There’s an alternate universe out there where Nissan kept up development of the early-to-the-game electric Leaf, saw what was coming, and expanded its EV lineup to several other models while building out its hybrid portfolio, becoming a technological competitor to both Tesla and Toyota in the process. Alas, that’s not the timeline we exist in. Now one of the original EV pioneers is playing catch up, and it’s starting by convincing its own dealers in America that it can pull this off.
That leads off this wonderful Friday edition of our morning news roundup. Also on tap today: another Nissan-centric Apple TV show you should watch this weekend, union workers at a General Motors battery plant score a win, and how we can expect EVs to become a political football in the U.S. presidential race. Let’s get moving!
Nissan To Dealers: Here’s The Electric Plan, Finally
Nissan has been in the midst of a bit of a comeback lately after years in the wilderness amid the scandalous downfall of its former CEO (which we’ll get to a minute), the pandemic, and a prolonged internal fight with its partner Renault. But as good as many of these updated Nissans look—the new Pathfinder, Z and Frontier all seem pretty sharp—you may notice they run on extremely dated powertrains, like CVTs and the now-ageless VQ V6 engine. Nissan doesn’t even make any hybrid cars in North America anymore.
Don’t even get me started on Infiniti.
Anyway, Nissan hasn’t felt like an automaker that has its shit together in years. Losing the lead it once had in the EV race is particularly painful—especially when you consider how the Chinese market going for the automakers lately. So at a conference for dealers in Las Vegas (these things are always in Vegas) Nissan showed its North American sales partners what the future will be. And it includes hybrids, finally; solid-state batteries; a new Leaf; and an electric sport sedan, too. Take it away, Automotive News:
Top Nissan executives in attendance previewed what will be a rapidly electrifying product portfolio of about a dozen new and updated vehicles.
Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida committed to a diversified powertrain strategy in which the company invests in both internal combustion vehicles and electric vehicles. He emphasized a greater focus on delivering products to market faster — addressing a long-standing dealer gripe.
The automaker will kick-start its EV offensive beginning around 2025, and will bring a promising series-hybrid technology to the U.S. about a decade after launching it in Japan, officials said. Dealers were told the company plans to launch 27 electrified vehicles globally by 2030, including 19 battery-electric models.
The replacement for the Leaf offers 25 percent more range than the hatchback, dealers were told. A dealer who asked not to be identified described the new model’s look as “a mini-Ariya.”
Also, this is funny, because remember how all SUVs are Land Rovers now?
Described by the dealer as “Range Rover-like,” the redesigned Armada debuts a 424-hp twin-turbocharged V6 engine with a nine-speed transmission. It is bigger and more rugged-looking, with redesigned headlights and taillights. An all-new interior includes upgraded finishes, large screens and the latest driver-assist and convenience technology.
Infiniti wouldn’t say if the QX Monograph concept it unveiled at Pebble Beach is electric or not, and the above proves it probably won’t be since it and the Armada are platform-mates; I also think that if that SUV was electric, they would’ve said so.
Anyway, these plans do sound promising enough, and keep in mind Nissan is also said to be planning an electric pickup truck—something I think it’d be great at. It’s also finally getting back to making some hybrids:
Nissan said it will bring its e-Power series-hybrid technology to the U.S. in the redesigned Rogue scheduled for the second half of 2026. The technology introduced in Japan in 2016 uses a battery-powered electric motor to drive a vehicle’s wheels and a gasoline engine to charge the battery.
Nissan has a lot of work to do here, however. It finally seems to realize it can’t coast on that V6 engine forever. And while some critics say starting the “EV offensive” around 2025 is too late, I think that given the ups and downs of the EV market in America—and how companies like Ford, GM and others have struggled to get theirs up and running profitably and at scale—Nissan’s timing may work out just fine here.
I have a Nissan Ariya EV I’m taking on a road trip to the Finger Lakes this weekend. I’ll let you know how that goes.
Carlos Ghosn Apple TV+ Documentary Debuts This Weekend
Apparently, the greatest regret for former Nissan and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn—currently living in a sort of exile in Lebanon—is not taking the top executive role at GM in 2009 when he had the chance. Granted, 2009 wasn’t a spectacular year to run an American car company, but it would’ve been better than his ultimate fate.
I probably don’t have to tell you, Autopian reader, what happened, but just in case: In 2018, Ghosn was charged in Japan with financial crimes, particularly underreporting his executive compensation. Since the Japanese don’t screw around, he was facing hard prison time, and instead rigged a daring escape out of the country in an instrument case with the aid of a former Green Beret.
It’s still just the most insane story. And it’s having a bit of a moment right now: There’s a Netflix documentary, an upcoming drama mini-series starring Tony Shalhoub of Monk and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel fame, the book “Boundless” by Wall Street Journal reporters Nick Kostov and Sean McLain, and now this Apple TV documentary based on that book. It’s called Wanted: The Escape Of Carlos Ghosn, and it debuts tonight.
