Ask who is the most successful electric car company in the whole wide world, and you will most likely hear “Tesla, Tesla, Tesla.” At this point, you will have been lied to three times, and if you don’t run away fast, you will be lied to some more. The truth is that Tesla is being dwarfed by the electric vehicle sales of the Renault/Nissan Alliance, which just booked its 200,000th electric vehicle delivery. That compared to Tesla’s 47,000 so far. Both started in 2010.
The “Nissan LEAF remains the best-selling electric vehicle in history,” the company said in a statement today. Two out of three electric vehicles sold worldwide are made by the Renault/Nissan Alliance. It offers a whole range of battery-operated vehicles, from the Twizy, Renault’s two-seater urban commuter vehicle, all the way to the Nissan e-NV200 electric delivery van. There even are a few all electric race cars made by Nissan.
O.k., so they sell a few more. But “it’s the infrastructure, stupid,” you will hear at this point. “Tesla’s network of superchargers is the best on the planet.” And again, you are being misled. Nissan has more than 4,000 quickchargers installed worldwide (2,400 Japan, 600 USA, 1000 EU). Tesla currently counts exactly 272 superchargers worldwide.
You know what is coming now: “But, but, Tesla makes a lot of money selling EVs, Nissan is a failure.” We don’t know how much money Nissan is making or losing selling electric vehicles. What we know is that Tesla is losing money even when selling cars costing $70,000 and up. It is probably the only car company that can boast of a 23 percent gross margin and still is losing money. Since 2010, Tesla has lost more than a billion dollars.
Is Renault/Nissan happy with having sold 200,000 EVs? Probably not. Carlos Ghosn wanted to have sold 1.5 million EVs by 2016, now he thinks it will take another 4 or 5 years longer. Elon Musk has sold 47,000 so far, and he wants to move half a million per year by 2020.
P.S. Recommended reading: The Mystery of 12,000 Missing Teslas: Overseas Boom or Waning U.S. Demand? What you can (or rather cannot) find when tracking actual registrations. Better data disclosure could help solve the puzzle.