Nissan's latest electric vehicle (EV), the Ariya, is making waves ahead of its launch, not because of its futuristic look or innovative technology, but how the automaker will sell it. According to Automotive News, Nissan will offer the Ariya directly to consumers via online reservation instead of through Nissan's existing dealer network.
Online reservations offer automakers an alternative way to sell vehicles in an environment where dealers can be hesitant to get behind EVs. Between the low cost of maintenance eating into service center margins and the steep learning curve for salespeople, car dealerships have a tumultuous relationship with vehicle electrification. Online reservations also offer automakers several advantages over dealerships sales, including direct consumer data.
Nissan is not the first automaker to forgo its dealer network in favor of online EV sales. Tesla shook up the industry when it announced it would forgo franchised auto dealerships and sell its vehicles directly through its website and company-owned stores. More recently, Volvo's latest EV model, the C40 Recharge, is available through online reservations only. In contrast, both Ford and GMC are looping their dealerships into the online reservation process for the F-150 Lightning and the Hummer EV, requiring buyers to select a dealership before an online reservation is complete.
Nissan's director of U.S. electric vehicle marketing and sales strategy, Aditya Jairaj, told Automotive News that the reservation program connects the brand with enthusiasts. "It's a two-way dialogue," Jairaj said. "Customers are extremely keen to understand how the Ariya can fit into their lives. We want to know about them, what their interests are, what they're looking for."
This consumer information can help automakers plan their production volumes, a critical factor in an area where supply chain issues such as the semiconductor shortage have plagued the industry. The chip shortage affected the Nissan Ariya after its global market launch was delayed from mid-2021 to 2022.
According to Guidehouse Insights principal analyst Sam Abuelsamid, the Nissan Ariya reservations may also help the automaker with vehicle allocation. "If they know that they've got 50,000 or 100,000 people in the U.S. willing to put down a deposit, they're more likely to allocate more of the available products to this particular region," Abuelsamid told Automotive News.
While Nissan Ariya reservations have yet to launch, Automotive News reports that the vehicle, which is expected to be priced around $40,000, has gathered significant interest from 135,000 would-be buyers. If the Ariya ends up being a hit, Nissan may have a bunch of unhappy dealers on its hands.