Every so often, the fate of an automaker winds up riding on a single new product. For Nissan, the new Leaf could be exactly one of those vehicles.
No, if the little 5-seat sedan, set to roll into showrooms next year, fails to attract enough buyers, the Japanese automaker won’t go broke. But Nissan’s corporate pride and image clearly have been wed to the success of the battery-electric vehicle, or BEV.
Long the also-ran in terms of bringing environmentally-friendly products to market, Nissan hopes to leapfrog leaders like Toyota and Honda, who it contends are taking only halfway measures, focusing on hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles that continue to burn petroleum and produce global warming emissions. Nissan is going all the way, with Leaf – and three other BEVs it’s developing – which will eliminate tailpipe emissions entirely.
While “electrification” has become an industry buzzword, Nissan’s faith in battery technology puts it far out on a limb, with Leaf. So, we jumped at a chance to take the new electric sedan for a spin – in this case, a moderately short one around a special course set up next to Dodge Stadium, in Los Angeles, where the Japanese maker is kicking off a 22-city “Zero Emission Tour” that will lead up to next year’s formal introduction.