Global sales of electric cars are more than four years behind expectations, Carlos Ghosn of Renault-Nissan said, as he admitted that the industry leader would miss its targets for the new generation of vehicle.
Mr Ghosn , speaking to the Financial Times, conceded that the market was failing to live up to his expectations. As chief executive of both Renault and Nissan, Mr Ghosn has ploughed billions of dollars into electric vehicles and become their most outspoken cheerleader.
Renault and Nissan , which operate in a global alliance, had previously said they would sell 1.5m electric cars between them by the end of 2016. “We will not be there,” Mr Ghosn said. “At the speed right now, I’m seeing it more four or five years later.”
Despite much fanfare, heavy investment and government pressure to promote low-emission vehicles, electric cars have proved costly to build, tough to sell and crippled by limited mileage and a lack of charging infrastructure in key markets – “range anxiety”.
Renault and Nissan have together sold more than 120,000 electric cars in the past five years, more than any other manufacturer. Nissan’s Leaf is the world’s best-selling model, with about 85,000 sales so far.
But a failure to create charging and support infrastructure has crippled early sales and forced the company to pare back its expectations.
“We have to admit, it is slower than we thought. But it is slower because we thought infrastructure building would be faster. It is not,” Mr Ghosn said.
“I don’t think the main issue today is the cost of the car. The main issue is infrastructure. It is normal. I would not buy a gasoline car if there were no gasoline stations.”
In markets such as Norway or California , healthy government incentives for buyers and a widespread network of charging points has spurred demand. While rivals General Motors , Honda and Mitsubishi have developed electric cars, and smaller companies such as Tesla have had some success with battery-only models, Renault-Nissan’s commitment has made it an industry trailblazer.
Analysts say the decision of Volkswagen and BMW , which unveiled its first electric model this autumn, to enter the market could accelerate sales.
The Franco-Japanese alliance announced a deal with Mitsubishi last week that will see the three groups work together on a small electric car.