Nissan Europe Chairman Paul Willcox smiles when he thinks about the verbal beatings the automaker took after making its multi-billion-euro commitment to electric vehicles. Willcox shared one rival's scathing comments when we met this week in Barcelona.
"Seven or eight years ago I attended a conference in the UK and an engineer from a very well-known German group was pouring a huge amount of scorn on electrification,"Willcox said. "[He was] basically saying, ‘Consumers don’t want it. Consumers don't need it. The technology has no durability and therefore it’s doomed to fail.' "
While Willcox didn’t say which German automaker the engineer worked for it’s not very difficult to figure out. It’s also not a stretch to say that Willcox probably enjoyed that Volkswagen brand used this year’s Paris auto show to promise that the production version of its I.D. zero-emissions concept car – which is not due to reach the market until 2020 -- “lays the foundation to become global market leader in electric mobility.”
If VW achieves that it will have to pass Nissan, which is the current No. 1 in that area.
Another observation Willcox made is that there are a lot more automakers which now believe in EVs. “Now at motor shows everyone’s got a concept car with a blue lead coming out of it or they’re announcing 100 electric vehicles will be coming in the next three years or something like that,” Willcox said. “So the world has changed.”