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Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn relents, admits Nissan’s Leaf sales target won’t be met

Carlos Ghosn had remained adamant all year that sales of the Nissan Leaf EV would easily hit the seemingly modest 20,000-unit goal they had set for the car, but now the company’s CEO is having to admit that they will not be able to close the gap before the end of the year. With 9,679 units sold in 2011, Nissan somehow believed they would be able to double that figure this year. In fact, sales have dropped, and Nissan had sold just 6,791 units of the EV as of the end of October, down 15.6 percent from the same time last year, according to the Detroit News.

The Chevy Volt sold nearly 20,000 units by the end of October, enjoying a much better year of sales than last year; and it is expected that final sales for the year will hit about 25,000 units, but sales of pure electric cars are still lagging. Ghosn, who had previously made the claim that Nissan-Renault would sell 500,000 electric cars by the end of 2013 and that they would have 1.5 million EVs by 2016, is now having to deal with how to back out of his own bold claims about the car. The only area in which Nissan has admitted fault is in marketing, and they have now appointed a new vice president in charge of overseas marketing for the Leaf.

Even with better marketing, it seems unlikely that the Leaf would hit a sales target so close to that of the much more practical Volt. But Nissan-Renault have spent $5.6 billion dollars on EV research in recent years, and while one would understand their reluctance to abandon the project, it’s starting to look like that investment won’t be making a profit for some time. On the subject of lost money, Nissan took $1.4 billion in Department of Energy loans to build a new battery plant and upgrade the facilities where the Leaf is built in Smyrna, Tennessee. This upgrade was just recently completed and a grand opening press event had been planned for this past Friday, but the event was cancelled after October sales figures were released.