Nissan's Electric Vehicle Strategy in 2011; Leading the Way Toward Zero-Emission

By Robert Burgelman, Debra Schifrin
2011 | Case No. SM189
This case details the strategic decisions that went into Nissan’s development of the LEAF, the first mass- produced all-electric car. Carlos Ghosn, president and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, was making a $5 billion bet that electric cars would be the wave of the future. The Alliance was building capacity for 500,000 zero-emission vehicles in Japan, the United States and Europe. The case covers the inception and launch of the LEAF; Nissan’s marketing strategy for the car; the building of charging stations; and Nissan’s electric car strategy in the context of the Renault-Nissan Alliance. It also discusses the challenges caused by the high cost of electric vehicle batteries, as well as the advantages of Nissan’s joint venture with Japanese battery maker NEC. To handle battery reuse and recycling, Nissan created a separate company called 4R Energy Corporation. The case also provides an overview of the electric car industry and the different economic, psychological and political forces that could either advance or impede the success of the electric car. It discusses Nissan’s competitors, including: General Motors, which came out with its plug-in hybrid vehicle the Volt at the same time the LEAF was launched; Tesla; China-based BYD; and the upcoming electric cars promised by Ford, Volkswagen and Toyota.
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