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The Pied Piper of the Car Industry

Nissans pursuit of the Electric Vehicle market is an example

of a global company placing a major bet on sustainability
megatrends. The strategy is still at an early stage, but with
the auto industry being disrupted ahead of other sectors,
there is plenty to learn for most management teams.

Nissan Case Study Interviewee

Andy Palmer
Executive Vice President and Head of Electric Vehicles

1 | Nissan Case Study 2011

Our key takeaways from Nissans strategy are:
The consideration of sustainability megatrends in the board room -
particularly population growth and climate change - were instrumental
in changing Nissans strategy.
Stretch targets, particularly wanting to bring the perceived electric end
game into the medium term, allowed Nissan to see solutions where
others saw insurmountable problems.
In the context of rising fuel prices, the introduction of Total Cost of
Ownership provided Nissan with the financial confidence to back a
strategy that was very different from its competitors.
Pioneering sustainable technologies has had a positive effect on the
sales of Nissans other vehicles, giving customers a reason to visit
Nissans showrooms.
Electric Vehicles (EVs) are changing the way Nissan does business,
leading it to collaborate with new partners and explore lease-based
arrangements with its customers.

When announced in 2008, Nissans EV programme was lauded by

environmentalists and derided by the auto industry in equal
measure. Nearly three years on, and it has precipitated a seismic shift
towards EVs in the auto industry, with all the other automakers now
following suit. But will Nissans heavy EV investment programme
deliver the environmental benefits and market share that it hopes
for? It is too early to tell, but it is undeniably exciting.

The origins of the strategy

Nissans EV commitment began with the executive Nissan considers it socially equitable to close the
management team considering issues that are gap in vehicle ownership between the US and
typically associated with environmentalists the China standing at 77% and 5%, respectively
growing global population, rising prosperity, which necessarily triggers a major expansion of
limited resources and climate change. Andy the global auto market. In order for this belief to be
Palmer, Executive Vice President and on the compatible with its vision of sustainability, Nissan
companys Executive Committee, says to knew its strategy needed to be built on radical
understand Nissans EV journey you need to start rather than incremental change. Not only was the
with its corporate vision of sustainable mobility price of fuel rising, but it regarded climate change
for all an internal contradiction in the minds of as a real and growing problem.

Nissan Case Study 2011 | 2

Green Strategy Case Study

We already have an emissions problem with 700 million cars,

what problems are you going to have with 2 billion?
Carlos Ghosn, CEO, Nissan

Nissan saw EVs, with their ability to run on non- Nissans analysis demonstrated that an EV would
hydrocarbon energy and being zero emissions, as be cheaper to the customer with the following
the ultimate end game. And it set about to find a assumptions:
business case to invest in EVs in the short term.
1. The price of oil was $80 a barrel or higher.
Building the business case 2. The vehicle weight was significantly reduced.
A number of factors were helping to build a
3. Customers have an option to lease or purchase
business case for EVs. The price of oil had risen to
the battery.
$80 a barrel, a point where the US consumer was
starting to factor fuel costs into vehicle purchasing 4. Production costs were based on production
decisions, and European governments were volumes of 500,000 batteries per annum.
implementing vehicle emissions reduction
5. Governments provide subsidies of 5k or
Nissan also saw a significant reputational benefit;
Believing these to be reasonable assumptions,
a chance to associate its brand with a particular
Nissan was the first major automaker to commit
technology. Volkswagen was associated with diesel
to mass production of EVs in 2008, with a $4bn
leadership, Toyota with hybrids, and Honda with
investment programme together with alliance
petrol engines. For Nissan, it was an opportunity
partner, Renault.
to associate the brand with leadership in EV
technology, and leverage its EV heritage.

