TOKYO -- Nissan is pushing back the release of its flagship Ariya full-electric SUV, highlighting the struggle automakers everywhere are facing in trying to launch new cars amid a persisting shortage of semiconductors.
Nissan said last year that it planned to begin sales of the Ariya in Japan starting in mid-2021. But the rollout of the model in Japan has been pushed to "this winter," executive vice president Asako Hoshino, told reporters during a briefing on Friday.
"Sales in the United States and Europe will typically come around two months later," Hoshino said.
Hoshino expects tens of thousands of Ariyas to be sold in the first year of sales, with the highest demand in Europe.
The Ariya is Nissan's first all-new EV in almost a decade after the Leaf hatchback, which made its mark as the world's first mass-market electric vehicle.
"One year ago, we made our announcement we were targeting the middle of this year, but after that, COVID-19 has lingered longer than we expected and there is the issue of semiconductor shortages," Hoshino said.
The struggle to roll out new models amid a global shortage of automotive chips is one that automakers worldwide are facing. But the need for a smooth roll-out of the Ariya is particularly acute for Nissan.
Analysts have highlighted the model as key to the automaker's performance going forward, and Nissan itself touts the model as its flagship vehicle, embodying its decades-long reputation for building high-tech autos.
Nissan is counting on the 12 new models it plans to release in the 18 months through November to boost sales.
So far, models such as the Nissan Rogue have been well-received in markets such as the U.S., and Nissan Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta said an improvement in the company's quality of sales with the new models helped trim losses for the recently ended fiscal 2020 year.
But Nissan's new car offensive is coming as the chip shortage makes it harder to make vehicles with high-tech features. Automotive electronics, which include everything from displays to in-car systems, accounted for 40 percent of a car’s manufacturing cost in 2020, compared to 18 percent two decades prior, data from Deloitte show.
The Ariya is no exception. The car comes with tech features including Nissan’s ProPilot 2.0 autonomous driving technology, a self-parking feature and Amazon's voice-based digital assistant Alexa.
The winter launch was decided due to the fact that the Ariya “is filled with innovative technologies that need to be checked thoroughly, one by one,” Hoshino said.
"In some countries it’s said Nissan has no face,” Hoshino said. “Nissan is a technology company and with the Ariya we hope to embody that."
Nissan expects the chip shortage to impact about 500,000 units of its output this fiscal year. It is prioritizing production of its most popular models, and aims to recover around 50 percent of its lost output in the latter half of the year.
Bloomberg and Reuters contributed to this report