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Next Nissan Dualis uncertain for Oz

Question mark: The Nissan Dualis's role as a quasi small car may end with the arrival of the Tiida replacement in 2012.

With a proper-size small car coming from 2012, Nissan ponders next Dualis, X-Trail

1 Mar 2010

THE future of the Nissan Dualis crossover in Australia hangs in the balance beyond the current model, with the prospect that Nissan’s Tiida replacement – to be launched in 2012 – will take over part of its duties as an upper small-car segment player.

This is according to Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Dan Thompson, speaking to GoAuto at the release of the 370Z Roadster in New Zealand.

Nissan repositioned the existing Dualis in September 2009 as a small-car segment player after dropping the prices of the slow-selling 4x4 model and introducing even cheaper 4x2 variants that have put the UK-made crossover within striking distance of mid-range versions of the Toyota Corolla and co.

This was a necessary survival tactic for Nissan as the Tiida sold only a fraction of what its Pulsar predecessor managed before 2006. Over the past year or so, monthly sales have fallen to below 500 units a month. Nevertheless, as the next-generation Dualis – due in about 2013 – will most probably retain the current J10 model’s sizing and packaging as a result of its unprecedented success as the Qashqai in Europe (and Nissan will almost certainly not mess with a winning formula), the Australian arm is faced with the dilemma of whether to continue with range as an upper-priced small-car alternative.

Similarly, the current Dualis 4x4 overlaps with its closely related larger X-Trail cousin in the compact SUV class (and will do more so when the latter goes 4x2 in a few months), raising even more questions about the next-generation’s relevance as a second Nissan compact SUV.

12 center image Left: Nissan Dualis+2 seven seater.

But for now, the Dualis remains vital as Nissan’s small-car mainstay, and will be boosted in Australia with the arrival of a facelift in May, an extended seven-seater version (to be most likely known as the Dualis +2) mid-year and the spectre of turbo-diesel versions by year’s end.

All should add to the MY10 Dualis’ current monthly tally of about 500 units (up from the old 4x4-only strategy’s 165 average).

Mr Thompson admits that he is taking a wait-and-see approach to the next-generation Dualis, especially as the company is striving to maximise efficiencies and eliminate duplication to stay competitive in Australia.

“The goal for efficiency purposes is to obviously have one model covering each of the segments,” he said.

“And then what comes of Dualis in the next generation? A lot of it really depends on the level of success we have with it over the next couple of years before the next generation model (comes), as well as what space or area the next-generation Dualis can play going into the future.”

Mr Thompson suggests the success of the Qashqai, combined with the evolution of the crossover, may even have serious implications for the Dualis and X-Trail, hinting that the two compact SUVs may merge or that the latter could evolve into a monocoque midsized SUV to sit below the existing Pathfinder, which is a more serious 4WD with a ladder-frame chassis against the others’ monocoque body construction.

“Thinking about X-Trail, because what is happening at the moment is a convergence of the medium SUVs and compact SUVs into one offering, I think a lot will change within the next 18 to 24 months.

“And with the coming of 4x2s defining that soft-road compact/medium SUV for us – post 2012 – we want to know what are we going to do in that space for Nissan.

“We’ve got lots and lots of options globally with Nissan … but we need to get more volume out of the medium SUV segment where Pathfinder plays today because that’s really important for us but then what sits below Pathfinder for us is a bit of a product planning debate for us, whether X-Trail and Dualis have a role, what roles do they play, and how to fit those into a portfolio.

“So what we’re trying to do is expand Dualis from where we intended to go with originally – we went with 4x4, we then wanted 4x2, and now we’re adding Dualis+2, and then we will look at diesel.

“Do we need that breadth going into next Dualis? Or will the Tiida replacement cover the low-end of Dualis and push the next-gen Dualis in another space.

“(For now) as the current Tiida sits in a different space there is currently that gaping hole that we need to address – and there’s not a better product than Qashqai/Dualis to do that in the next couple of years.”

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