TOKYO – On the surface, all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the debut of the second-generation Nissan Leaf makes little sense.

To date, Nissan has sold fewer than 300,000 of the electric vehicles. For the past seven years. Worldwide.

That’s hardly the kind of volume automakers typically get excited about – and well below bogeys the automaker originally set for the car.

But on Sept. 6, Nissan brought dealers, VIPs and automotive journalists here from around the world to witness an outsized light-and-laser unveil of the new Leaf at the expansive Makuhari Messe convention center, onetime home of the Tokyo auto show. The invite list included media from countries where the Leaf isn’t even available yet – and is unlikely to be near term.

So why all the fuss? With key world markets now speeding toward vehicle electrification, Nissan believes its decade-old bet on the battery-powered Leaf is about to pay off, and with the new generation, the automaker is transitioning the car from a brand oddity to a central pillar of its lineup.

“The new Leaf has the potential to become the core of the company,” says Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa, noting the world is “shifting to the era of the EV.”

As if to second Saikawa’s assessment, several EV pronouncements have been made in the past few weeks, including news China is considering banning vehicles with internal-combustion engines at a to-be-determined date. That follows on the heels of similar pronouncements from France, the U.K., the Netherlands and Norway, promising to prohibit ICE vehicle sales by as soon as 2025.

Jaguar Land Rover last week said it will electrify its entire lineup by 2020 and BMW confirmed plans for 25 electrified vehicles – include a dozen battery-electric models – by 2025. Mercedes says it will offer electric versions of each of its cars and CUVs by 2022 and Volkswagen is targeting battery-electric vehicle sales of 3 million units worldwide by 2025.

That trend, plus a strategy to position the Leaf as more than just an EV, have Nissan bullish on sales of the small battery-powered sedan and additional models to come.

Central to the Leaf strategy is the most complete application of Nissan Intelligent Mobility technology to date. NIM is a suite of features that includes an electric powertrain; driver-assist systems such as adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and automatic braking; and the latest in connectivity – technology the automaker says will change the car-ownership paradigm, making driving easier and improving the lives of those who buy the new model.

Calling the Leaf an EV “doesn’t tell the full story or represent its massive potential,” says Daniele Schillaci, executive vice president-global marketing and sales, predicting that once consumers get a look at all the ’18 version has to offer, sales will double worldwide and possibly triple in Japan. “The new Leaf is the future of Nissan.”

Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn echoed that sentiment days after the Leaf unveil promising the launch of 40 vehicles over the next five years that will offer various levels of autonomous drive, including full autonomy by 2022.