Yesterday's financial results briefing from Nissan, led by CEO Hiroto Saikawa, was a mixed bag.
Most of the time, they talked about the many problems they faced in Fiscal Year 2018 (April to March 2018) such as Ghosn's departure, the rethink of their corporate governance and oversight measures, and problems in major markets such as the US.
It is one of the very rare times that a chief executive of a major automotive manufacturer used terms such as “rock bottom” repeatedly during a press conference, going so far as to ask for time from stakeholders to allow the brand to recover in the next two years.
But Saikawa offered something for fans of Nissan, one of which was a pledge that the company will not be axing their performance cars. Saikawa said that these cars are important to Nissan, and they will use advanced technology in them.
There was one more important announcement towards the tail end of the livestream: Nissan's CEO said that they will be launching a new small crossover SUV, and thanks to Nissan Intelligent Mobility, it will be electric.
"We want to make sure that we deliver these technologies in a manner that which can be easily be utilized by the customers. That's the challenge we have constantly tackled," said Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa.
"That will manifest itself into the following: a new C-segment crossover SUV."
Nissan has long been the leader in the battery electric vehicle, or BEV, segment when they launched the Leaf. As a testament to that success and their commitment to vehicles with zero tailpipe emissions, they developed a much improved and much more stylish second generation model in 2017.
While the Leaf is a successful model in its own right, there has been a major shift in many markets where customers have begun to prefer SUVs, particularly crossovers, rather than passenger cars. Sales of passenger cars, particularly midsize saloons, have been dropping in favor of similarly priced and more capable crossovers.
It is expected that Nissan will produce something from the IMX concept that they revealed at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. The IMX is touted to have been based on the platform and drivetrain of the Leaf. There was also the IMQ crossover concept that was shown at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, though given the development times, we expect it to be the second SUV that Nissan will produce.
A small crossover SUV based on the technology of Nissan's market-leading Leaf does hold a lot of potential in a world that has been shying away from passenger cars. And with electric motors producing relatively high torque numbers the moment the shaft turns, the technology has the capability to be the viable alternative to diesel engines.
"That I believe will be [our] flagship model. This EV -on top of the GT-R- will be a flagship model that will lead Nissan towards the future," continued Saikawa. "I hope you look forward to that EV."
In the Philippines, Nissan pledged that the will launch the Leaf EV in 2020, but a crossover with the same technology could be just what the market wants, if they can build the charging infrastructure quick enough.