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Nissan massages models for 2010

Desert Patrol: Fans of the Nissan Patrol will have to wait until next year for the Australia launch of the big SUV.

Patrol waits, but Nissan’s Tiida, Dualis, Navara and Pathfinder all set for update

2 Mar 2010

NISSAN has confirmed a raft of facelifts, revisions and model additions for this year, but the all-new Patrol SUV will not be among them, sidelined until the first quarter of 2011.

Unveiled at the Abu Dhabi motor show in the United Arab Emirates last month, the long awaited Patrol will nevertheless be worth the wait, according to the company.

Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Dan Thompson promised the full-sized LandCruiser rival would be “… unmatched by anything in this market and, similar to what the GT-R is to the Nissan brand, will make a very loud statement about our capabilities”.

Armed with a best-in-class 298kW/550Nm direct-injection 5.6-litre petrol V8 in headline models, the Y62 Patrol is certain to also include a diesel option when right-hand-drive versions roll into Australia to replace the aged GU-series in the first quarter of next year.

Until then, Nissan will focus on smaller stuff, including the fourth-generation Micra that is headlining Nissan’s stand at this month’s Geneva motor show and which is on track for a late 2010 launch in Australia.

As “the driver of Nissan’s growth”, as Mr Thompson’s describes it, the Micra is charged with tripling the series’ light car sales, which have been hovering around 500 units a month.

12 center imageLeft: New Nissan Patrol.

Coming out of Thailand, the next Micra will greatly increase the number of variants on offer, expanding from the single five-door 1.4 auto-only proposition of today’s K12 version to a range that will most probably shadow the Toyota Yaris’ formula of three and five-door grades in manual and auto.

Before that, though, the light car’s sub-small car Tiida sibling will undergo a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it makeover and (yet another) likely price repositioning to reflect its ageing status against far newer competitors such as the Mazda3. Basically, it will offer more features for the money when launched – perhaps by the time you read this.

"We've rationalised the line-up, going from three grades to two grades,” Mr Thompson said.

“We've repositioned the car from a pricing perspective (for) extra content, and the price has gone down for both ST and Ti.

“Ti needs to start delivering significantly more volumes so we've put a lot of content in that car – leather, sunroof and all kinds of interior enhancements."Moving up the Nissan range, the Dualis from England will get a more comprehensive visual makeover in May with the release of the Series II range.

Again, more equipment with little or no price movements are the plan, as Nissan attempts to cement the wagon/compact SUV crossover’s position in the $25,000 to $33,000 small-car segment.

Besides sporting a new proboscis (which Mr Thompson described as having more a ‘hatch’ look rather than a bluff 4x4 appearance like the outgoing version), the Dualis Series II range will split into two different entities, with one mutating into a new seven-seater ‘+2’ version (a name not yet confirmed for Australia), with a longer wheelbase and stretched rear bodywork to accommodate the two extra (tiny) souls.

Nissan is also likely to release the 2.0-litre dCi turbo-diesel version of the Dualis later on in the year, although the company will not reveal if such a move is set in stone for Australia. It does, however, underline the importance of the range to its bottom line.

“It is critical to Nissan’s small-car growth strategy,” Mr Thompson said.

Arguably of even greater significance is the D40 Navara facelift – out also in May – boasting a minor nose and tail tuck, a more refined interior presentation, a safety increase, an all-new V6 turbo-diesel option, and a revised 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel unit. A R51 Pathfinder Series II version is also waiting in the wings.

“Navara is our bread and butter,” Mr Thompson said.

But the Leaf, it seems, is “Nissan’s future” – just don’t hold your breath waiting for that electric vehicle to arrive in Australia.

Mr Thompson isn’t saying much right now except that “all is still well on track” for a release sometime in 2012. The US and Japan get it first later this year or 2011.

Back to the present, all of this year’s new-model activities are not expected to raise Nissan’s market share up much from 2009’s 5.8 per cent share.

However, Mr Thompson is confident that the total Australian new vehicle market will recover some more, to record a slight rise to about 950,000 units, with 2011 looking increasingly like the year when the million annual volume mark is breached again.

Last year, Nissan had five major model releases – the J32 Maxima, Z51 Murano, J10 Dualis 4x2, R35 GT-R and Z34 370Z Coupe.

Nissan’s 2010 model rollout:
370Z Roadster March
Tiida Series II March
Dualis facelift May
Navara facelift May
Pathfinder facelift June
Dualis +2 seven-seater Q3
Dualis dCi diesel Q3 (maybe)
K13 Micra Q4
Y62 Patrol Q1 2011

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