Blurry pictures of the forthcoming 2018 Nissan Leaf surfaced on Twitter over the weekend, providing a first look at the automaker’s attempt to reassert dominance in the electric car field. But the images, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal, didn’t inspire much confidence among fans that Nissan will be able to overcome Tesla.
The images were tweeted by a user called Blue Miata who claimed to be employed at a Nissan-related workplace. “I discovered the new Leaf on the inspection line at the Oppama plant,” he said in two tweets directed at Japanese-language car magazines. Leaked photos of upcoming cars are fairly commonplace, but for images to leak from the factories where they are built is highly unusual.
The Nissan Leaf was the top-selling electric car in the US in 2014, but has since fallen behind Tesla’s Model S and X and the Chevy Bolt. Recently, over half a million people put down deposits for Tesla’s new mass-market Model 3, around twice the number of Leafs that have sold since its launch in 2010.
Still, the Leaf is one of the highest-volume electric cars ever sold, and Nissan is betting heavily that the upcoming refreshed model will be enough to take on both the Chevy Bolt and the Tesla Model 3. All three cars are jockeying to become the first electric vehicle that breaks through on a mass scale. To sweeten the deal, the next-generation Leaf will also feature the Japanese automaker’s most advanced driver assistance system yet. And the Leaf is rumored to have an all-electric range between 200–300 miles. Nissan first revealed its plan to include the ProPilot technology, which allows single-lane autonomous driving, in the forthcoming version of the Leaf back at CES last January.
But fans were disappointed that the new Leaf looked less like the car from the future and more like Nissan’s mass-market vehicles like the Micra and Note. “Why are you not going to put out [something] like this? Why would you make that so ordinary?” one user lamented, posting photos of Nissan’s IDS concept car that’s made the rounds at auto shows recently.
Nissan plans to officially launch the Leaf in September. In the run-up, it has been releasing teaser images showing the vehicle’s headlights, grille, and silhouetted body shape. “The World Premiere for the new Nissan LEAF with ProPILOT will be on September 6, 2017,” a Nissan spokesperson said. “We will provide more details then.”
Here’s a teaser Nissan posted on August 3rd: