an eulogy on the electric vehicle.

“Somewhere in the history of mankind, people will have to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and Nissan is assuming the risk to do it now,” said Shiga. “We were the first volume maker to deploy EVs globally. Please don’t forget that we have this passion and a sense of mission.”

But this is not to say Nissan is giving up on EVs. Shiga personally heads a task force to accelerate their sales. So far, Shiga did not have more to report than mining the data harvested from the connected Leafs, and giving the data to companies that will install quick chargers.

Next month, it will be two full years since Nissan launched the Leaf. According to Shiga, it saw global sales of 42,700 units since introduction, 19,000 of them in Japan.

As recorded by the HybridCars Dashboard, the company has seen upsurges in U.S. sales the past two months, in part due to sales incentives being offered to make Leafs more attractive to consumers.

Nissan has also announced an improved battery for 2013 while saying further development work is ongoing, and plans for other electrified vehicles are underway as well.

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  • Toufigh

    It is really a shame. We’ve had a Leaf for over a year now. It works great and we have cut down on our commute expenses significantly. The experience has been so good that we just leased our second electric car, a Ford Focus. People just don’t realize how practical and nice to drive EVs are.

  • david chiang

    Thank you for the information about your experience. Do you have solar at home or electric from the utility. I am considering going electric, but the family needs to save up.

  • MrEnergyCzar

    Future owners might be afraid that the battery isn’t warrantied for any specific range milestones, rather just conjecture as to what is expected or is typical….


  • RB

    Bertel Schmitt: Do you have anything to say about this?

    “Part of this story is making the rounds on the Internet saying Nissan/COO Shiga is “disappointed and frustrated” with LEAF sales, and was delivering a eulogy on EVs. Not so. Sadly, as the story is reprinted, few (if any) auto journalists actually took the time to listen to the webcast (about 150 views last time I checked), and have just copy and pasted a ‘Cliff Notes’ translation of the COO’s speech from someone who did listen to it (in this case TTAC).

    Unfortunately, TTAC (which is a great outlet for general automotive news) got the inference wrong thanks to some choppy translating, and probably because they were skimming for nuggets to report. After all, who has the kind of time to sit through an hour of mindless droning when there might not be any story at the end of the rainbow? (other than myself sadly) It happens. Nothing intentional on TTAC’s part. At least they are digging for original content. TTAC also said the Nissan COO’s talk had the “undertones of an eulogy on the electric vehicle,” which if you watch the video…he clearly does not. If anything talking EVs is his most upbeat moment after 40 minutes of a ‘nails on the chalkboard’ discussion about China.”

  • RB

    According to InsideEVs: A story is making the rounds on the Internet saying Nissan/COO Shiga is “disappointed and frustrated” with LEAF sales, and was delivering a eulogy on EVs. Not so. Sadly, as the story is reprinted, few (if any) auto journalists actually took the time to listen to the webcast (about 150 views last time I checked), and have just copy and pasted a ‘Cliff Notes’ translation of the COO’s speech from someone who did listen to it (in this case TTAC).

  • Lad

    As a reporter, please report the facts, not your opinions. Opinions have little value when you are suppose to be a journalist reporting the news. In fact opinions are easily distorted.

  • Jeff Cobb

    Lad – No one is masquerading opinion as objective journalism here.

    The only opinion we see here, with all due respect, is your own.

    And possibly that of InsideEVs which was taken as fact to refute Bertel, but is still questionable.

    If you link back to the InsideEVs story, you’ll see Bertel answered there.

    There is a possibility that InsideEvs is correct. But Bertel was an eyewitness to his subject reported above, seated in the video in Japan that Inside EVs only watched from America.

    He knows the people he reported upon. No one at Nissan called him in question for his accuracy, and they are not usually shy about doing that.

    If it turns out Nissan does say he made a mistake, we can note that too, but we do know the difference between opinion and journalism.


  • Jay Cole

    Yupe, I’m with Jeff on this one (and I wrote the story over at InsideEVs)

    I respect Mr. Schmitt quite a bit, and Jeff Cobb who does a nice job here too.

