Nissan's Fourth Electric Vehicle to be PIVO-Inspired Urban Commuter

By · May 18, 2012

Nissan PIVO

The funky Nissan PIVO concept will be the inspiration for Nissan's fourth electric-only vehicle.

If Nissan’s EVs are going to become popular and profitable at a global scale, the company will need an entire line of attractive all-electric cars. When I spoke with Mark Perry, Nissan’s EV product planner, at the Tokyo Motor Show last year, he said the company was thinking about which vehicle to choose as its fourth Nissan-badged EV. Of course, the LEAF is Nissan's first mass-produced electric vehicle. The second and third will be the electric-only variant of the NV200 small commercial van, called e-NV200, and the Infiniti LE, a luxury electric sedan.

Earlier this month, Nissan's executive vice-president Andy Palmer hinted to UK's AutoExpress that Nissan will go with a PIVO-inspired city vehicle—internally referred to as "Symbol." In Tokyo, Mark said the company had also been considering a sexy sports car and a smallish utility vehicle. (I posted photos and descriptions of the three options.)

The Symbol/PIVO would presumably appeal to ultra-urban dwellers, primarily in Europe and Asia. “It’s aimed at the generation that’s coming up, that seems to have very little interest in conventional cars,” Palmer explained. “If you add in-wheel motors and batteries under the floor, everything from there up is up to you.” If Nissan's goal is to push EVs to the highest possible volume, it seems curious that it would use one of its four electric models to try to redefine the purpose of a car into a gizmo on wheels.

Infiniti LE

The electric Infiniti LE will soon become the luxury automakers first battery-powered vehicle.

A lot will depend on execution, moving from the concept to a production car. I suppose the PIVO-inspired electric city car could appeal to youthful buyers, especially if it comes with a price tag that undercuts the LEAF by thousands of dollars. Yet, that segment is not a big seller in the U.S. If the car is primarily targeted to Europe and Asia, that will only leave the LEAF, Infiniti and e-NV200 for the American market in the next four or five years. Is that enough of a foundation to build a major EV program here, and move Nissan’s EVs into anything resembling mainstream—especially as dozens of competing electric models start to hit showrooms? If not, then Nissan’s lead in the pure-EV market could dwindle over the next few years.

Nissan NV200 Electric

Nissan NV200

LEAF Becomes More Important

For the time being, the LEAF will have to pull Nissan's EV plans forward. Now that early adopters across the nation have had ample opportunity to buy the LEAF, Nissan will shift its marketing focus to "pragmatics," according to Palmer. As USA Today reports, Nissan will gear its upcoming advertising campaigns to delivering a sensible message focused on the "dollars-and-sense benefits" of owning an electric vehicle.

The shift in marketing will be important because Nissan will soon substantially ramp-up production of the LEAF. With two additional LEAF-producing factories—one here in the US and one in the UK—set to come online soon, LEAF output will dramatically increase. Those additional vehicles need to be sold and, according to USA Today, the pool of early adopters is drying up. This matches what I learned during a recent visit to my local Nissan dealership in Richmond, Calif. The EV salesman there told me that early adopters started fading away early this year. Indicative of the new wave of less-informed customers, one individual who visited the dealership to specifically inquire about the LEAF asked, “Where do you put the gasoline?”

Nissan will need to find a way to market the LEAF to mainstream buyers. As Palmer states, pragmatics are looking for a practical solution to basic transportation and the Nissan LEAF fits the bill. I have my doubts about this strategy, given the relatively high upfront cost of the LEAF. My suspicion is that pragmatic buyers will buy a cheaper car. I believe more LEAF customers would be earned by emphasizing that the car is fun, fast and high-tech. In other words, reaching mainstream buyers means using an electric version of the vroom-vroom marketing strategies utilized for mainstream vehicles.

Palmer added that once LEAF production increases, it should be profitable. "There's no reason, through the life cycle of LEAF, why we shouldn't have a profitable car,” said Palmer. “We needed economies of scale. I see no reason why it shouldn't be profitable."


· · 6 years ago

Nissan needs to do 3 things to get Leaf moving.
- QC
- QC
- QC

· · 6 years ago

I agree with you, Brad. Pragmatics will likely continue to buy inexpensive 2-3 year old cars with low upfront cost, low maintenance, and decent mileage. For total cost of ownership, that's hard to beat. The Leaf is better served by stressing it is fun to drive, and that it uses domestic energy. I've tried to stress these things with people I talk to. Most people care about the environment only when it doesn't adversely affect their budget. And most people will turn on the "economical" argument with rediculous comparisons to something like a base Versa.

· · 6 years ago

EVNow · 1 hour ago

"Nissan needs to do 3 things to get Leaf moving.
- QC
- QC
- QC"

I'd rephrase that as:

America needs to do 3 things to get BEVs moving.
- QC
- QC
- QC

IMO, you can't blame Nissan for tailoring its new BEV plans for those markets with superior infrastructure.

Too bad, for America, and American BEV buyers.

The Esflow would probably sell sell best in America, but only If there were the same number of DC charge stations here, as in Europe and Asia.

