Four days ago, Nissan announced the start of pre-sales of the Nissan Ariya in Japan. The Ariya is a new 100% all-electric crossover SUV. Once Japan gets it this winter, the world will follow soon after, perhaps starting spring 2022.
The Japanese automakers have this habit of creating cars exclusively for their own market.
It used to be some hidden trade secret or cult jargon. Now, everyone knows this because of The Fast and The Furious. In this Japanese domestic model (JDM) habit, a car will be built with, say, a slightly bigger engine or a sportier suspension and will never be available, at least in a commercial sense, outside Japan. Since these are right-hand drive models and come with a special something (usually indicated by a badge, a special body graphic, or body color), they become quite rare compared to availability in left hand drive countries. These JDMs sometimes get imported to other right-hand-drive markets with a badge, a sticker, or simply a moniker like Limited Edition.
Nissan already announced that the Ariya is a limited edition lineup. What the carmaker means by that, we don’t know. But what we do know is that this kickoff in Japan, made possible by an “enhanced digital purchasing experience,” is the signal that the EV is set to roll out to more markets.
Nissan calls this enhanced digital purchasing experience “Shop@Home.” If Nissan makes it sound like choosing a car online is as easy as picking groceries at AmazonFresh, well, after checking the Japanese language site, it seems to be. Aside from vehicle information, the service offers a reservation payment portal, financing options, a personalization page, and a delivery schedule. What is truly unique is the “Virtual Car” experience, which Nissan says “will allow customers to spend a day with the vehicle in the digital world, sampling how it might fit into their everyday lives.”
In Japan, customers can choose any combination of online or in-store test drives and face-to-face meetings, depending on their preferences, at any stage of the purchasing process. The entire experience is designed to be more streamlined and transparent for both dealer and customer, resulting in greater efficiency and increased trust.
For the electric car newbie (which, for now, could be most of the known universe), Shop@Home helps to understand the ins and outs of EV ownership in an exciting, virtual way. It uses AR technology and includes a video- and text-chat service for easy interaction with a Nissan specialist about specifications and purchasing.
We haven’t answered the question of why Nissan insists on calling the Ariya a limited edition model when it will be sold all over the world. Are they restricting the number of units they will produce? Apparently not.
There will be four versions available for the Japanese market, and one can suspect that one of these will be a Japan domestic market exclusive. There will be two battery sizes, two powertrain options, and changeable features to meet the needs of a wide range of customers.
First for delivery to Japanese customers by the winter this year is the Ariya B6 limited edition (it’s that phrase again), which has a 63 kWh usable capacity battery pack. Pricing will be approximately between 5 million yen (about $45,000) and 6.6 million yen (about $60,000) after available government subsidies.
Unveiled to the world last year, and found roaming the streets of Monaco only last month, the EV represents a key global model under the Nissan NEXT transformation plan.
NEXT is a four-year business transformation plan announced in the middle the pandemic last year. It was implemented to streamline unprofitable operations and surplus facilities, create structural reforms (foremost of which is reducing fixed costs by rationalizing Nissan’s production capacity, global product range, and expenses). Crucial to this plan is prioritization and investment in areas that will deliver for the company, a solid recovery, and sustainable growth.
That most likely means electrification of its product lineup.
So, the stylish and innovative Ariya is not a limited edition model after all (even if Nissan called it that almost a dozen times in a press release). It marks the next chapter in the Nissan EV playbook and could, alongside the LEAF, determine the future of who is now the most successful EV maker in the world.
And let me just say, the design philosophy behind the Ariya, one that Nissan calls “Timeless Japanese Futurism,” though an incomprehensible phrase of three words, is a truly beautiful execution that matches the wide range of performance available for the zero-emission SUV.
Urbanites (are there any other kind in Ginza?) and first-time EV owners will most likely choose the Ariya B6 limited edition (there’s that phrase again). The Ariya B9 limited edition features a larger battery, delivering additional range for those looking to venture on longer journeys. Both are front-wheel drive.
Then, as is always the case with sports utility vehicles, the Ariya B6 has the e-4ORCE limited edition (when will it end?) all-wheel-drive model that “represents an attractive balance of performance and value in its segment.”
The e-4ORCE should be more brutal, with twin electric motors, and will probably outrun most sports cars.
Performance sheets say about 5.9 seconds to 60 mph (100 km/h). That’s with all four wheels providing a balanced delivery of reliable power. It will also be equipped with ProPILOT 2.0 — the newest iteration of Nissan’s driver assistance technology — allowing “attentive drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel under certain conditions, reducing the driver’s workload and stress in single-lane highway traffic. In addition, it supports multi-lane highway driving tasks such as lane changes, passing and highway exiting,” the official Nissan Ariya literature says.
“Be it a two- or all-wheel-drive model, the Ariya’s power and performance brings excitement back to the daily commute, urging those with a sense of adventure to explore even further,” Nissan concludes.
After the launch of the LEAF in 2009, Nissan sort of slacked, or maybe the industry just overwhelmed it. But it was Ghosn sometime in 2018 who said that Nissan was probably the only carmaker making money out of selling electric cars. He was also one of the earliest auto-industry executives to advocate for electric vehicles and predicted that by 2020 electric cars would make up 10% of the global market.
Though far off the mark, today, EVs make up 2.6% of all cars sold globally. With Tesla, GM, Volkswagen, BMW, and Audi joining the fray, 10% won’t be too far away.
So, for Nissan, the not-limited edition Ariya heralds the coming of new battles in the electric car wars in the markets where the sales numbers will count — in China, North America, Europe, and Japan.