In conjunction with alliance partner Renault, Nissan’s commitment to electric vehicles (EVs) is second to none. During 2014, sales of the Leaf grew rapidly, up from 1,800 units in 2013 to more than 4,000 last year. The flip side of this success is that market share is down because there are more competitors. The plan for this year is to find even more new customers for the British-built car, and sell 400 of the more recently introduced e-NV van.
Key to making that happen is a planned expansion of the Workplace Presentation Programme (WPP). It’s a partnership initiative between Nissan GB and the local dealer, where they join forces to visit a company or council to talk about EVs. Karl Anders, Nissan’s national EV manager, explained it wasn’t a dialogue with the fleet boss, but about talking to the individuals who work there.
“People ring up Nissan and say ‘can you send us a brochure about EVs?’. We say ‘we can do better than that, we can spend an hour or two with you’. EVs are about a different type of motoring, so we need to spend a lot of time with people. WPP is about bringing people and cars together, talking about EVs and the issues around them.”
Event guests can take a test drive, but Anders was keen to emphasise the goal wasn’t sales and there are no set targets. The programme brings dual benefits – WPP is helping to raise the profile of Nissan and while some people do subsequently visit the local showroom and buy an EV, others are buying non-EVs instead.
The initiative started early last year and will ramp up during 2015, with extra staff allocation from Nissan. While it is centrally funded, the local retailer has to contribute cars and staff. Nissan also has more field-based EV specialists, helping to drive sales and support dealers.
However, Anders, who has previously worked in the retail network with Hartwell, Dutton Forshaw and Inchcape, said dealers also have to help themselves. As every Nissan dealership has a Leaf demonstrator with charging facilities, an in-house vehicle specialist and can sell the car to customers, dealers have a role to play in continuing EV sales growth.
One example is targeting drivers who already understand the benefits of EVs. He said: “While we don’t have any specific examples of dealers who allow customers with other EVs to use their chargers, our sites are on the Zap Map and we wouldn’t expect dealers to turn customers away if they needed to charge and the charger wasn’t in use. Where that happens, dealers should absolutely use it as a sales opportunity and offer a test drive in a Leaf.”