Here’s The Detroit Free Press on that:
“This is the hardcore facts. That ultimately is our goal,” [director James Jones] told the Detroit Free Press. “It’s a dark and twisted, complicated story and it poses the question: Is Carlos Ghosn a victim or a villain? We let the viewer decide.”
[…] The series took about two years to make and getting the principal players to participate was a feat in itself. For one thing, Ghosn is a fugitive who can’t leave Lebanon or he risks arrest.
“It took six months to even have a face-to-face meeting with him,” Jones said. “We met in a hotel in Beirut. We walked him through it and I think he respected that we knew a lot about what we were talking about. He’s been around long enough to know this isn’t going to be a puff piece and he wouldn’t have any editorial control. But I talked him into the fact that, ‘You’re your own best advocate’ to participate in it.”
And here’s where things get really interesting:
“I certainly think he was a victim in those early days,” Jones said. “The Japanese charges were inappropriate. We have evidence there was a plot to take him down to stop the merger. He had a hard time in prison. But it gets complicated where you find the allegations they came across later on which were much more serious and even the French have issued an arrest warrant. That suggests there is something more serious going on.”
Now you have something to watch this weekend!
GM’s Ultium Battery Plant Workers Score A Win
As we’ve covered here before, the new U.S. battery plants are a big point of contention in the United Auto Workers’ ongoing contract negotiations with the Big Three. Employees at those plants are joint venture workers so they aren’t automatically UAW members, and thus far have been paid quite a bit less than their car factory counterparts—a real sticking point considering they’re building the future of the American auto industry.
But workers at the LG-GM Ultium plant in Warren, Ohio scored a win by securing 25% pay raises as part of a tentative agreement. They’re even getting back pay, too. Here’s The Detroit News:
The agreement, which will have to be ratified by the UAW members at Ultium, would become effective Aug. 28. It comes as the two parties continue to negotiate an inaugural contract for the Ultium workers. Ultium is a joint venture between General Motors Co. and LG Energy Solution.
“Providing this wage increase is the right thing to do for our team members, all of whom contribute so much to Ultium Cells’ growth and success,” Ultium said in a statement. “This is just a first step. We continue to bargain in good faith with the UAW to reach a comprehensive contract for our employees, including a final wage scale.”
The UAW said in a statement that the “breakthrough agreement” will raise wages by $3 to $4 an hour, adding it will continue to bargain for more wage increases.
“After months of public pressure and worker organizing, Ultium was forced to take a first step towards economic justice for the workers who are powering GM’s electric vehicle future,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in a statement. “When we fight hard, we can win big, and we aren’t done fighting for standard-setting wages and benefits at Ultium and beyond.”
And more from Fain:
Fain, at a rally Sunday in Macomb County, addressed the situation at the Ohio Ultium plant.
“We want our standards in this transition to EV,” he said during the event at UAW Region 1 headquarters. “If we don’t get these standards … everyone’s going to lose. This whole country’s gonna lose. It’s imperative that we have good labor standards especially when our tax dollars are financing that.”
Expect more of this as contract negotiations continue.
EVs Get Political At GOP Debate
One day, when I am king (America has had a great track record with guys named King George, as I like to say) I’ll still allow us to have presidential elections. I plan on being a benevolent dictator, you see. But under my reign, campaign season will legally be limited to two weeks. This will keep presidential election cycles and the subsequent news coverage around them—which at this point exists to juice cable TV ratings and little else—at a far less annoying level.
Unfortunately, no one has crowned me king yet. So while the election’s not until next year, this week had the first Republican debate (sans its frontrunner) and it featured lots of talk about EVs. Here’s The Detroit News again:
Asked whether human-caused climate change is real, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said yes but that Biden administration subsidies for EVs are “not working.”
“All he’s done is helped China. He doesn’t understand, all these electric vehicles that he’s done — half of the batteries for electric vehicles are made in China. So that’s not helping the environment,” she said. “You’re putting money in China’s pocket.”
It went on and on like that, and former President Trump also had plenty of anti-EV takes in his pre-recorded interview with Tucker Carlson that aired on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. (You know, the one literally owned by the CEO of an electric automaker. What a weird time to be alive.)
I have little desire to wade in here and I doubt you want that either, but my point is this: Expect EVs to become a big talking point in this interminable election, especially with the battery plant investments spurred by the Biden Administration’s signature legislative package, the Inflation Reduction Act. Those who seek to unseat Biden have linked EVs to China, or said they’re “woke,” or claimed people are being “forced” to buy them eventually. I think it’s just an evolutionary shift in technology—one that’s been in the works for more than a decade now—that happens to have complex geopolitical ramifications around supply chains, but hey, that’s just me.
Either way, expect to hear more politicization of the auto industry this time around, whether you want to or not. And I’d add that this has a lot to do with our own tax dollars, too, so it’s worth keeping some kind of eye on.
What do you want to see from Nissan as it pulls out of this weird funk it’s been in for some time? I’m glad it’s including hybrids in its strategy, but a lot can happen in two years. Hopefully, for Nissan’s own sake, it isn’t too behind the curve.