Total Cost of Ownership

Despite its belief that EVs fitted with its vision,
Nissan needed to know that it could provide
a solution to the customer at a price that was
commercially viable. The auto industry had not
traditionally used Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
to determine its vehicle investment programmes,
but with the efficiency advantage of EVs combined
with rising fuel prices, Nissan looked at the running
costs as well. It wanted to find a way of making
an EV cheaper than a diesel VW Golf on a per mile
The 1947 Nissan Tama,
basis. a full electric vehicle

CEO Carlos Ghosn next

to a Nissan Leaf

3 | Nissan Case Study 2011

The most daring gamble in the auto world Nissan estimates that battery cell prices of
Nissans announcement surprised the automobile 40,00060,000/kW4 are achievable due to its
press and other automakers, who saw major production volumes. Battery production accounts
obstacles in the form of a lack of charging for a major part of Nissans EV programme
infrastructure, the high battery costs and the range investment, offering it exposure to a variety of
issues. different technologies.

In 2009, an Economist magazine article entitled How sustainable are EVs?

Mr Ghosn bets the company, said within the The case is pretty clear cut. Electric cars are
industry, the adjective most often used to describe regarded as around five times more efficient
Mr Ghosns plan to make the Renault-Nissan than fossil-fuelled cars, according to analysis by
alliance the first big manufacturer of zero-emission Professor David MacKay5, while life cycle analysis
vehicles is bold- in other words, somewhere by Ricardo has shown that a typical EV will emit
between very risky and certifiably mad .2 around 25% less CO2 than a standard gasoline on a
cradle-to-grave basis6.
In February 2010, the late auto journalist Jerry Flint
Nissans own research shows a significant variation
wrote the most daring gamble in the automobile
by country depending on the carbon intensity of
world is Nissans electric car, the Leaf.3
the local grid, but on a global basis EVs contribute
But it may not be as risky as it looks 41% of the CO2 emissions of an equivalent petrol
engine - see the chart below.
To Nissan, the risk of not developing the most
efficient technology in an era of rising oil prices How central are EVs to core strategy?
and lower emissions was high. This different way
Nissan launched its 6-year plan to 2016, known
of thinking perhaps comes down to whether a
internally as Power 88, with the following
board factors projections for population growth,
comments from Ghosn: As we accelerate our
oil scarcity and climate change into core strategy
growth, we will bring more innovation and
or not.
excitement to our products and services, as well as
Nissan tells us that its strategy of investing in cleaner, more affordable cars for everyone around
the mass production of affordable lithium-ion the world.6 The word clean is embedded in an
batteries, with production capacity of 500,000 aggressive growth strategy that is designed to
units per annum by 2014, significantly reduces inspire designers, employees and shareholders
the strategic risks. It believes that demand for alike. The aim is to increase Nissans global market
lithium-ion batteries will grow for the next 20 years share to 8% by 2016, up from 5.8% in 2010 and
even without the adoption of EVs, as hybrids and 4.6% in 1999.
fuel cell technologies will both rely on batteries for
storing energy. With Nissans Leaf and the mass-
market version of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV,

UK price of diesel/litre (Jan 07 - Oct 11) EV CO2 emissions vs petrol equivalent

Source: www.whatgas.com Source: Nissan management

Nissan Case Study 2011 | 4

Green Strategy Case Study

Zero emission leadership is one of the six pillars materials to be recycled. Nissan claims to be
of Power 88. In the shareholder Annual Report for the first car company to set a recycling target.
2010, Nissan states that it is taking a leadership
Enhanced environmental management
role in every aspect of EVs. It states that the
adopting TCO, and practising reduction and
intention of the Renault-Nissan alliance is to put
substitution with the supply chain.
1.5 million EVs on roads worldwide by 2016.
How impressive are these targets? Being absolute
An integrated sustainability programme targets, how impressive they turn out to be will
Whilst pioneering the EV may turn out to be depend on the level of business growth that
the single biggest step in making the auto Nissan achieves. The 2005 baseline testifies that
industry more sustainable, Nissan should also be Nissan has been monitoring sustainability for a
evaluated on its broader sustainability strategy. while. Nissan tells us that it reduced its worldwide
Research shows that 23% of standard vehicle carbon emissions per vehicle produced by 18%
emissions are generated in production 46% for between 2005 and 2010; which is probably ahead
EVs emphasising the importance of internal of its peers. And Nissan generates 7% of its UK
resource efficiency matching a product efficiency production energy needs from onsite renewable
programme.8 energy. Broadly speaking, these are compatible
Nissan launched its Green Programme 2016 on with a sustainability leadership position.
the 21st October 2011, with five objectives for Delivering a new business model for Nissan
2016. The first is EV leadership, with the other four
Nissans commitment to EVs is causing it to
summarised as follows:
innovate with its business model. It is forming
Improved vehicle efficiency by 35% from 2005 new partnerships, collaborating and changing its
levels, average across all vehicles. customer proposition. If the EV market does take
off, then it is the evolved business model that will
Reduced CO2 emissions for corporate create the biggest barriers to entry. These include:
activities by 20% from 2005 levels (27% for
manufacturing sites).
Improved resource efficiency 25% of vehicle

