Asako Hoshino, who earlier this year succeeded Daniele Schillaci as Nissan’s global sales and marketing boss, is determined to highlight the automaker’s “superior advanced technology.” This includes two features the Jpanese automaker plans to extend beyond its home market: ProPilot 2.0, a semi-autonomous system that enables hands-free highway driving, and e-Power, a hybrid solution that uses a small gasoline engine to charge a battery that runs an electric motor, which then turns the wheels. While it will take time for ProPilot 2.0 to get approved for use in Europe, where hands-free driving is not allowed, e-Power is set to debut in the region in 2022. Hoshino spoke about the positive effects she expects from the rollout of Nissan’s newest tech solutions in an interview with Automotive News Europe Managing Editor Douglas A. Bolduc and Automotive News Staff Reporter Urvaksh Karkaria.
What steps is Nissan taking to get back on track?
We have to make the customers understand what the superiority is of our technology. To do this we have to create a foundation for the Nissan brand. At the moment I don’t think the foundation is strong enough to convince customers [in Europe and the U.S.] that Nissan has superior advanced technology. We have this reputation in Japan but not in Europe and the U.S. We are currently developing the foundation of the Nissan brand.
How will Nissan convey this message?
This journey has to be done with the dealers. We believe that Nissan has superiority in technology but the dealers have to be together with us, otherwise we cannot get the customers to believe.
How will you change perceptions?
We are introducing new technologies such as ProPilot, e-Power and EVs. Technology plus vision is really important. How can Nissan promote that our brand is different from the others? The first is to convey that it’s in our DNA to: “Do what others don’t dare to do.” DNA is something that you cannot explain. Our engineers are completely motivated to be the first to bring new technologies to market. A perfect example is ProPilot 2.0 [a semi-autonomous system that allows for hands-free highway driving from on-ramp to off-ramp]. It is the first of its kind in Japan.
How do you balance your motivated engineers with less motivated regulators?
If the regulators are not motivated we will have to provide them with the exact figures that show how much Japan has been able to reduce fatalities caused by vehicles [that use advanced technology]. What can you trust more human beings or technology? That is really a big question mark.
Nissan is preparing to debut an EV crossover. Why is now the right time to do this?
The market is ready to accept such a car. It took a lot longer than we expected [for people to accept full-electric cars], but gradually people have become accustomed to this. At the same time global environmental issues, such as there being bigger typhoons and the melting icecaps [are boosting interest and acceptance in emissions-free driving solutions].
Why does Nissan believe e-Power will be a success in Europe?
Europe is the first region [outside of Japan and parts of Asia to get e-Power] because the EU is really serious about reducing CO2. Because of this strong push from the government we really have to rapidly move toward electrifying our lineup. Therefore, we have to accelerate the introduction of EVs as well as e-Power in Europe.
How will Nissan roll it out?
I can’t talk about the specifics but when it comes to e-Power, no one else in the world has this technology at the moment. Therefore, this is definitely our differentiating point and a true strength. That is why we plan to launch e-Power in both regions [Europe and the U.S.].
Will every model in your European lineup be electrified?