Nissan hedging its bets with new Leaf EV, new Armada and other gas-guzzling trucks

The homely Nissan Leaf EV is available with a bigger battery in the 2016 model year and added range -- up to 107 miles on a full charge. You can still get a Leaf that goes a maximum of 84 miles before you need more juice.


Jose Munoz, chairman of Nissan North America, delivered good news and bad news to consumers worried about climate change and the 53,000 deaths blamed on auto emissions every year.

Speaking to members of the International Motor Press Association in Manhattan, Munoz said Nissan is "close" to launching a new-generation all-electric Leaf with a redesigned body.

There was no indication whether the second-generation Leaf will have more range than the 107 miles available with a 30kWh battery in the 2016 model.

Leaf lags behind Tesla

The homely Leaf, introduced in December 2010, once led electric-vehicle sales in the United States, but it has changed little and has been eclipsed by Tesla, which cost more than twice as much.

Meanwhile, Munoz -- also executive vice president of Nissan Motor Co., Japan's No. 2 automaker -- had plenty of bad news for environmentalists.

To take advantage of the low price of gasoline, Nissan is launching the "Year of Trucks."

He promised a new Armada and Pathfinder, and a "brand new" Rogue, a crossover.

And if the price of gas rises again, Munoz said, Nissan will market its herd of gas-guzzlers as the most efficient on the market.

In answer to a question from the audience, Munoz delivered more bad news regarding Manhattan's traffic congestion and pollution.

The automaker has no plans to add a gas-electric hybrid version of the Nissan NV200, the so-called Taxi of Tomorrow.

So, the Nissan NV200 instantly becomes the Taxi of Yesterday.

The roomy Nissan NV200 taxi.

Autonomous driving

The Nissan executive did say the company is rolling out autonomous driving features, starting this year, to prevent accidents.

By 2020, he said, Nissan will sell cars that will be fully autonomous in a city environment.

Of course, if Nissan introduces a fully autonomous NV200 taxi, there's no telling how many drivers will be thrown onto the unemployment lines.

The free lunch is alive and well in Manhattan, thanks to Nissan North America, one of the automotive companies that play host at meetings of the International Motor Press Association, described as the nation's oldest organization of automotive journalists and public relations professionals.

I enjoyed a plate full of salad, roasted vegetables, smoked salmon and tomatoes with bite-size mozzarella balls.

I also was able to get two crisp-skin fillets of branzino instead of the same fish prepared in a butter-cream sauce for the buffet. I drank red wine and had fresh fruit for dessert.

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