How Nissan sets its sustainability targets

Nissan have a clearly defined approach to target-setting, which they describe through traditional Japanese

Nissan recognises the importance of having an element of the unknown in how targets will be met, a
feature of many of the best target setting strategies. Nissan describes it as stretch but not break, which
combines bottom up and top down thinking. The stretch element is seldom more than 50% of the target.

The bottom up targets are referred to as Monozukuri, or the art of making things in Japanese Nissan ask
its managers what they think they can achieve, and look at what is demanded by regulations. Monozukuri is
generally conservative. They then look to Kotozukuri for stretch.

Kotozukuri means the art of storytelling in Japanese, and broadly speaking accounts for the more
ambitious 30-40% of its targets. Management looks at what their experience suggests is achievable,
factoring in changes in technologies that may not have been identified by factory workers, and they look at
how the targets fit with the story being told by Nissan.

Mr Ghosn bets the company. The Economist, October 17th, 2009. http://www.economist.com/node/14678942
Why Nissans Electric Car Will Flop. Jerry Flint. Forbes. February 29th, 2010. http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/19/flint-nissan-leaf-business-autos-electric.html
UBS Investment Research Q-Series. October 2010
Sustainable Energy, without the hot air. Professor David MacKay. UIT Cambridge, 2008. http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c20/page_127.shtml
Ricardo report for The LowCVP. June 2011. www.lowcvp.org.uk/assets/pressreleases/LowCVP_Lifecycle_Study_June2011.pdf
Nissan 2010 Annual Report, Message from the CEO. http://www.nissan-global.com/EN/DOCUMENT/PDF/AR/2011/AR2011_E_All.pdf
Ricardo report for The LowCVP. June 2011. www.lowcvp.org.uk/assets/pressreleases/LowCVP_Lifecycle_Study_June2011.pdf

5 | Nissan Case Study 2011

worth $1bn. The winning NV200 vehicle is a
Nissan tells us that it reduced its worldwide basic commercial van in other markets, and
won because it was the cheapest vehicle to
carbon emissions per vehicle produced by 18% run on a TCO basis. Nissan included an option
between 2005 and 2010; which is probably ahead to convert the cars to become fully electric,
further reducing the running costs. Andy
of its peers. Palmer is clear that Nissans electric knowledge
was critical to winning this contract.
Creating partnerships with organisations that 3. EVs have already been positive for the Nissan
Nissan didnt previously regard as natural brand. Measuring the brand contribution of a
allies. It currently has 140 memorandums of sustainability strategy is always difficult, but
understanding (MOU) with governments, Nissan attributes some of the improvements
utilities and telecom companies. that it is seeing to its EV strategy. According to
a number of recent articles, some customers
Looking at different ways of supplying
are attracted to Nissans showroom by the Leaf,
customers. In some markets, including France,
and end up buying a less adventurous car.
the Renault-Nissan alliance is leasing the
battery and selling the car to reduce the up- 4. The Nissan Leaf is the biggest selling EV in
front purchase cost. history. As of the end of October 2011, Nissan
had sold over 15,600 Nissan Leafs, outselling
EVs have broadened Nissans manufacturing
any other EVs throughout time.
capabilities. Not only has it entered the battery
market on a major scale, but it is also building
fast chargers in a car factory the first time
that Nissan has manufactured anything that
does not have wheels on it.
It is starting to explore supplying stored energy
to households. It is working with GE on smart
technology that allows customers to download
electricity at cheap night rates to their car
battery, in order to run their household in
the day. A Nissan Leaf can power the average
household for two days. The Nissan NV200
When can we judge Nissans EV strategy?
It is too early to judge whether Nissan has ignited
an EV market that it will then dominate, and
therefore too early to judge its success as a
sustainability strategy. But the following points can
be made at this stage:

