Nissan launched the Leaf 10 years ago and has sold around half a million since then. It might not be as fashionable or heralded as a Tesla, but the electric hatchback is a true EV pioneer - and a real success story for its creators.
Yet Nissan hasn’t really capitalised on its experience: it has taken a decade for the firm to launch its second production EV, during which time rivals have been racing to catch up.
The experience of a decade of Leaf production still gives Nissan a huge edge, and there has been much anticipation for what was expected to be a ‘Leaf SUV’. In fact, given the sales volumes of the Leaf and the ever-growing popularity of SUVs, a slightly enlarged, high-riding reworking of the Leaf would surely have been an easy win sales smash for Nissan. And given Nissan's current financial plight, the firm could really benefit from an easy win sales smash.
It’s interesting, then, that the Ariya isn’t simply an enlarged, high-riding Leaf, but something much bolder, utilising a new platform, new powertrains and particularly bold styling. Nissan has gone for a distinctive, progressive design that gives the Ariya an identity of its own. While some manufacturers are trying to make EVs look as close to their combustion engines cars as possible, the Ariya stands apart from any previous Nissan.
That could make it harder to both upsell existing Leaf owners and drivers of the firm's ICE models. But remember it's the sort of bold move that has paid off for Nissan before: with both the Qashqai and Juke the firm took off in a bold styling direction, in the process not only creating two hugely successful models but arguably creating two new categories of vehicles.
Still, in the fast-growing electric vehicle market, it's going to take more than bold styling to succees - and perhaps just as important will be how much the Ariya's new EV powertrain truly builds on a decade of Leaf experience. Nissan has waited a long time to follow up its electric hit - and it really needs the new Ariya to succeed.