NANTES, France -- The Renault-Nissan alliance is reviewing its in-house battery production to see how it fits into its long-term plans to be the world’s leading maker of full-electric vehicles. Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn says that the alliance will buy batteries from external suppliers rather than relying mostly on those produced by Nissan via its partnership with NEC Corp.
“The goal is to make mass-market electric cars as efficient as possible,” Ghosn said adding that the automaker wants to “put our own battery business in competition with the outside world.”
Ghosn said LG Chem will be one of the partners because the Korean company is one of the world’s most advanced battery makers. LG Chem already supplies batteries for some Renault models, including the Zoe subcompact, Ghosn said.
Last week, sources quoted by Reuters said that Ghosn wanted to eliminate Renault-Nissan's battery production and was exploring a deal in which LG Chem would produce power packs at existing Nissan production sites in the UK or the U.S.
When asked about the future of Renault-Nissan’s battery making operations in Sunderland, England, Ghosn said: “At the moment, we continue to produce our own batteries and we are open to outside sourcing, period.”
Electric vehicle sales are rising in Europe but from a very low base and account for just a fraction of the overall market.
The CEO also strongly denied that there are plans to wind down Nissan’s battery production at its U.S. plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.
“The United States is the largest market for electric cars in the world and the [Nissan] Leaf is doing very well in the U.S. So, if there is a problem in Tennessee today, it’s a bottleneck problem and we are working to de-bottleneck it,” he said.
When Renault-Nissan announced plans in 2006 for an electric cars offensive, Ghosn said there was no other option than to develop and built batteries in-house. Nearly a decade later, things have changed as batteries have improved and prices have decreased because there are more competitors. “We are not changing our strategy,” Ghosn said. “We are evolving it as the technology matures.”