· · 6 years ago

Personally, I find this news disappointing. I am in the process of selling an ICE vehicle to fund one of two purchases - an EV or solar panels for the garage roof. I've been holding out hope that Nissan's fourth choice would be the Esflow, and that I could parlay the ICE sale into the Esflow. I understand that Nissan is betting big on EV's, and that the US market is not the only market integral to Nissan's success, but I don't see the PIVO being well received here. Just my .02 cents. Anyway, guess I'll go meet the solar installer this afternoon to talk over his bid, and maybe wait to see what VW or BMW come up with in the EV arena over the next few years. : (

· · 6 years ago

Was it the folks at Tesla who came up with the phrase "punishment box," when referring to too small and purposely ugly EV's? That's how I would characterize the PIVO. This thing has a serious fugliness factor.

Why doesn't Nissan restyle their European sister EV partner's Renault Zoe? That would be a far smarter move for the US market. While still small, the Zoe has small rear seats and, when those are folded down, something that resembles useful cargo space . . . and it's certainly easier on the eyes than the PIVO.

The NV200, while certainly more utilitarian in size and format, also has styling cues that only a Leaf's mother could love.And I thought the Ford Transit Connect had bad exterior lines.

The Esflow? I'd never heard of it before, so I googled it . . .

OK, that more like it! While I don't generally go ga-ga over hyper-exotic sports cars, Nissan would do well bring over the stylists who designed this one into the EV division.

· · 6 years ago

@Brian Schwerdt · "Pragmatics will likely continue to buy inexpensive 2-3 year old cars with low upfront cost, low maintenance, and decent mileage."

You are taking the word too literally. "Pragmatics" are the next set of people to adopt a new technology after early adopters. They are the ones who think "EVs will be great for tomorrow" unlike early adopters who think "EVs are the best for today".

See Nissan's old presentation here ->

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

On the other hand, if they could bring that electric infiniti to market at around the price of the leaf.....:)
that is a great looking vehicle !

· gascant (not verified) · 6 years ago

Given a level playing field with ICE cars in terms of price and availability, potential buyers still have the perception that EV's are a sacrifice. In reality, the opposite is true, i.e., they enhance one's lifestyle. That has to be the message, just as smart phones and tablets have managed to do.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

We LOVE driving past the gas station every day in our LEAF and ZERO Motorcycle; yes, that's worth a lot.
Yeah, the PIVO is fine for Europe/Asia city densities, and in N. America will have largely the same fate as LSEV's(ZENN, GEM). I think the PIVO would be a mistake here; hmm, unless Nissan gave it tandem seating perhaps.
Our next investment will be the solar panels to charge the LEAF and ZERO(we have lots of underutilized lead and Lithium for a solar bank).
We used to spend $250/mo on gasoline; now we spend under $50 for electricity for transportation. We exceed EV-radius just once per month or so.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

why does nissan need marketing I show my leaf at least 6 times a day with mixed results. you will have (3) that think hmm thats cool it might work for me (2) that say man where can I get one!!! (1) idiot no need to explain that one! you dont need 4 years of upper schooling to figure this out!

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Give me ultra QC in manufacturing. RANGE ! - at least 150 miles. Styling on the order of our gen3 Prius. Moderately simple and understandable tech. 5 passenger capacity. Price less than 40k. Is that asking too much ?

· · 6 years ago

I ( like others ) am ready to buy that car right now !

· Anonymous (not verified) · 6 years ago

Range is a huge factor. Once Nissan addresses the range issue by providing an actual range of 120 miles with the heater running in 2 degree weather while driving through 5 inches of snow uphill, I will gladly buy a reasonable priced (under 40k before tax credit) Nissan EV or Ford EV.
Where are the silicon anode batteries with 10x the capacity?

· · 6 years ago

Anonymous said . . .

" Where are the silicon anode batteries with 10x the capacity?"

Well, I don't know if we'll see 10X anytime soon, Anon. But about 4X of what's in today's Leaf is promised by Envia within 3 to 5 years . . .

With batteries like these - given the pack would be the same physical size as the old one - the Leaf could easily get into the 200+ mile range!

· · 6 years ago

". . . silicon anode batteries with . . .
Unfortunately, those who insist on waiting for unobtanium will be doomed to fight over our planet's diminishing supplies of oil until it, too becomes unobtanium.

· TRONZ (not verified) · 6 years ago

I honestly do not see how the PIVO will sell in North America. Americans already look at the LEAF and are fearful they are getting less of a car. It's an irrational fear but a fear non the less. The PIVO takes these fears to a whole new level since it is less than a LEAF in every way. So this decision basically says Nissan has given up on selling a "4th EV" in America. Unfortunately, this is also Nissan's way of saying they are going to focus their EV efforts on more receptive markets in other parts of the world.

Very disappointing for North America and very bad news for EV adoption here.

· · 6 years ago

@TRONZ: "Unfortunately, this is also Nissan's way of saying they are going to focus their EV efforts on more receptive markets in other parts of the world"

Can you really blame them, though? Nissan is bullish on EVs becoming 10% of the (global) market by 2020. Unfortunately, it is an uphill battle in America. More so here than other parts of the world. I believe that by serving more receptive markets, Nissan can move much quicker to true mass-production. Then, everybody benefits, including America. I would liken it in a way to Tesla's model of starting at the ultra-high-end and working down. Of course we all want a $25k EV with 200 miles of range, but that's not feasable today.

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