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Nissan COO to Head Electric Car Unit as Leaf Sales Trail Target

Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s second-largest automaker, put its electric-vehicle business under the direct supervision of the chief operating officer after sales of the Leaf missed the company’s expectations.

Toshiyuki Shiga will oversee zero emission vehicle strategy and the battery business starting April 1, Nissan said in an e-mail. Hideaki Watanabe, corporate vice president at the electric car division, was moved to supplier Calsonic Kansei Corp., where he will be senior vice president.

Deliveries of Nissan’s flagship electric car in the U.S. failed to reach even half of the 20,000 units the Yokohama, Japan-based automaker had targeted last year. Lower-than-anticipated demand for zero-emission cars has been a blow to Nissan Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn, who’s forecast that electric cars would become so popular that they’d account for at least 10 percent of global auto sales by the end of the decade.

“Chief Operating Officer Shiga is taking direct responsibility of zero emission efforts because the business is Nissan’s top priority which requires global and cross-functional efforts,” Chris Keeffe, a spokesman for the carmaker said by phone, declining to elaborate on the personnel changes.

Nissan cut prices of the Leaf, improved its battery range and introduced an entry-level model last year to boost sales.

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