After BMW has now fully got behind electric cars with its new i brand, and the Volkswagen Group also now on-board with a declaration it will be the market leader of the technology by 2018, you could forgive Nissan technical chief Andy Palmer for thinking ‘I told you so’.
“As more people come to the EV market, the market will grow,” he said. “We’ve said all along that sales of these types of cars will be 10 per cent of total sales by 2020, and everyone has been giggling a bit on it. Not anymore.
“I have to give great credit to Elon Musk and Tesla for making EVs cool and desirable. We don’t share customers, but they’ve helped make EVs aspirational purchases.”
On VW, Palmer spoke candidly. “In 2011, VW said EVs were ‘lunacy’. Look it up. Now them coming into the market just validates what we’ve been saying for years.” (I did look it up, and couldn’t find that exact quote, but did find quotes from around the same time from VW’s sales boss saying consumers didn’t want EVs, only governments.)
“I’ve got four years’ worth of data on EVs and ownership patterns, and no-one else has that,” said Palmer. “We have to stay as market leader. We’re the ones who are market leaders.
“People will remember us as the ones who took the lead, and were brave enough to do it. And we will do the same with autonomous cars.”
That last statement could perhaps provide another ‘I told you so’ moment. Nissan says it will have autonomous vehicles on the market by 2020, which has prompted a series of raised eyebrows. Palmer had even brought along some articles that tried to pour cold water on Nissan’s goal, and produced them with a ‘we’ll show you’ mentality.
So why autonomous cars? “Autonomous cars are about zero emissions and zero fatalities, the latter being the key part,” according to Palmer. “An 85-year-old can get in a car, programme it to go somewhere, and get to a destination safely if legislation allows it. Autonomous cars can make calculations quickly and make quick decisions.
“Maybe it’s a dream, but no kid should ever have to die on the road again. That’s far more interesting point about the autonomous car than the fact it can drive itself.”