Nissan SA MD calls for further industry collaboration to speed up the uptake of electric cars

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Mike Whitfield, managing director of Nissan South Africa, has called for more cooperation between carmakers and government to ensure that the electric vehicle and plug-in hybrid vehicles’ market thrives in the country. By Gugu Lourie

In an interview with Techfinancials, Whitfield said: “Technology (of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid cars) is new, is well-received, but I believe to move forward we need further cooperation on a clear strategy developed between all stakeholders.”

The Japanese carmaker Nissan started the zero emissions movement in 2010 when it introduced the LEAF as the world’s first mass-produced electric car.

In 2013, Nissan South Africa introduced 100% electric Nissan LEAF as part of its global drive to advance sustainable mobility and to grow the market for zero-emission vehicles.

The uptake of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle in South Africa is very slow.

“We believe have to work with government to address the affordability issue of electric vehicle,” Whitfield told Techfinancials.

“We also have to work together with our local governments in developing a charging infrastructure.”

The Nissan Leaf retails for more than R400 000 in South Africa, according to a Melrose Nissan dealership, making it much more expensive than an entry level car.

Nissan LEAF
100% electric vehicle Nissan LEAF

Dealers say the high prices are due to more duty being paid by car makers to import these types of cars.

Whitfield warned that electric vehicles would not be a success in South Africa, unless there was a good partnership between the car makers, government and media to create infrastructure, legislation and awareness.

When Nissan South Africa introduced the electric Nissan LEAF in the country it didn’t set any sales targets.

Globally, the manufacturer has sold more than 246 000 units.

In its attempt to grow the market for electric cars, Nissan partnered with BMW South Africa to build a national grid of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid cars charging stations for use by both Nissan and BMW vehicles.

“It is a very good partnership. South Africa was a very first part of the world where we started the partnership with BMW. Subsequent to this, BMW and Nissan have done similar partnership elsewhere in the world, like in Mexico,” said Whitfield.

Both firms have already opened a number of charging stations in South Africa.

The partnership between BMW and Nissan ensures that there are no dedicated charging stations for a particular car maker.

Nissan’s focus for electric cars in Africa is South Africa, but it is also selling them in Mauritius and Seychelles.

The Japanese car maker believes it’s too early to think of introducing electric cars in most parts of the African continent, where the auto market is dominated by second hand cars due to lack of access to finance and credit facilities.

Nissan, however, regards Africa as the last frontier for auto market globally and is looking for expansion opportunities for its new vehicles.

The company became the first global car manufacturer to build a car in Nigeria.

Furthermore, Nissan is planning to build a new model bakkie at its Rosslyn plant as early as 2018.

“Everything is on schedule and we hope to finish our feasibility study around July/August and we will make the announcement (on building the bakkie in South Africa),” said Whitfield.

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