Ad Nauseam: Nissan Goes Car-Free for NYC Promo

nissan_leaf_promotion.jpgBicycles seem to figure more prominently in Nissan’s Leaf promotion than Leafs (or Leaves, as the case may be).

It looks like one car maker has figured out an intriguing way to market its product to a city audience: Just don’t show it at all. In fact, try to sell it by appealing to the innate desire for the very qualities your product squeezes out of city neighborhoods.

That’s what Nissan has done with its New York City promotion for the Leaf, an electric car slated for mass production later this year. Nissan marketing teams hit the streets earlier this week with a faux Park(ing) Day concept. Instead of filling curbside space with sod and benches, they put out some bucket seats and signs pointing to, a flash site that I found too irritating to navigate.

As far as I can tell, this attempt to sell cars by co-opting one of the signature awareness-building strategies of the livable streets movement does not display any actual cars, or even show the image of a Nissan Leaf. It’s a car-free PR campaign for cars.

(Obligatory disclaimers: Replacing internal combustion with electric
batteries is great. But the zero emissions hype is way overblown, the
city-destroying space-hogging problem doesn’t disappear with the
fossil-fuel powered engines, and electric cars can be driven just as
recklessly as conventional cars.)

Apparently, the promoters got a few people to sit in these things when they rolled them out on Wednesday. But really, they need to absorb a few lessons from the Park(ing) Day masters. The sitting arrangement inside a car is inherently anti-social. Staring at a headrest and the back of someone’s scalp just doesn’t translate to an urban public space.

Maybe that’s why the people organizing this campaign also felt compelled to hire some folks to hand out flowers. You need a little public space programming to give people a reason to stop and memorize the journey-to-zero URL.

If you want to see one of these set-ups for yourself, the Nissan promoters will be putting out their bucket seats again all day tomorrow. They have 20 spots reserved. I don’t have the exact locations but I’m told there will be four each at Union Square, the Bowery, SoHo, and Tribeca. No word yet on how much the city got paid for all this highly desirable curbside real estate.

So I think it’s time to coin a phrase. What’s the livable streets equivalent of greenwashing?

  • Danny G


  • J

    Perhaps this ad has been “mobilitated”?

  • J

    or how about a “livatrocity”?

  • Subsidize me

    If you live in California you can get $12,500 in tax credits to buy this car. ($7500 fed+ $5,000 Cal.)

    The list of subsidies go on and on and include both consumer and manufacturing and fill half a page on Wikipedia:

    Nissan announced on March 30, 2010 that the release price in the U.S. will be USD32,780 before any applicable tax incentives.[3] Nissan will sell or lease the Leaf only with batteries included, forgoing the initial idea of leasing batteries to reduce the price of the car. With the USD7,500 electric vehicle federal tax credit established by the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, the net price will drop to USD25,280 for eligible customers.[3][12] The federal tax credit shrinks by automaker after it has sold at least 200,000 vehicles in the U.S. and then it phases out over a year.[12]

    Other state and local incentives are available and may further decrease the cost. California has a USD5,000 statewide rebate, there is a USD5,000 tax credit in Georgia, and a USD1,500 tax credit in Oregon.[13][14] Nissan will also have an option to lease the Leaf for USD349 a month for three years, with an initial payment of USD1,999.[12][13][14]

    The Leaf will also be produced at Nissan’s plant in Sunderland, England, beginning in 2013.[20] Nissan will benefit from a £20.7m grant from the British government and up to £220m from the European Investment Bank.[20][21] The plant will produce 60,000 lithium-ion batteries a year, and it also is expected to deliver 50,000 Leaf EVs a year.(BBCnews)

  • Did not get much of a reaction from two sitting people in this promo that my bike was also zero-emission.

    And, did not bother to elaborate that it would reduce emissions from simple walking more than 50% if taken to the logical extreme.

  • David Galvan

    Thanks for the tax credit info! I will probably buy this car if I can get it for a net cost of < $20 K, which it looks like I will since I live in CA.

    My family will never be able to go completely car free, but we may be able to reduce from 2 to 1 cars, and why not have a zero emissions car for the one that we use?

  • carculturekills

    Just the fact that the city would permit a car company to take up all these parking spaces for a stunt like this…. can’t imagine they would allow an activist group to use the space for outreach in a similar fashion.


Young Japanese Just Say No to Cars

Now for some good news: Car culture is on the wane, at least in Japan. The Wall Street Journal reports that car sales in Japan are down 31 percent since the peak in 1990, and not only because of stagnant population growth. The newest generation of would-be buyers, it turns out, just doesn’t think cars […]

Will Toronto Get Cars Out of the Way of the King Street Streetcar?

Despite running through some of Toronto’s most densely populated areas, King Street is designed like a suburban road. Cars have dominion while the city’s streetcar has no dedicated right-of-way despite high ridership — so it sits in heavy traffic. But it looks that’s about to change. Toronto recently announced plans to overhaul King Street by 2017 with a pilot project to shift space from […]