Germany will help EV sales take off, Nissan's Palmer says

Nick Gibbs is UK correspondent at Automotive News Europe.Nick Gibbs is UK correspondent at Automotive News Europe.
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Nissan Executive Vice President Andy Palmer thinks increased competition from German automakers in electric vehicles will be a good thing for his company.

Big investments in EVs made by Volkswagen and BMW will help to persuade customers in Germany, Europe's biggest market, to consider buying an electric car, Palmer said at the Frankfurt auto show.

EV sales in Germany lag behind those of countries such as the UK and Norway, which have become the two biggest European markets for the Nissan Leaf, helped by government subsidies offered to buyers.

VW's and BMW's new electric car ranges will accelerate the expansion of a charging network in Germany, which will help EV sales, Palmer says, regardless of whether German buyers are offered subsidies.

Palmer's boss agrees. "The more companies that buy into electric, the better. All of this is helping to drive this tipping point," Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told the Financial Times.

VW unveiled electric versions of its Golf compact and Up minicar at the Frankfurt show as CEO Martin Winterkorn reiterated his company's ambition to become the global No. 1 seller of EVs by 2018.

Electric cars still have a long way to go before they become mainstream. Nissan has softened Ghosn's forecast four years ago that 10 percent of global car sales will be EVs by 2020. Palmer said the 10 percent figure will be now be reached somewhere between 2020 and 2025.

When Nissan and its alliance partner Renault in 2009 announced plans to invest 4 billion euros in building EVs for the mass market, many thought the idea was crazy and a huge gamble.

Palmer feels the decision has now been vindicated. "Our friends at VW and BMW are legitimizing statements we made four years ago. Everyone has been giggling behind our backs. Doesn't look so funny anymore, huh?"

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