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Nissan considers Micra as small hatch champion

Watch and wait: Nissan is keen to introduce the new-generation Micra to Australia, but is currently hampered by lack of specification suitability and other factors such as pricing and supply.

New-gen Euro Micra could fill gap in Nissan small-car line-up left by Pulsar hatch

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Nissan logo24 Mar 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON

NISSAN is considering the case for bringing the European-sourced new-generation Micra light car to Australia as a replacement of sorts for the recently discontinued Pulsar small hatch as the company shores up its future passenger-car strategy.

The Japanese car-maker is currently without an entrant in the micro, light or small hatch segments in Australia, following its decision to drop the Indian-built Micra and the Thai-built Pulsar hatchbacks last year due to a lack of competitiveness.

Nissan’s sole offerings in the passenger-car segment – besides the GT-R and 370Z sportscars – are the ageing Pulsar small sedan and the Altima mid-sizer.

The company is heavily reliant on its SUV line-up in Australia which includes the Juke, Qashqai, X-Trail, Pathfinder and Patrol. It is currently the third-best-selling SUV range behind Toyota and Mazda.

Despite the fact that Nissan is working on a new-generation global small sedan, Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery has left the door open for a different model, or smaller models such as the Micra, to fill the gap left by the Pulsar hatch.

“In terms of whether there is a direct replacement of that car (Pulsar hatch) or whether we take something like the Micra and perhaps other product that will certainly suit those customers who would have previously looked at a Pulsar hatch, I wouldn’t take it for granted that we would directly replace Pulsar hatch in the future,” Mr Emery told GoAuto at the media launch of the Navara Series II and Pathfinder this week.

The fifth-generation Micra – revealed at the Paris motor show last September – has been repositioned and is now larger, more mature and features more safety and connectivity technology than the previous model.

It is built at the Renault-Nissan Alliance plant at Flins-sur-Seine in France and shares powertrains and underpinnings with the Renault Clio and Captur.

Mr Emery added that a new global compact crossover for mature markets such as Australia could potentially fill the gap left by the Pulsar hatch, particularly as Australian buyers migrate from passenger cars to SUVs.

Nissan already sells the Kicks in emerging markets such as Brazil, but it is unlikely to be offered as a global product.

Mr Emery explained that the new Micra is not a short-term prospect for Australia given its current lack of specification suitability, having been launched in Europe with only a manual gearbox, and other factors such as pricing and supply.

“We would like to be in that segment, for sure,” he said. “That car in its current form doesn’t have all of the elements that we need, to be honest – and those elements are as broad as specification, pricing base and availability.

“That car is certainly on our watch list and consideration set. At this point in time, there is a fair bit of water that has to go under the bridge before we make that live for Australia. I think it is going well in Europe.”

Mr Emery also said there was no shortage of options for the company in terms of future small passenger cars.

“There is a generational shift in our product plan from late 2018-19 onwards, and our opportunity for our product offering in Australia expands quite a bit,” he said. “There are probably too many for us to choose from.

“Obviously, we have got to home in on what is going to work best for us. So there is a lot of pre-work being done at the moment about what might suit Australia. And, might I add, what won’t.”

Mr Emery added that there are some models that will simply not be suitable for Australia as they are specifically developed for emerging markets.

One model that will definitely be offered in Australia is a replacement for the Pulsar sedan, with Mr Emery confirming that the local arm has been feeding requirements back to its parent company during the car’s development.

“It is 18 months to two years away, the new car, which we are heavily involved in, in terms of its price, specification and what our requirements are. It is actually a key global car for the company,” he said.

“It is kind of the one car that is sold everywhere. In that context, we are deep in conversations about that car. I don’t think they are even going to show it until early 2019 or even late next year. I think it is a couple of years away. We are certainly a couple of years away for Australia.”

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