Nissan unveiled the first of its new electric vehicles as part of a turnaround strategy for the loss-making business.
The Japanese automaker hopes that its new Ariya all-electric sport utility vehicle (SUV) will sell well in China.
But it faces stiff competition from Tesla, which has a strong presence in the world’s largest automotive market.
Electric cars are the cornerstone of Nissan’s four-year plan to bring it back to profitability.
The Ariya was launched online Wednesday from the company’s headquarters in Yokohama, Japan. Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida called the all-electric SUV “the flagship of the new Nissan.”
By 2023, Nissan plans to launch more than eight new electric models and sees China as a central market. The Chinese government offers generous incentives to buyers of electric cars below a certain price.
In 2019, just over 20 million cars were sold in China, compared to 17 million in the United States.
Nissan was considered one of the first pioneers of electric vehicles (EV), but experts say it has lost momentum since the launch of its 100% electric Leaf in 2010.
“The Ariya will be a brand builder for Nissan, which has always been a leader in electric vehicles,” said Nobuhito Massimiliano Abe, director of the market research firm Kearney’s Automotive Practice.
But its newly launched model could face stiff competition from Tesla, which became the best-selling new energy vehicle in China in May.
Elon Musk’s company is currently expanding Teslas ‘Gigafactory’ in Shanghai to build more Model Y – its own all-electric SUV.
“Obviously, Tesla is ahead. It has the EV stamp, ”said Calum MacRae, head of automotive R&A at GlobalData. “But given the size of the Chinese market and its technological advance, this market could still generate a global Tesla competitor. ”
In May, Nissan announced an operating loss of 40.5 billion yen ($ 380 million; £ 303 million) for the year ending March 31. It was the company’s worst performance since 2009, at the height of the global financial crisis.
The brand was also damaged by the controversial departure of former President Carlos Ghosn, who fled Japan after being arrested for financial misconduct last year.
Nissan has announced the closure of its Barcelona plant at the end of this year as part of its restructuring, but its British plant will remain open.