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Nissan CEO: Tesla Model 3 is 'good competition'

Carlos Ghosn isn't scared of Tesla's massive wealth of preorders. If anything, he's looking forward to the future.

Tesla Motors, screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

The affordable-EV segment is about to blow the hell up, and Nissan welcomes the challenge.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

It's not too often you hear automakers praising the competition, but that's exactly what's happening right now. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn sounds pretty excited at the news of Tesla's massive bank of Model 3 preorders, as well he should, because it speaks to the public's growing acceptance of electric vehicles.

While touring a Japanese engine plant, Automotive News asked Ghosn about Tesla and its forthcoming, $35,000-ish Model 3 sedan. "The fact that so many people are willing to pay a down payment to get this car which becomes available at the end of 2017 is a good sign," the Nissan chief told AN. "Finally, good competition for EVs is picking up."

Nissan technically runs the EV game at the moment, when you include its European business partner, Renault. Together, the two companies have sold over 300,000 electric vehicles around the world, two-thirds of which are Nissan-branded products.

Right now, Tesla's knocking on the door of nearly 300,000 preorders for its Model 3, which isn't slated to roll off the production line until late 2017. Even if it only fulfills one-third of those orders (the $1,000 reservations are refundable), Tesla would double Nissan's 2015 Leaf sales.

There's also the matter of Chevrolet's upcoming Bolt. Between them, the market for affordable electric vehicles is bound to heat up, putting the pressure on Nissan to remain competitive with an older vehicle. It recently released the Leaf with a larger battery pack, but its 107-mile range will be roughly half of what Tesla and Chevrolet offer.