Analysis: How the Ariya is leading Nissan’s fightback

While many major car firms are in the process of launching their first mainstream production electric vehicle, Nissan has just unveiled its second. Arriving 10 years after the launch of the Leaf EV, the new Ariya crossover will sit above the second-generation version of the hatchback in the Japanese firm’s range, and executives believe that two-pronged line-up can give it a crucial advantage over rivals.

The Ariya arrives at a crucial time for Nissan, as it battles to recover from recent financial struggles, the ongoing fallout of the arrest of former boss Carlos Ghosn, the strained relationships within the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance and, inevitably, the major impact of Covid-19.

Nissan has just begun a restructure that will involve it focusing on its core markets of Japan, the US and China – but that doesn’t mean it’s abandoning the European market. Instead, it will focus on its successes in the region: EVs (the Leaf) and crossovers (the market-changing Qashqai and Juke). The Ariya, of course, combines those two concepts – and its launch coincides with a rebranding of Nissan within Europe.

“The Ariya is massive for us,” said Gareth Dunsmore, Nissan Europe’s vice-president of marketing for digital customer experience and connected cars. “Historically, we’ve been strong when challenging what’s around us. With the Qashqai, we punched above our weight as a Japanese challenger brand in Europe, and we’ve done the same with the Leaf.

“They brought people to the brand and take notice of us. Combining those two things into one, while showcasing our commitment to electrification and sustainable mobility, will help position us and clarify to customers in Europe what we really stand for. The Ariya is the perfect vehicle for the perfect time in Europe. And the broader need to bring customers to zero-emission vehicles is where our focus is.

“When the Leaf launched, we had people who just wanted to drive a new EV. That early adopter moment will happen for the Ariya, especially in the UK, where people have a good appreciation of our brand, but we perhaps haven’t had vehicles until now for customers coming from the likes of Volkswagen and Ford. With the Ariya, we’re going head to head with the ID 4 and Mustang Mach-E.”

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Over-the-air upgrades will be key

Offering over-the-air upgrades and updates will become vital to appeal to customers with connected and electric cars, according to Gareth Dunsmore, Nissan Europe’s marketing vice-president.

Dunsmore believes ‘post-purchase’ offerings for vehicles such as the new Ariya EV will be key “as a way of recreating ‘new car smell’ throughout the life of a vehicle.”

He added: “It’s about what we can deliver in terms of performance and driving mode upgrades and creature comforts, such as software and mapping improvements. Such updates will become the norm and will grow over time. It’s about enriching the life of the vehicle, not just the moment of purchase.”