Nissan Working on a Plug-In Hybrid, But Still Iffy on Diesel in U.S.

2013-Nissan-Altima-Sedan The CEO of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, thinks he’s seen the future—and it’s filled with electric cars, some with range-extending gasoline engines. Before we arrive at Ghosn’s utopian era, Nissan will offer more transitional products: A new Altima hybrid is in the pipes, as is plug-in hybrid tech in general.

“Plug-in hybrid technology is a promising path. Clearly we are working on it,” Pierre Loing, Nissan’s VP for product strategy and planning told us in a recent interview.

What’s not looking so promising is diesel in Nissan’s American future. Five years ago, Ghosn announced that Nissan would be selling diesel Maximas here by 2010. If you can remember back to 2010, you’ll recall that no such car was offered. Or any diesel Nissan. Little has changed, with several Nissan execs we spoke to sounding less-than-bullish on the subject.

Executives are far more excited to talk about the all-electric Leaf and their big expectations for its sales growth. Nissan shifted almost 9700 of them during 2011, despite being available in seven states initially and only 29 by the end of the year. The company claims sales were limited by how many its factory in Japan could crank out—this sort of story isn’t uncommon from automakers in any country—and, very believably, production was handicapped by the enormous earthquake last March.

The plan is to sell about 22,000 Leafs in the U.S. this year, says Al Castignetti, Nissan’s vice president and general manager. “After the [Tennessee-based plant] comes online at the end of this year,” he continues, “we could triple our 2012 sales in 2013.” That would mean more than 60,000 Leafs sold, a highly ambitious goal that would put the car’s sales on par with the Maxima. Sounds like Ghosn’s future may be just a year or two away.

Car and Driver