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Juke boxes Cube for Oz title

On the agenda: Nissan's Juke SUV is being considered for Australia.

Nissan says it is considering the Juke sub-compact SUV over the more niche Cube

1 Mar 2010

NISSAN has confirmed that it is considering importing one of this week’s Geneva motor show stars – the Juke – to Australia’s shores, although a decision on the project is still some time away.

However, a green light for Juke effectively will rule out any Australian release of the company’s wagonoid Cube.

This unexpected light-car development was revealed by Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Dan Thompson, speaking to GoAuto in New Zealand last week at the launch of the 370Z Roadster.

Until now, the Juke’s ultra-compact sizing and pricy European sourcing were thought to be barriers to an Australian debut, especially as the Japanese-built Cube has been engineered in its new third-generation format to be exported around the world.

But Mr Thompson explained that Nissan Australia already imported vehicles from Europe (namely the Dualis from England and the D40 Navara ST-X from Spain), so bringing in one more won’t be very difficult.

12 center image Left: Nissan Juke. Below: Nissan Cube.

He did suggest, though, that the mini SUV may be made elsewhere in the future – although he stopped short of nominating Thailand or India as possible sources. Both countries have Nissan plants that are gearing up to manufacture the Juke’s next-generation Micra cousin.

Having seen it in the metal, Mr Thompson believes that light and small car buyers, as well as those wanting something a little cheekier and more manoeuvrable than a compact SUV, will respond better to the Juke than the wilfully divisive Cube – despite the former’s individualistic appearance.

He said the Juke’s styling made it a more logical fit with the performance and design themes of future Nissans slated for Australia.

Thus, Mr Thompson added, the Juke was better suited to joining the next Micra and upcoming Tiida in recruiting younger people to the brand, thus rendering the Cube’s role redundant in this country.

To make its world debut in Geneva, the Juke is a raised B-segment (Light Car class) player with SUV looks and a youthful attitude.

It is based on the same Alliance B-Platform underpinnings found in the Micra, along with a host of other Nissans and baby Renaults including the Clio.

Drive is either exclusively to the front wheels or all four via a part-time 4x4 system as per the Juke’s bigger Qashqai/Dualis brother.

Engine choices for the time being are a trio of fours – 1.6-litre petrol units in atmo or turbo, or a Renault-sourced 1.5-litre dCi turbo-diesel.

Right now, Juke production is centred in Sunderland, England, and replaces the current-generation (K12) Micra made in the UK since the early 1990s.

Even Nissan admits to having no idea how consumers will take to it, but hopes the Juke can make the same sort of sales impact in B-segments around the globe as the Qashqai has in the Toyota Corolla-class C-segment in Europe – where demand outstripped supply for a number of years after its 2007 release.

Juke sales in Europe are expected to begin towards the end of this year, so Nissan has the luxury of time to contemplate its future in Australia.

“There are a couple of models not in our current plan that we are debating – and one is the Juke,” Mr Thompson said.

“We’ve looked at it in the past a couple of times, but our priorities then were really centred around Dualis first.

“We’ll see how it works globally – and that will be one that I think will be an interesting proposition.

“It’s a bit of a niche product on the surface – but there are lots of different configurations and options that we can have with it, so it’s going to be very interesting.

“To be honest, I don’t know exactly how much Europe expects of it … its success will determine what we are going to do with that project.

“To me it is a little niche at the moment, and there’s not an obvious market for it in Australia from a purely volume or demand perspective.

“But it’s a fantastic statement for Nissan – (especially) from a design perspective. There are also some performance options with it that are quite attractive.

“But at the moment we’ve got other priorities and those are the ones that we are flushing out right now.

“Juke sits below the family of crossovers that we have … but we haven’t yet determined its positioning or what type of customer we are trying to attract through it. That will come if we decide that Juke has a role to play in Australia.

“That’s what attracts me to Juke. There’s not a compelling business case on the surface telling us that it’s going to do 500 units a month, so it’s a bit of a brand car, and we have a lot of very good brand cars in at the moment, so do we want to bring in another one once again? “(Since) our philosophy is that we are only going to be investing in the core models, how are we going to give it the resources that it needs? We’ve got the Zeds, we’ve got the GT-R and we’ve got the Murano, so if we are going to introduce the Juke then that’s the fifth car and so we could be running it a bit thin.

“(Meanwhile) we’ve looked at Cube three or four different times, even in the two years that I’ve been here in Australia. And it doesn’t fit.

“Yes, we can bring it in, and it is available. It would, though, fill in a space because of its pricing and positioning in the market where there is very little volume opportunity for the vehicle, so when we’ve made that determination that it’s not for volume and not for growth, then we turn over and we ask: ‘Is it the right car for the brand?’ It’s a similar discussion that we are having with the Juke.

“And if I were to actually compare the two, even though neither of them are in the plan, I would much rather go for the Juke because of the design elements of Juke, and that’s where the company is going.

“Yes, the Cube is youthful, funky, it has all those things we need to get into those light and small passenger car market, but that’s the job for the next Micra and Tiida Replacement, to tap into that youthful market.

“I don’t need another car that’s going to sell 150 units per month, from my perspective. And it’s different in Japan and it’s different in Europe because Cube has history.

“But it just isn’t going into the direction – from my perspective – where we want to take this perception of Nissan. We’re about performance and we’re about design, so to me Cube for where we are trying to take Nissan Australia, it just doesn’t fit.

“I’d much rather be talking about Zeds and Muranos to get the performance and design elements through, and then looking at something like Juke because I think it delivers something a lot closer to the direction as to where we want to go with the brand.

“So for me the Cube is a pure, youthful play, and that needs to be the job our light and small cars.”

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