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Nissan Note back on notice for Oz

High Note: The Note is just one of a number of models being evaluated by Nissan Australia for the local market.

The Note hatch is under review, but Nissan isn’t giving up on the Micra just yet

17 Jul 2014

NISSAN is revising its light-car strategy after the demise of the unsuccessful Almera sedan, with the European-inspired Note back in contention after initially being dismissed by previous Australian management a few years ago.

One of a slew of current and future models under consideration for our market, alongside the recently unveiled European Pulsar, the boxy five-door hatchback would play in the pricier end of the segment against the Mazda2, Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, should it get the green light.

However, the Note’s future in Australia is only contingent on its pricing and specification coming in at the right price.

Furthermore, it does not mean that Nissan would abandon the Micra series locally altogether, despite the ageing micro hatch range suffering a 50 per cent-plus sales slide so far this year.

“I understand that our business in Australia was not convinced on the Note some years ago,” Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery told GoAuto at the Qashqai launch in Brisbane earlier this month.

“But I’m open to everything at the moment, and I’m happy to review everything that may have been thrown out the door in the past and ask: ‘Why have we made this decision and what are the complications and what does it have to offer?’ “So even though we made a decision three or four years ago that Note wasn’t for Australia, I’m prepared to have a look at that again.

“As you would expect me to do coming into the business I’m asking: ‘Explain to me, has anything changed with that car? Has the mood or the segment or the market moved on? Or is that car available to us in a different format now? Is there anything we should consider?’ Mr Emery said the Note, along with a number of other models are being considered, but only if it adds something to the local line-up and only if the company can secure it at the right price.

“I’m happy to have a look at everything again, and we’ll be doing so, and I’m having a discussion with Japan as to where the Note might fit.

“Of course some of the people in the organisation were part of the original decision, so at least I’ve got some history as to why and what the complications were.

“But it has to add something. If it’s just a different shape and style but it’s still priced around Pulsar ST around the $20,000 to $22,000 mark, when what are you adding to the business plan? It’s got to fit somewhere and it’s got to justify itself.” The existing Note, launched nearly two years ago, is built in Japan as well as in Mexico and England, where it eventually replaced the Micra at the Sunderland factory.

Meanwhile, Mr Emery admitted that the existing version of the Micra has not been a priority since Nissan Australia embarked on a major restructuring plan in order to slash mounting stock piles and boost the appeal of problem models like the Pulsar, but he reiterated the light car’s importance to the brand.

“We’re looking at how Micra can work,” he said.

“I would have to say that we have taken our eye off the Micra business while we tried to tidy up the Pulsar position.

“That’s about having such a wide variety of models trying to put your focus and concentration on all of them at the same time has been our challenge and we have to learn how to do that better.

“We might concentrate on X-Trail and Juke and Qashqai at the moment, but does that mean we lose our focus on Pulsar and Micra? So I suspect that Micra has been a bit of a forgotten product.

“We need to reinvigorate our own approach to Micra. It’s still a serious segment – it’s 12 per cent of the market so it’s important – and it’s still a good car. We’ve proven it in the past that the Micra still has a role to play in that segment.

“We’re going back to Micra and ask: what can we do better with Micra? There is the intrinsic spec and design upgrade available to us, and that’s coming early next year for us, so we’ll look to see where that sits with Micra.” The latter’s Series II facelift that is already nearly a year old in other markets is finally due in Australia in the first quarter of 2015.

With the existing model starting out as a Thai-built product, before switching firstly to Indonesia and then to India in 2012, it is clear that there may be sourcing issues involved the model.

In the first six months of this year, Micra sales have fallen 57.4 per cent compared to the same time in 2013, with just over 1000 units registered.

In that same period in the micro car segment, 3916 examples of the Mitsubishi Mirage and 1473 examples of the Fiat 500 were shifted.

Micra experienced a 52.8 per cent sales slide in 2013 over the previous year’s result of 9162 sales, which was just short of 2011’s 9509 record amount, achieved in its first full year on sale.

Nissan’s light-car staple has had a protracted history in Australia.

The previous-generation Micra was imported from Japan late in its eight-year lifespan (from December 2007 to October 2010), the British-built K11 was only available for two years from mid 1995 due to prohibitive source pricing, while Australia never saw the K10 original launched in 1983 and known in some markets as the March.

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