Cost — not range — is now the most important factor when car buyers are considering an electric vehicle says Carlos Ghosn, boss of the world’s biggest car maker.
Mr Ghosn made the comments during a news conference in Hong Kong, where he also argued that autonomous-driving technology isn’t a priority for consumers either.
“We have seen that consumers do not talk anymore about range or autonomy as long as you guarantee more than 300km,” Mr Ghosn told reporters, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.
Mr Ghosn helms the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, which is the parent company of Nissan, the French automaker Renault and Mitsubishi.
The comments are important for investors in battery metal stocks such as copper, cobalt, lithium, graphite and nickel.
Electric car battery makers are a key driver for battery metals. Investment bank UBS says, for example, that car batteries could drive nickel demand by as much as 40 per cent by 2025.
Morgan Stanley expects electric vehicles to make up 7 per cent of the global passenger car fleet by 2030 — rising to 24 per cent by 2040 and 57 per cent by by 2050.
While he was CEO of Nissan from 2001 to 2017, Mr Ghosn oversaw the development of the Nissan Leaf, the company’s first mass-market electric car.
The Leaf eventually became the best-selling electric vehicle in the world. The second generation of the Leaf hit the US market earlier this year with a base price just under $US30,000 and a range of about 243km. A longer-range, 362km version is expected in 2019.
The new Leaf is due in Australia next year, when it will go up against Tesla’s own mass-market electric car, the Model 3.
Tesla has been struggling to produce the Model 3 – a car that starts in the US at $US35,000 with a minimum range of 354km on a single charge.
Due to its rollout schedule and some well-documented production challenges, Tesla is now only producing the longer-range (500km), more-expensive version of the Model 3, which can top out at nearly $US60,000.
That the Leaf is the world’s best-selling electric vehicle, in a market where electric cars barely make up about 1 per cent of global auto sales, says quite a lot, especially as Tesla struggles to meet its own goal of producing 5000 Model 3s per week by the end of June.
During his talk with reporters this week, Mr Ghosn took a moment to flex a little, explaining how he came to learn what he knows about selling electric cars, and it could be read as a subtle jab at Tesla.
“You could not have guessed this through studies,” Mr Ghosn said. “You had to have 500,000 [electric] cars on the ground to understand,” he said.