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ICE utes to prevail: Nissan

Nissan not expecting electric utes to take off in Aus ‘for the foreseeable future’

6 Dec 2021

WHEN Nissan slipped the covers off an all-electric, all-wheel drive utility vehicle last month as part of its Ambition 2030 plan, the natural reaction among many observers was to see it as a harbinger of things to come, a preview of what might eventually be the first pure-electric Navara.

 

However, according to Nissan Oceania managing director Adam Paterson, who oversees the Australian market, it is highly unlikely that battery-powered utilities will be taking over from combustion-engined incumbents any time soon.

 

“I still think, based on the specific demands of the segment, that combustion-engine powertrains will be the majority of the volume in the (utility) segment for the foreseeable future,” Mr Paterson told GoAuto at the recent launch of the Navara Pro-4X Warrior.

 

“Having said that, this segment – just like the rest of the business – will electrify. It's just the pace of that which I'm not certain on yet in this market.”

 

And, according to Mr Paterson, that pace of electric vehicle (EV) uptake will hinge greatly on Australia’s national EV policy – or lack therof.

 

“As a manufacturer, we would love to see and would appreciate a national framework that had incentive levels that are similar across the country. My experience most recently in Canada was that, at least for ‘accessible EVS’, not premium, the distribution of their sales volume was very reflective of incentivisation by the specific provinces or states.”

 

Right now in Australia, the only national incentive that applies to EVs is an increased threshold for luxury car tax (LCT) for vehicles that consume less than 7.0 L/100km on average.

 

For the current financial year, the fuel-efficient vehicle LCT threshold is $79,659 while all other vehicles have a threshold of $69,152. However, the more lenient LCT is hardly exclusive to EVs, and is not something that benefits those shopping at the more mainstream end of the segment.

 

“Incentives and (a national EV) framework really are going to help drive what manufacturers are able to start engineering to bring to this market,” Mr Paterson reiterated.

 

Australian states and territories are rolling out various EV uptake incentives but will policy changes matter to one of Australia’s biggest single vehicle segments: 4x4 light commercial utilities?

 

Mr Paterson’s view is that the demands of the majority of buyers in that segment – who greatly value long range, a rugged ladder-frame chassis, high towing/payload capacity and the ability to venture into remote areas – are at odds with the current limitations of most EVs.

 

As such, it is going to take a lot longer for EVs to penetrate that particular market than the rest of Australia’s motor vehicle car parc. 

 

With vehicle charging infrastructure still far from widespread even in urban areas, and only present in regional areas mostly along major interstate routes, ute owners in regional Australia as well as long-distance recreational drivers will understandably have cold feet regarding putting their faith in a vehicle with very specific recharging requirements.

 

While extending the range of a typical turbo-diesel HiLux, Navara or Ranger can be done by throwing a jerry can or two of extra fuel in the tub, it is not so easy to do the same with an electric equivalent.

 

But while Nissan’s electric ute concept, dubbed the Nissan Surf-Out, is clearly a long-range look at what a battery-powered Navara might look like, there are already a significant number of EV pickups and utilities that are much closer to the showroom. 

 

Electric upstart Rivian is already bringing its R1T dual-cab to American customers, and a RHD derivative is likely headed our way too. US-specific full-size utes like the Ford F-150 Lightning and GMC Hummer Electric are also well on their way to the production line

 

If Tesla’s Cybertruck ever sees the light of day, it should also give buyers some diversity of choice – at least in North America. 

 

Chinese industry is also heavily invested in EV products and an electrified version of the GWM Ute has been identified as a model with a potential future in this country. 


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