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Nissan’s Euro hatch threatens Pulsar

New direction: A new Euro-made small hatch could usurp the Pulsar - or be the Pulsar’s future - in Nissan’s future Australian line-up.

Upcoming Golf-sized Nissan hatch from Europe may usurp Thai-built Pulsar

Nissan logo15 Jan 2014

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

NISSAN may switch to a more premium European C-segment hatchback much sooner than forecast to replace the underperforming C12 Pulsar equivalent in some markets.

This is according to Nissan Motor Company global executive vice president Andy Palmer, answering questions at the North American International Auto Show this week on the existence of a near-production ready hatchback caught by spy cameras in Europe.

Confirming that it will be unveiled in the near future as a C-segment competitor to the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Peugeot 308 and Renault Megane, he said Nissan hadd identified a growing trend for consumers tired of the explosion of crossovers and SUVs.

Expected to debut at the Paris Motor Show in late September, the as-yet unnamed small car will be the first Nissan to compete head-on in that class since the demise of the unsuccessful N16 Almera, which was built in Britain from 2000 to 2007 and sold during that period in Australia as the N16 Pulsar Hatch.

To help keep costs down, it is believed production will come out of Spain.

“It will be a global car everywhere except in the United States – we’re not developing the platform for North American regulations, but in all other respects it is a global car,” Mr. Palmer said.

“It fits exactly in that (normal small-car hatchback) space.

“It is important for us now because as we have grown from the days of the old Almera as a relatively small player in Europe to the smash hit we’ve had with the Qashqai (Dualis), our customers in some cases have had nowhere to go back to.

“So it is important, as we anticipate our market share going up above five per cent, for us to get back into the mainstream.”

Mr. Palmer also made a point that it would make no sense for the new-comer and current Pulsar to both be sold side-by-side in Nissan dealerships.

“I don’t think it could exist with Pulsar (in markets such as Australia’s) because Pulsar plays in that same space,” he said.

“Clearly the intention is that we have something that sits in the mainstream C-segment hatch market, and the poster boy for that right now is the Volkswagen Golf of course.”

The news that Nissan is returning to the conventional hatch arena may come as a surprise to some observers, since the company had not known sales success in the hotly contested European small-car arena until it took a punt with the-then unique Qashqai concept.

That car has since gone on to become one of the most influential models of the modern era around the world.

However, despite the Dualis’ popularity here, the Australian arm of the Japanese company has struggled to come close to meeting the Mazda3 sales juggernaut ever since the N16 Pulsar’s demise in early 2006, with the smaller C11 Tiida failing to meet initial volume expectations dismally.

With its Thai-sourced C12 Pulsar-badged replacement (backed up by the US Sentra-derived B17 four-door version) improving on things but ultimately still failing to hit targets (the Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3 both outsold the Nissan by a margin of almost three-to-one), it is clear the European hatch is shaping up to be a more enticing proposition for Australia.

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