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Nissan to bolster Navara ute

Tonner cover: Nissan will upgrade its current D40 Navara for the 2012 Model Year with more equipment and hopes the switch to Mitsubishi’s Thailand plant will increase Australian supplies

MY12 upgrade and switch to Mitsu Thai plant to boost Nissan Navara in tough market

Nissan logo15 Jul 2011

By TERRY MARTIN

FACING tougher competition in the one-tonne ute segment, Nissan Australia is preparing to bolster sales of its big-volume D40 Navara early next year with a revised model range, equipment upgrade and, hopefully, increased supplies when the utility switches to Mitsubishi Motors’ plant in Thailand.

With the exception of the Spanish-built ST-X dual-cab, all D40 and previous-generation (but still available) D22 Navara models are already built in Thailand, but Mitsubishi and Nissan this week confirmed that the current model will switch to Mitsubishi’s Laem Chabang plant in Thailand during 2012.

The pick-up production program is part of a wide-ranging joint-venture agreement signed last December between the two Japanese manufacturers, which also includes potential engineering and manufacturing of a new-generation one-tonne ute – that is, the next Navara and Mitsubishi Triton.

Nissan Motor Co (Australia) head of corporate communications Jeff Fisher told GoAuto this week that next year’s manufacturing switch should bring no disruptions to a planned 2012 Model Year D40 Navara due for release in the first half of 2012, which will not carry mechanical upgrades but will include more features across the board as well as specification changes aimed at winning more fleet business.

12 center imageHe said the changes, still to be revealed in detail, were designed to maintain Navara as one of the biggest-selling vehicles in its segment, particularly in the 4x4 market in which last month it outsold the market-leading Toyota HiLux – a model that has suffered from restricted supplies due to the Japanese earthquake, but in September will benefit from a significant upgrade.

Nissan Australia is also mindful that Navara is facing a highly competitive period with all-new versions of the Ford Ranger, Mazda BT-50, Holden Colorado, Isuzu D-Max and other models due over the next 12 months.

“Yes, there’s been a lot of activity in the market but we still think that Navara has got a lot of pluses going for it,” Mr Fisher said. “It is doing well in the privateer market, and the 4x4 market, and we’ll wait and see what that competition brings.

“There will not be wholesale change of different engines and so on (with MY12) but we are always adjusting spec and features to keep it competitive in the light of competition there.

“We see more potential for Navara in the fleet markets, and in the larger fleets, so a lot of our concentrated work has been in speccing and addressing and pricing for fleet sales for D40, so we see that that, for us, has still got potential to deliver some of the numbers we’re looking for with Navara next year.” Nissan Australia is keeping its powder dry on pricing for the MY12 Navara, but Mr Fisher said he hoped the switch to the Mitsubishi plant next year would free up supply and enable it to secure more vehicles for sale in Australia.

“I hope it will improve (supply) and give us some extra capacity that we need,” he said, adding that the shift would alleviate production problems at Nissan’s Thailand plants which are “bursting at the seams” with high-volume passenger car models such as Micra.

Reports out of Thailand indicate that Mitsubishi is still working on managing capacity in the rapidly growing manufacturing hub.

According to the Bangkok Post, space is being allocated at the Laem Chabang plant for Navara production of 60,000 units a year, with the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport SUV – which is currently built there alongside the Lancer sedan and Space Wagon MPV – transferring to a second facility in Laem Chabang.

This second plant currently produces the Triton at 140,000 units a year. By taking on the Pajero, annual capacity at this plant expected to be boosted by another 100,000 units.

That leaves a maximum of 60,000 units of Navara for the region, with Lancer and Space Wagon reportedly capped at 15,000.

In Australia alone last year, Nissan sold more than 21,000 Navaras, the vast majority of which were D40s from Thailand.

Mitsubishi Motors Australia’s president and CEO Gen Nishina told GoAuto at the recent Melbourne motor show that he had no information on the next-generation Triton, which is likely to share platform architecture, powertrains and many other components with the Navara.

Mr Fisher also said this week that Nissan Australia did not have a clear word on a replacement for the D40, which is now six years old, but said the company would continue “for the immediate future” with its current strategy of selling the current-generation model alongside the previous-generation D22.

“It’s something we visit from time to time, but there is a demand there in certain areas of the market (for D22) and there is no plan to kill it off yet,” he said.

He also said the D40 ST-X dual-cab would continue to be sourced from Spain for the foreseeable future, particularly with the range-topping 550 turbo-diesel V6 being a Europe-specific variant.

“It takes a little longer, obviously, to get European product over here so we have to build that into the scheduling, but other than that, for the demand of 550, that seems to be the (only) solution.”

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GoAutoNews is Australia’s number one automotive industry journal covering the latest news, future and new model releases, market trends, industry personnel movements, and international events.