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Why Nissan Is Talking To Tesla Model S Owners 335

cartechboy writes "What do you do when you're the first to market with a mainstream item, and yet the competition seems to be a hotter commodity? Naturally you do your homework. That's exactly what Nissan is doing. With disappointing sales of its Leaf electric car, Nissan is doing the smart thing and talking to Tesla owners about their cars. One would assume this is in hopes of understanding how to better compete with the popular Silicon Valley upstart. The brand sent an email to Sacramento-area Model S owners with four elements ranging from general information and a web-based survey to asking owners to keep a driving diary and to come in for in-person interviews with Nissan staff. The question is: Is Nissan trying to get feedback on its marketplace and competition, or is the brand looking at either offering an electric car with longer range or planning to challenge Tesla with an upper end plug-in electric car?"
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Why Nissan Is Talking To Tesla Model S Owners

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  • Odd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smack.addict ( 116174 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @06:32PM (#46328333)

    I don't see the Tesla as competing with the Leaf. The Leaf basically competes with the Volt. It's biggest problem is range. The Leaf suits only a narrow market who either has a very short commute or a relatively short commute with charging at their destination.

    There's nothing wrong with that, but it does mean there's necessarily a small audience for it.

  • Re:Odd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <> on Monday February 24, 2014 @06:55PM (#46328609) Homepage Journal

    I don't know if it's an American thing but most people in Europe and Japan wouldn't consider a 50 mile each way commute "very short". For most of us a Leaf would be fine for 95% of the journeys we make, maybe 99%. Most households have more than one car too.

    Having said that range anxiety is an issue that massive battery packs like Tesla's solve, even if most people never come close to depleting them. I bet Tesla have some really interesting stats on how little people push their batteries.

    Nissan are probably looking to understand what people want from a luxury electric sedan. The Leaf has sold pretty well for them, especially in their home market of Japan where you can buy it in a bundle with solar PV and use it as a UPS for your house in the event of an emergency.

  • by tp1024 ( 2409684 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @07:23PM (#46328927)

    When you sell a new product, there are four cases:

    A) Your product is better and more expensive.
    B) Your product is better and cheaper.
    C) Your product is worse and cheaper.
    D) Your product is worse and more expensive.

    There is only one case which will fail to materialize any significant sales, in case you didn't notice: it's D.

    Tesla just about managed to get into the A category by having a roadster that is genuinely better than the competition in many, though not all, respects. It's a sports car, people are prepared to make compromises for performance. Most of all, they are prepared to make compromises in terms of the price. While the superiority of the Model S is limited to bragging rights, while range issues where addressed by brute force, that is in fact a unique selling point to a certain demographic that doesn't mind spending as much money on one car as other people would spend on five. Bragging rights aside, the Model S is still an inferior product compared to most other cars, including those of similar or much lower price.

    Most other electric cars are firmly in the D category. They are both worse and more expensive. None of this is a game breaker by itself, but the combination is. The leaf is too limited by its battery to get even roughly in the territory of a normal car and it has no reserves to drive at higher speeds while still maintaining acceptable range. That's a non-issue for the Tesla, due to a huge battery pack and an equally huge price to go with it.

    What nobody has done so far, is move into the C category. It doesn't matter if your product is worse, if you can sell it at a cheaper price than all the rest. We've seen this work with netbooks. Given full basic functionality, performance is much less of an issue than linear extrapolation would have you expect. You can sell a product at half price that has much less than a quarter of the performance in several metrics, so long as it still has full functionality. You could sell electric cars at half the price of the cheapest conventional cars - that is roughly 3-4000 euros - if they are still cars. An aerodynamic two-seat half-width car (passengers sitting behind each other, not next to each other), that can drive about 70km/h is enough for most needs in a city and limited over-land travel. Given the low price expectations are much lower. Given the smaller size and lower speed, much less energy is consumed. A 4 kWh battery could yield a range of about 100km, with some extra margin. Even a conventional wall outlet can charge this battery within an hour.

    Most problems associated with high cost of electric cars are down to large size, high speeds, high weight and high range requirements, making large batteries an absolute necessity. Once you back away from large size and high speeds of conventional cars, the rest follows automatically. A small, relatively slow car needs 4kWh / 100km. A conventional car needs about four times as much, about 16kWh/ 100km. A battery that has only a quarter of the capacity can be charged in a quarter of the time. It is also just a quarter of the price, so it matters less if quick charging wears it down faster. The result is a much cheaper and much lighter car, that certainly doesn't need carbon fibre parts to save a few pounds. You could use something as pedestrian as a steel tube frame and still get a 300kg car.

  • Re:Odd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by harrkev ( 623093 ) <[gro.ylimafnoslerrah] [ta] [dsmfk]> on Monday February 24, 2014 @07:52PM (#46329279) Homepage

    Yeah. Why bother with knobs that you can feel without taking your eyes off of the road. Make life exciting! Change the station on your radio by having to press a tiny soft button that may allow you a more exciting life of car accidents and hospital stays! Meet new cute nurses! Get sponge baths! Try interesting new drugs!

    Sorry, but LCD displays are nice for SHOWING information, but they absolutely suck if you put a touch screen on there. I rented a car with a stupid touch-screen radio, and I was in a new area where I did not know the local stations, and trying to change the station while driving was an accident waiting to happen.

    On a completely unrelated topic, as a current owner of a Nissan mini-van (got kids, sorry), the only way that I would buy another Nissan would be if they hired a mechanic to live in my garage to fix it every night. That is the worst vehicle that I have ever owned.

  • Re:Odd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aztracker1 ( 702135 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @08:09PM (#46329445) Homepage
    With the touch screen, you have to take your eyes off the road... with buttons and knobs, you can manipulate them without taking your eyes off the road as much. It comes down to safety imho as much as interaction. Also, tactile feedback is a big deal.
  • Re:Odd (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Monday February 24, 2014 @08:58PM (#46329937) Homepage
    Yes, but the city centers in Europe are safe places. Not so in America. You pretty much have to live far away in order to have a safe neighborhood and good schools for your kids. Unless you're rich enough for private school.

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