Nissan CEO: Demand For Leaf Grows In U.S.

Carlos Ghosn says thousands of orders for the all-electric Leaf have convinced Nissan of consumers' demand for electric vehicles, despite...

DETROIT (AP) -- Nissan Motor Co. CEO Carlos Ghosn said Tuesday he\'s not bothered by skepticism about the company\'s upcoming Leaf electric car because thousands of orders have convinced the company of consumers\' demand for it.

The president of Honda Motor Co.\'s research and development unit recently questioned whether consumers will accept electric cars\' limited range or the time needed to charge them. Honda has said previously that cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells, not electrics, are the best way to cut vehicle emissions.

Some companies are going to be more bullish about electric vehicles than others, Ghosn acknowledged.

"I understand that this is not going to be consensual," Ghosn said after a speech to the Detroit Economic Club. "Not everybody believes in it, some people are more skeptical. It\'s normal."

But, he said, that skepticism won\'t change Nissan\'s direction. He said 13,000 U.S. customers have already put down $99 deposits on the Leaf, which goes on sale in December. The company expects to sell 50,000 electric cars in the U.S., Europe and Japan in 2011. By 2013, it plans to produce eight separate electric vehicles, including sedans and commercial vehicles, and sell 500,000 per year.

"We\'re not, anymore, into a situation where we\'re questioning ourselves about the technology. We\'re in it," Ghosn said.

The all-electric Leaf, a four-door hatchback powered by a lithium-ion battery, has a range of 100 miles on a single charge. It will have a base price of $32,780, but it\'s eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, making it closer to $25,000.

Ghosn also defended the decision not to put a backup, gasoline engine in the vehicle to power it when the charge runs down. The Chevrolet Volt, which will come out around the same time as the Leaf, has such an engine.

Ghosn said the rapid advancements in battery technology are one reason he thinks there will be more and more partnerships among automakers. Last month, Nissan and Renault SA, which is also led by Ghosn, announced a partnership with Daimler AG to develop small, fuel-efficient vehicles.

Ghosn said no automaker has enough resources to explore every technology well. In order to be viable, carmakers also need to have vehicles in every segment and partners who understand emerging countries like China and India, he said. In 1999, Nissan sold 1,000 cars in China; last year it sold 800,000.