Reversing Track, Nissan Plans More Hybrids

For the past few years, Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of Nissan, has consistently called gas-electric hybrids “niche products” and “not a good business story.” But the popularity of hybrids, especially in Japan, is apparently pulling Nissan into the hybrid market.

On Friday, a Nissan spokesman told Bloomberg News that the automaker is “studying possibilities to put our hybrid system in other models” in addition to the Nissan Altima Hybrid and a future luxury hybrid. According to Nissan, no definite decisions about which models will become hybrids have been made.

Nissan has been licensing Toyota’s hybrid technology for use in the Altima Hybrid, which is sold in eight states in the United States. In August 2008, Nissan announced that it will develop its own hybrid technology, featuring lithium ion batteries, rear-wheel drive and a parallel hybrid powertrain. Nissan will begin selling hybrids based on its own homegrown technology in Japan in 2011. A new report from Nikkei indicated that a minivan could be Nissan’s first hybrid in Japan.

The first sign that Nissan could be making a u-turn on hybrids came in April 2009, when Minoru Shinohara, Nissan corporate senior vice president, said that plug-in hybrids will be an important transition solution to the pure electric vehicle because they don’t need an extensive public charging infrastructure. The cost of building the public charging infrastructure will cost billions of dollars; therefore, most analysts believe that it could take years to construct.

Purity on Pure Electric Cars

Until recently, Nissan executives were talking about pure electric cars as the only viable alternative solution for long-term sustainability. Last year, Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning, told that plug-in hybrids are a “bridge technology” because they are not completely zero emission. “You’re basically carrying around two powerplants and double the amount of weight,” he said. “A plug-in hybrid that gets 40 miles [without gasoline] is good…but you’re not zero emission. A pure battery electric is zero emission all the time, and that’s how we get C02 reduction, and how we get off foreign oil.”

Nissan will unveil the design of its first all-electric sedan next month—and is targeting its first sales in 2010 in Japan, with a roll out to fleets in the US around 2012.

In the meantime, Nissan has been shut out of the vibrant hybrid market. In June, Japan’s market for hybrid gas-electric cars has bypassed the US market for the first time to become the biggest seller of hybrids in the world. In fact, a hybrid has been the best selling model in Japan for the past three consecutive months—the new Honda Insight in April, and the new Toyota Prius in May and June. The introduction of new models, enhanced government incentives, and gas prices in the $4.50 a gallon range have all contributed to the rise in sales—which apparently have contributed to Nissan’s reconsideration of hybrids as merely “niche products.”

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  • steved28

    Nissan is just another “All talk” manufacturer. They switch stories, switch plans, chase their own tail.

    I own an Altima hybrid, but I know who really deserves the credit for that engineering. When this car is ready to be traded, I very much doubt that Nissan will have anything to offer. I will be most likely off to Ford or Toyota…

  • Dom

    Yeah, for awhile they were going to bring a clean diesel Maxima to the US… they switched plans on that too. Pity.

  • Samie

    steved28 you made me wonder about Ford & Toyota 2011 Escape Hybrid & 2011 Camry Hybrid. Wonder if those vehicles will be upgraded to reflect improved technology?

    Right now Ford in my opinion has a clear advantage when you compare the 2010 Hybrid Fusion to the 2010 Hybrid Camry, will Toyota continue to let Ford gain popularity in the mid size sedan/family sedan market?

    Nissan is going to show-up a bit late in the game but what if… they can offer a great mini van say a Hybrid Quest that gets good mpgs & is not heavy on the wallet? This may be the best strategy they got, the first generation of their own technology is not going to be great & this will show up against Ford & Toyota but like Honda I assume they will continue to work on technology until it comes close to the competition.

    Still wonder what Nissan is up to w/ their plans for a pure EV in a few years?

  • Charles

    I would be happy if Nissan would just bring out an updated version of their old 1998-2002 Altra EV. 100-120 mile range, Li battery, 5 hour recharge time, whats not to like.

  • Bob Guimarin

    Let’s be fair. Nissan needs to consider their business, whether it be hybrids or all electrics. My team test drove their EV-01 and were very impressed with the technology and thoughtful approach to the customer driving experience.

    If Nissan can bring a hybrid to market that enhances their business enough to continue their all electric car efforts, I’m all for that.

  • jhenry

    Both trucks are car qualify for the Cash For Clunkers but not the motorcycles.


  • FamilyGuy

    We have a 2009 Altima Hybrid and love it. I don’t care that the technology came from Toyota. If Nissan is licensing the techology, then good for them for doing so. Clearly not every auto maker has hybrid offerings, why are they not licensing the techology from someone. So, sure they didn’t come up with it themselves, but they do deserve credit for at least licensing it and making it available for the public. We test drove a Camery Hybrid and almost fell asleep driving it. The Altima Hybrid is awesome.

    It doesn’t matter that they were not first or second or third into the hybrid. As long as they get there with a good, solid product. If they do put it in the Quest, they that makes them the first to put it in some really designed for the family. The sedans are nice, but something that allows me to put in two kids in car seats, and more then two other adults will get a serious looking at when it’s time to replace the other car (2002 Subaru Outback).

    Sure the effort may be late, but “isn’t better late then never” still good in this situation? Hybrid offerings are still very limited. More choices, better for us.

  • steved28

    FamilyGuy I love my Altima too, I guess that’s what is so frustrating. It’s like “$hit or get off the pot”. If you are serious, offer it across the nation. Or commit to SOMETHING!

    I own a Nissan, but I have more respect for Ford. They engineered a solution themselves, and they made a commitment, right or wrong. What good is leasing the technology if you don’t go after the market? They are stagnant, indecisive, and I don’t believe too much that comes out of their press releases any more.

  • Shani

    guys… thouth nissan outsource the technology from toyota…but its good for conusmers…

    any how i will not go with nissan or toyota… i have honda accord & will wait when honda will introduce hybrid car… 🙂

  • arabalar

    Both trucks are car qualify for the Cash For Clunkers but not the motorcycles

  • FamilyGuy

    Shani, my Altima Hybrid replaced my Accord (1997, 168k miles). I wanted Honda to come out with a hybrid that I wanted. My Wife wouldn’t wait for the Insight (v2) and the Civic simply didn’t do it for me. I would have considered the Accord Hybrid, but it was discontinued (and it was coupled with the 6-cylinder, the last thing that I need is that much speed). I do hope that Honda comes out with something cool really soon.

  • Tommmeee

    At 144,000 miles my 2001 Toyota Prius had a $10,000 meltdown, needing the transmission, Inverter and both batteries replaced. They think it was a short. They don’t know why, though. The dealer even worked out a 30% savings from Toyota for the repairs. I DID save more than that on the fuel costs savings but the savings is now not there.

    The lesson is that the Hybrid you own, if you keep it long enough, will eventually cost LOTS of money. Just like all electric battery cars, you may eventually pay a high price just to keep it runninig. – Some I know have driven their Prius over 200K miles w/out problems but not mine. I took care of it, too. Nice to have a warranty again, but we will see…

    I am frustrated but this IS the first generation, Good thing I had some savings.