It’s been an interesting week in the Nissan press office. The episode of Top Gear featuring the LEAF means the car has been talked about more in the past few days than it has been since it was first launched.
Some of the chatter is good, some bad. Some true and some false.
We also seem to have tweaked Jeremy Clarkson’s tail, which is never a good thing. He’ll always win a shouting match because he’s got a bigger megaphone.
So with my hands cupped around my mouth in a puny attempt to be heard, here’s our side.
The truth is that we did say the LEAF feature contained inaccuracies – but they concerned their conversation about battery life. The presenters’ suggestion that the battery would be scrap after three years is plain wrong. Other than that part we actually quite liked it. They said lots of good things about the LEAF.
But other media – who love to hate Top Gear it seems – leapt on this and said we had been moaning about the whole feature. Then other media did a cut-and-paste with the inevitable Chinese whisper effect.
[quote style=”boxed”]But now we are stuck in the middle while the pro and anti EV camps lob word grenades at each other. Perhaps we should be glad there is a debate at all.[/quote]
In the middle of it all, one journalist asked if the result of the TV programme would be that Nissan would scrap the LEAF project.
He asked why we bothered with it at all. He pointed out that the number of LEAFs we’ve sold this year is actually less than the number of Qashqais built in a day at the Sunderland factory.
Well there’s a reason we feel passionately about the LEAF. We feel we need to be first with EV technology, even if it means we have to take a few punches at the beginning.
People who are cleverer than me have looked at the very big picture. China recently overtook the US as the biggest car market in the world. And it’s now the biggest consumer of oil.
The Chinese population is replacing its famous bicycles with Bentleys. The Indians are the same, with massive growth in car and motorcycle ownership. The numbers involved make the British car market look like a corner shop next to a large supermarket chain.
All of these cars currently run on petrol or diesel. It’s fuel which we have been used to snaffling ourselves. But soon the global petrol station is going to have a very big queue. The price will make us remember wistfully the days when it was only £1.50 a litre.
So we’ll be forced to find alternative ways of powering our cars. And nearly all the alternatives, from hybrids to fuel cells, use batteries and electric motors to some extent. Thankfully Nissan has already made massive investments in the technology, and will keep doing so.
Hopefully, it will mean Nissan owners will be able to drive right past the queue in a car which doesn’t feel like a compromise. And that’s worth shouting about.
Tom Barnard, Nissan Communications Director