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Nissan Terra breaks cover

Terra nullius: There is a relatively big, wide open space in the Australian market for the all-new Navara-based Terra SUV, which is under serious study for release here.

All-new Nissan Navara-based SUV under serious study for release in Australia

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Nissan logo26 Feb 2018

NISSAN Motor Corporation has this week uncovered its all-new, go-anywhere large SUV – dubbed Terra and based on the current D23/NP300 Navara utility – that looks set to play a key role in the Japanese car-maker’s turnaround strategy in Australia.

While Nissan Australia has played down the prospect of an imminent launch, saying it is “scheduled for initial release in China and selected Asian markets and is currently not planned for Australia or New Zealand”, Nissan’s global LCV senior vice-president Ashwani Gupta has told GoAuto that a serious study was underway for its release Down Under.

Mr Gupta was in Melbourne last week for the launch of the Series III Navara and to hold talks with Nissan Australia senior management about the potential rollout of new models and derivatives from his division, which includes all light-commercials and body-on-frame vehicles such as the Patrol upper-large SUV, Navara one-tonne ute, Titan full-size pick-up and NV-series vans and cab chassis.

Asked by GoAuto whether the all-new Navara-based SUV would come to Australia, Mr Gupta said: “This is going to be one of the growth pillars for the Nissan mid-term plan.

“Obviously, it will be launched in China and Asian markets, and we are studying Australia very seriously on this, and for a very simple reason: because of the extreme conditions for the usage, we believe that the customer exists for authentic, capable, frame-based trucks or frame-based SUVs. And Australia is part of the study for this.”

Although considered a mid-size SUV globally, sitting below Patrol in Nissan’s line-up, Terra would slot into the large SUV category in Australia alongside the more on-road-oriented monocoque-chassis Pathfinder and compete directly with increasingly popular ute-based wagons such as the Ford Everest, Holden Trailblazer, Isuzu MU-X, Mitsubishi Pajero Sport and Toyota Fortuner – a cohort that last year accounted for 26,500 sales between them.

“The mid-size SUV means one-tonne pick-up with a little bit of modification,” Mr Gupta said.

“So that’s why it’s very important to really position this as a mid-size SUV and then this comes as a complementary (model) to Patrol, which is a high-end frame-based SUV.

“And that’s why we are entering into this segment of mid-size frame-based SUV because we do believe there is a customer and there is a segment.”

Mr Gupta told GoAuto he was struck by how the market was rapidly changing, with the Australian requirement for lifestyle-oriented vehicles with off-road capability combined with on-road refinement and proficient dynamics now a significant factor in Nissan’s product planning.

“The customer is coming back to lifestyle but off the road, which is something new,” he said.

“I don’t know why, but this is something new. The customer is someone which you never anticipate. This is the change in pattern that we are seeing, and which is why we do believe that it (the new SUV) is going to be a wow factor.”

The official photographs of the Terra are identical to spy photographs that emerged late last year from China, where the vehicle will initially be built.

Nissan has four other plants that currently build Navara and could easily produce the Terra – in Thailand, which supplies Navara for Australia, as well as Mexico, Spain and Argentina.

There is no word yet on where Australia would source the SUV, but if Thailand or another location was used – and a higher level of specification required – the necessary engineering validation and factory tooling would likely push its launch timing out to next year.

Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester was last week upbeat about the prospects of the all-new SUV joining the local stable when asked about the company’s interest in securing it for this market.

“Absolutely. We want to look at everything. There is definitely a market for that frame-based SUV, you can see it in the numbers overall, so I would say, overall, we will work actively with Ashwani’s group to see if it is possible,” he said.

Mr Lester also said he was “not too concerned” about having both the Navara-based SUV and monocoque-based Pathfinder competing in the same segment – just as Toyota offers Kluger and Fortuner, not to mention Prado.

Asked whether the arrival of the frame-based SUV now brings into question the future of the Pathfinder – which in earlier generations was based on Navara – Nissan’s chief product specialist for its global LCV business unit, Pedro de Anda, told GoAuto that “for the foreseeable future, there is still a market for unibody and body-on-frame to coexist”.

In announcing the Terra from Japan this week, Mr Gupta said the new SUV would be the first vehicle from his business unit to launch under Nissan’s current mid-term plan, which calls for sales in the division to increase by more than 40 per cent by 2022 and for the brand to become “a global leader in pick-ups and frame-based SUVs”.

One in six Nissan vehicles sold globally is currently a frame-based vehicle or an LCV, and the Japanese auto giant has made it clear that it is now “focused on capturing this division’s full potential”.

Last year, Nissan sold 907,929 vehicles in this division, up approximately seven per cent on the previous year.

The Terra will reach the Chinese market soon, with further details to be released in April.

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