    Bertel is a pretty objective guy, and I like to think I am too. Sometimes, two people see the same thing and come away with different translations (quite literally in this case because the orginal was in Japanese). I think he got this one wrong, and he thinks I did. No biggie, it happens sometimes.

    Anywhoo…I have an enquiry with Nissan media to clarify exacly what he said/meant. We’ll get it all figured out, and make the proper adjustments/clarifications to our storys.

    -Jay Cole

  • Jay Cole

    Official response from Nissan (my thanks to Travis):

    “Hey, Jay.

    I’m told by our folks at HQ that their interpretation matched yours—that he was commenting that it is frustrating to read reports of slow sales and what seems to be a lack of appreciation for the role that Nissan is playing in pushing the EV agenda and zero emissions.”

    Travis PARMAN
    Director, Corporate Communications

  • Bertel Schmitt

    So in a somewhat Clintonesque “it depends what the definition of ‘it’ is”-type discussion, we ask for biblical exegesis, only to receive a sibylline second-hand interpretation.

    Folks, this was not a long dead oracle talking. This is no lawyerly parsing of pronouns. We are at the half year results press conference. The COO sits in front of Reuters, Dow Jones, the Nikkei, Bloomberg. What he says can hit the wires before he even finishes the sentence. When he gets questions, he is expected to answer unambiguously, because every word can move markets. A hard hitting results press conference is no place for opaque statements, and none are expected.

    So Watanabe-san of Jiji asks: “Nissan Leaf sales volume seems to be struggling. In order to make a breakthrough, are there any counter-measures that you have in mind? And will there be any changes in local production in the U.S. and UK going forward?”

    In the room, the frame of reference is set for sales and production volumes. That four letter word “jobs” is lurking.

    Shiga-san says it’s a good question, and he is glad that it was asked, then states: “The sales volume of EV is slow – that’s the media report that I read. Frankly speaking, it’s disappointing and I am frustrated.”

    Anybody with a healthy mind will hear that Shiga answered a sales volume question, and that he is disappointed by said sales volume, which we all know is not what it used to be, and definitely not as planned. We will hear that Shiga is frustrated that the metal is not being moved as budgeted – as he should, being the COO, and that he wants action. In usually very polite Japan, “I am disappointed” coming from the boss would be a strong reprimand.

    To go doubly sure, I rounded up the Japanese original soundtrack and pressed my cross-cultural adviser Frau Schmitto-san into service for this ongoing discussion. She spoke Japanese since she was a baby, but she is no professional translator. She says the sentence in question goes like this:

    “Sales of EVs are a bit down, I read that in the news. Honestly, I am sorry to hear that and I am frustrated.” She swears to sundry Shinto deities that Shiga is sad about the sales, not about a news reporter. Frau Schmitto-san says “zannen ni omoimasu” is somewhere between “sad” and “sorry”, but has no connotations of apologies. However, if Carlos Ghosn’s personal translator says the word is “disappointing,” then we bow to professional expertise and Nissan’s official translation. Frau Schmitto-san then threatened that I can have dinner at the 7/11 if I bug her much longer.

    With the question framed like this, with the answer continuing to outline what Shiga wants to do to prop up sales, and having sought counsel, I apply Occam’s razor and declare that Shiga is fed up with the slow sales of the Leaf, and that he wants action. Those who have their selective perception tuned to different frequencies will disagree.

    The question about the planned Leaf production in the U.S. and UK went unanswered by Shiga, by the way.

    If he really would have been disappointed and frustrated by a false report, Shiga would have continued: “These allegations are false. In the contrary, sales of the Leaf have …”. Wisely, it did not come to that.

    For the record, I currently live 30 minutes away from Nissan’s Yokohama world headquarters, and the folks at Nissan know where I live. Again for the record, at close of business on this Tokyo Friday, I still am in possession of all 10 fingers, and they remain attached to my hands. For tomorrow, I was asked to show up at a test track. Should I get run over …