Nissan Motor just unveiled a new all-electric crossover called Ariya as part of a four-year business turnaround plan to achieve sustainable growth, financial stability and profitability for the embattled Japanese automaker.
The vehicle, unveiled Wednesday, is one of 12 new or redesigned models Nissan has promised to release through 2021 under its "Nissan Next" plan. It is the first all-electric vehicle to debut since the strategy was announced in May.
"Ariya is Nissan's next chapter in physical form," Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta said during a virtual roundtable. "It is a catalyst of change in our product thinking."
The restructuring, which goes through early-2024, includes cutting billions in fixed costs, axing several vehicle nameplates and closing or realigning production plants following the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance's ouster of longtime leader Carlos Ghosn, now an international fugitive.
The plan was announced as the company posted its first annual loss in 11 years. The coronavirus pandemic added to troubling times for the company as it attempted to recover from the scandal surrounding its former leader.
Gupta described the pandemic as an "unprecedented" crisis for Nissan, but added that the company also has learned more efficient ways of working, including online sales in the U.S.
"We do believe Covid-19 on one side has been a great challenge for us, but, on the other side, it has taught us a new way of working and a new way of selling," he said.
Nissan said the Ariya will start at around $40,000 when it arrives in dealerships in the second half of 2021. It will be produced in Japan and imported to the U.S.
The vehicle is on a new vehicle platform developed by its global alliance. The company called the vehicle the "ultimate expression" of its all-electric and driver-assist technologies.
Nissan expects the crossover to be capable of up to about 300 miles per charge. That's in-line with some all-electric vehicles currently on the market but less than the likes of more expensive vehicles from Tesla and future models promised by General Motors in coming years.
Gupta said the range is more than enough for drivers. He said a majority of its all-electric vehicle owners charge from home each night. He compared it to charging a cell phone at night.
"We do believe that EV is used now more like a mobile phone," said Gupta, who joined Nissan last year from Mitsubishi Motors. "When 80% of the customers are charging their car at home, range is no longer an anxiety for them."
Gupta told CNBC the vehicle can charge more than 200 miles in 30 minutes, assisting drivers who may need more range quickly.
"The driving range is not the most important thing," Gupta said Wednesday on CNBC's "Worldwide Exchange." He said the company balanced the range and "driving excitement" of the vehicle, including an available "e-4orce" all-wheel-drive system.
Nissan's current all-electric Leaf can travel up to 226 miles, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Ariya will be the first in the U.S. with Nissan's "ProPilot Assist 2.0" driver assistance system. The technology allows drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel while on designated highways. It monitors drivers to ensure they continue to pay attention in case they are needed to take over the vehicle.
The system uses a combination of onboard sensors and radars as well as the navigation system and high-definition mapping to control steering, speed, acceleration and braking.
Ariya will be capable of remote over-the-air updates.
The crossover is based on a similarly named concept vehicle displayed at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show and first hinted at with the IMx concept at the 2017 show.