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Future models - Nissan - Micra

Baby boom ahead for Nissan

Small growth: Nissan's next Micra will be vital to the company's sales growth aspirations in Australia.

Nissan sales to flatline before new Micra and upcoming small car trigger revival

Nissan logo1 Mar 2010

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

NISSAN Australia says it is on track to challenge Mazda with a 10 per cent market share in Australia by the end of 2012, despite a lacklustre 2009 sales performance that has it languishing at below six per cent.

Company managing director and CEO Dan Thompson said everything was falling into place in line with his GT 2012 (Growth and Trust 2012) plan formulated two years ago, prioritising restoration of brand opinion and customer loyalty over increased sales.

GT 2012 was deemed vital if Nissan was to reverse what it called “slipping off peoples’ radars”.

Mr Thompson indicated Nissan had pulled back on fleet market activity for the time being to instead concentrate on Nissan’s brand building exercises and improved dealer service under GT 2012.

He said that once that groundwork had been laid, the all-new Micra and Tiida Replacement (TR) – due late this year and in 2012 – would triple their predecessor’s sales numbers, driving a big spike in numbers and spearheading the double-digit market share goal the company is striving towards.

Before these next-gen light and small car contestants arrive, though, baby steps are the name of the game with (another) repositioned Tiida value story (more features and sub-$18,000 driveaway pricing from March 1), the introduction of more Dualis variants after May’s facelift (including the +2 seven-seater version and possibly a dCi diesel) and front-wheel drive versions of the X-Trail – to be known as the 4x2.

12 center imageFrom top: Nissan's next-generation Micra, current Micra, Nissan Dualis 4x2.

But Mr Thompson acknowledges these product refreshes and/minor activities will only consolidate Nissan’s standing in the new-vehicle segment in 2010, as the company strives to remind consumers that it is not just a commercial vehicle or SUV company – a situation that has become problematic for Nissan in the years since the demise of the Pulsar.

“(Treading water right now) is all consistent with the GT 2012 business plan,” he said.

“From fiscal year ‘08 to fiscal year ‘09 we had planned a marginal flattening of our market share.

“Some of it was pulling back in the fleet space – so we didn’t do as much in fleets and rentals in 2009 as we did the previous years.

“Our focus in 2009 and 2010 is about brand building – it’s about reconnecting with customers. It’s about fixing the gaps and fundamental challenges we have as an organisation that as a brand are holding us back from sustainable and fundamental growth in the future.

“The two significant gaps for us are brand opinion – it’s something that we compare against the other makes in Australia – and it really is a measure of what consumers perceive of your brand and how strong your brand is, and probably our single biggest weakness.

“In a lot of ways this transfers from Nissan being very commercial centric over the last five or six years, because we have not had significant presence in our passenger cars since we lost Pulsar.

“And with passenger vehicle volume being two-thirds of our market volume here in Australia Nissan was slipping off the radar, to be very frank, as far as being ‘top of mind’ with consumers, and not only that but also consumers not having a strong brand opinion of Nissan.

“So that’s why improving overall brand opinion is number one number two is loyalty.

“Unfortunately for the Nissan brand, our service retention and our owner repurchase loyalty is near the bottom of the competitive set.

“Those are the two fundamental weaknesses we identified two years ago and that we have built into our GT 2012, and that’s why during 2009 and 2010 we have been investing a significant amount of resource in reconnecting with our customers and putting in place processes such as in our workshops to deliver top service and customer satisfaction.

“And at the same time behind the scenes we have been doing a lot in product planning, because obviously it is good product that will drive the growth in 2011 and 2012 and then on the brand opinion side there are going to be quite a lot of changes in how we are going to go to market with our communications and getting more consistency with our messaging.

“It was my assessment and my management team’s assessment two years ago that we have the portfolio to go out and grow tomorrow if we wanted to, but it wouldn’t be sustainable. It was really about committing and investing what we need for sustainable growth.

“So while for us this year is still about either flatlining market share growth or modest growth – really accelerated growth is coming in 2011, mainly on the heels of next-generation Micra.

“The two big drivers will be Micra and the replacement for Tiida – which is at the tail end of the plan.

“Realistically we will get two big bursts – one will be Micra, which will go from today’s 400 to 500 per month average to tripling that volume into GT 2012. We won’t get the full-year effect of that until 2011 and 2012.

“Tiida is really no different either. Tiida does 400 to 500 per month, and it’s been sitting at that level for the last six to 12 months. And, given the size of the small segment in Australia, we’re not probably even on the radar we’re probably outside the top 10 most months in that particular segment. So the volume potential for Tiida replacement is very similar (to the next Micra’s)“The other areas where we expect to get more out of is Dualis now that we are going to expand the range. All has been working extremely well since last September with the repositioning of the 4x4 and the launch of the 4x2.

“We also need to get more out of X-Trail … the next step is the launch of the 4x2. Certainly almost every one of the X-Trail’s key competitors will move into 4x2s ... most likely in the next 12 months.”

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