Nissan Motor Co’s announcement earlier this month that it will create a $1.4 billion hub to manufacture electric vehicles in the U.K. is just the beginning as the automaker pushes ahead with plans to electrify its fleet, Chief Executive Officer Makoto Uchida said.
The U.K. project “is a start in our electrification strategy,” Uchida said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin. The Japanese company will look to build its EV prowess in other core markets as well, he said, declining to provide specifics on the location and timing of those investments.
Nissan is embracing electrification as a means of stirring demand for its cars as it fights to pull itself out of the red after two straight years of operating losses. Revealing Nissan’s flagship Ariya EV last year, Uchida described the vehicle as “symbolizing a new chapter” as Nissan pushes forward with an aggressive turnaround plan.
Even as Nissan moves to cut global production by reducing 20% of models, the carmaker is planning to release eight pure EVs and sell more than 1 million electric and electric powertrain-fitted vehicles a year by fiscal 2023. The Yokohama-based automaker said earlier this year it will electrify all-new models it releases in major markets by the early 2030s.
Nissan is betting that roughly a decade of experience making EVs will give it a leg-up over rivals in the increasingly crowded segment. Nissan was an early market pioneer, and introduced the world’s first mass-market EV, the Leaf, in 2010.
Though Nissan’s Leaf is outsold by Tesla Inc.models today, Uchida said that having 10 years of experience with EVs gives the Japanese automaker certain advantages. One example he gives is Nissan’s battery recycling know-how. Over the past decade, Nissan has figured out a number of ways to improve battery durability, enabling old batteries to be reused in new vehicles, Uchida said.
“We went through a lot of experience with customers,” Uchida said. “This is our advantage, our expertise.”
There are a number of headwinds. Particularly pertinent is the global shortage of automotive semiconductors, cited as one of the reasons why the release of Nissan’s flagship Ariya EV was pushed back from a former target of mid-2021. A premium electric vehicle with semi-autonomous driving capabilities will pack chips worth more than double those used in a typical combustion-engine car.
Nissan is forecasting that the semiconductor shortage will curb its production by around 500,000 units this fiscal year. But by working on inventory levels and production schedules, the automaker is seeking to recover “half and more” of that lost production in the latter half of the year, Uchida said. That’s a slightly more upbeat outlook from his previous predictions of “about half.”