For Nissan, much is riding on the Ariya.
The automaker pioneered the EV market with the launch of the Leaf more than a decade ago. But it failed to capitalize on its early mover advantage, and the then-underpowered hatchback was outmaneuvered by better-performing and sleeker EVs.
Nissan is now launching a more contemporary and capable electric model for its second act.
The dual-motor Ariya, which competes with the Volkswagen ID4, Ford Mustang Mach-E and Tesla Model Y, positions Nissan in the market’s new sweet spot. According to data from Experian, EV light-truck registrations were up 63 percent through the first seven months of the year.
Jairaj described the Ariya as “the stepping stone to the next phase of electrification for Nissan to be very successful.”
The five-passenger family hauler is propelled by one of two batteries: a 63-kilowatt-hour pack or a larger 87-kWh unit. The driving range tops out at 304 miles.
The Ariya debuts an all-electric, all-wheel-drive system and Nissan’s next-generation ProPILOT Assist 2.0 automated driving software. The all-wheel-drive Ariya Platinum+ version delivers 389 hp — a 151-hp increase over the front-wheel-drive variants.
To widen its market appeal, Nissan was careful about being too radical with the design or user interface.
Jairaj said the Ariya makes the transition from internal combustion engines to EVs “smooth” for customers.
“The nonbelievers need to be very comfortable the moment they start driving an EV,” he said. “This is important as [the industry goes] beyond the 5 percent EV penetration we have today.”
To keep things familiar, Nissan hasn’t entirely ditched physical buttons — two switches flank a knobby volume control dial. Haptic buttons that sit flush with the dashboard control temperature, defrost and other functions.
“When you sit inside the Ariya, you don’t feel like you are sitting in a spaceship,” Jairaj said in a dig at Tesla’s spartan all-digital interior.
Nissan also upped the Ariya’s crossover creds with its “e-4ORCE” all-wheel-drive technology, which arrives in the U.S. early next year. The automaker said the system delivers high-torque precision handling and stability by optimizing power delivery to each of the four wheels.
“The Ariya is a crossover that happens to be an EV,” Jairaj said.