It seems that “green” vehicles are the new field of confrontation between big automotive groups. After Ford attacked Toyota’s Prius claiming it’s inferior to the Blue Oval’s C-MAX Energi, Nissan and Fiat got into a fight about their EVs' designs.
Before the launch of the all-electric 500e at last week’s LA Auto Show, head of Fiat product marketing Matt Davis told Bloomberg News: “Let’s be honest, ugliness is probably one of the worst forms of pollution. The Fiat 500e proves that you do not have to give up on good looks to deliver an electric car.”
While he didn’t specifically name the Leaf, chances are that when he was talking about ugly all-electric cars he wasn’t referring to the Tesla Roadster or Model S, which belong to an altogether different segment, but the Nissan Leaf.
Nissan head of global marketing communications, Simon Sproule, didn’t mince his words: “Let’s face it, Fiat has not shied away from controversial styling themselves. Many would describe many of their products as visual pollution. Take a long, hard look at the Fiat Doblo”, he told Automotive News.
While the Doblo does indeed have a face that only a mother with very poor eyesight could love, isn’t Sproule comparing apples to oranges?
Nissan’s exec wasn’t finished as he bashed the 500e, too: “They chose the smallest vehicle in their range with the least amount of passenger functionality”, he added, while the Leaf is a “fully functioning car” for families. “I don’t think they have the credibility or the hardware to stand behind this kind of statements. Either you’re committed to it or not.”
A Fiat spokesman in Turin declined to comment.
The Italian carmaker, which initially wasn’t planning on offering an all-electric version of the 500, will do so in order to meet California strict emissions requirements. It also won’t sell it in Europe – understandably so, as it expects to lose US$10,000 on each car it sells.
On the other hand, Nissan execs must not be too happy about Leaf sales, which have dipped by five percent compared to 2011 and, through November, tallied just 8,330 units. That’s way less than the initial target of 20,000 units set for 2012, something that CEO Carlos Ghosn acknowledged was unattainable.
Sproule said it was a matter of buyers’ concern about infrastructure and range, not the car’s looks that dissuaded them.
By Andrew Tsaousis