1. All of the major automakers now have an EV

programme. The next 12 months will see the
arrival of EVs from Renault, GM, Ford, Toyota,
BMW and Mercedes, in what some are calling
an EV Spring9. This may have the effect of
normalising EV technology in the minds of
consumers, which could be a pivotal moment
in market adoption.

2. EV played a major role in Nissan winning the

New York taxi contract. In May 2011, Nissan
won an exclusive 10-year contract to supply
New York taxis from 2013, estimated to be

EV Spring Coming Soon. Chris Vander Doelen. Windsor Star. October 18th, 2011. http://www.windsorstar.com/cars/Spring+coming+soon/5562839/story.html

Nissan Case Study 2011 | 6

Green Strategy Case Study

Global sales of the Toyota Prius

The sales of the

Toyota Prius took
several years to
take off.

Source: Green Car Congress

The Prius may indicate the growth profile Nissan may be reassured by the slow sales start
for the Toyota Prius, the pioneer of Hybrids, which
Sales of the Nissan Leaf to date, represent less sold 921,000 in its first 10 years, but less than 2%
than 0.5% of Nissans 2010 global vehicle sales, of these sales were in the first two years. Nissan
and there is going to need to be a big pick up in has a significantly faster global roll-out for the Leaf
EV sales for the Renault-Nissan alliance to hit their than Toyota had for the Prius.
target of 1.5m sales by the end of 2016.

Nissan is not out of the woods yet. If the price of diesel increases
from the current 1.39 to 1.70 over the next year, which could
happen with a return to global economic growth, it will be in a
good position. But lets not rule out a Eurozone crisis having the
opposite effect.

7 | Nissan Case Study 2011

Dynamic Charging - the long term game changer?
There are battery-charging technologies that are currently in their infancy that could transform the
case for an EV over a combustion engine. Most importantly, they could overcome range anxiety, whilst
creating a financial dynamic that would be difficult to compete against.

Dynamic Charging allows EVs to recharge their batteries wirelessly while in motion. A number of
companies are developing solutions that will allow vehicles to recharge from wireless points embedded
in the road, and pay using their mobile phone. It means the battery size, and cost, can be reduced by
over 75%.

Halo IPT is one of the companies that is developing a technology that is already proven in the medical
arena. It has estimated that 15% coverage of the UK road network is all that is needed for EVs to be able
to reduce battery sizes by 75%, with dramatic impacts for TCO calculations.

The chairman of Halo IPT, John Miles, will be speaking at Green Strategy 2011 on 16th November.

Prior to the arrival of Carlos Ghosn in 1999, Nissan Nissan describes its EV investment as: Not
was not associated with innovation. The first betting the house, but would be pretty painful if
period of his tenure was about returning Nissan it doesnt work. What we can say with certainty
to financial health, and the second is focused on is that it is one of the bravest and most inspiring
introducing innovation and leadership in a way sustainability strategies we have seen, and it has
that has not previously been associated with the potential to see Nissan emerge as one of the
Nissan. Its EV programme is at the heart of this business stories of the next decade.

Will EVs make Nissan the Apple of the car

industry? Ghosn has said of EVs: This is the future,
and everything else is going to look obsolete, like
sending messages with pigeons10. That future
is yet to be a reality, but the next two years will
tell us whether EVs will play a substantial role
in decarbonising the auto industry. If Nissan
can retain its EV dominance until then, it could
become the biggest global car marker.

The 50 Most Innovative Companies. Fast Company. March 2011. http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/123/the-worlds-most-innovative-companies.html


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