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Nissan Pulsar poised for comeback in Oz

Ta-ta Tiida: Nissan Australia could revive the Pulsar nameplate last seen here in February 2006.

Top Nissan executive relents on Tiida name for next small car in Pulsar territory

14 Oct 2010

NISSAN Australia is getting set to revive the Pulsar name for an all-new small car from 2012, with the blessing of the top Japanese Nissan executive who asked the Australian subsidiary to accept the Tiida name for its current small car in the first place.

The new global Tiida/Pulsar – a bigger, more efficient and bolder car than the anaemic Tiida that straddles the light and small-car segments without great effect – will be a key core model in Nissan's ambitious drive to oust Mazda and Hyundai as Australia's top full-line vehicle importer with a goal of a 10 per cent share of the market by the end of its 2012-13 financial year.

Speaking in Sydney where he is attending the Sydney motor show for the unveiling of Nissan's all-new Micra light-car and Patrol SUV, Nissan Motor Co chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga – the company's global number two executive – said he had given permission to the local branch to step away from the Tiida name used in many markets overseas and resume the Pulsar name which has high brand recognition in this country.

“Several years ago, I asked the dealers to accept the Tiida name,” he said with a smile. “Now after the decision I made, I continuously receive pressure to revive the name of the Pulsar. The customers are still expecting Pulsar.”

Mr Shiga added: “Maybe in GT2012 (Nissan Australia's model plan until the end of 2012), you again will have the Pulsar name.”

Nissan Australia managing director Dan Thompson said the Pulsar name was not a done deal for the new small car, but it was the front-runner.

“This (Mr Shiga's) decision gives us the ability to bring it back,” he said. “If we decide that the naming and the equity in the name matches the vehicle we launch, it will be called Pulsar.”

12 center imageLeft: Nissan's Micra-based 'new global sedan' (top) will be revealed in December, while the Tiida replaced the Pulsar (below) here in early 2006.Mr Thompson said the completely reworked car would be a core model for Nissan Australia, tasked with matching small-car-segment leaders such as the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 and seizing at least 10 per cent share in line with Nissan's local sales ambitions.

“For both Micra and Tiida replacement, with our 10 per cent market share aspiration, every new core model we bring in has to deliver that (10 per cent) at minimum,” he said.

“Put it this way, Tiida now is at a two per cent share – it is small.”

Sales of the Tiida hatch and sedan are down 21 per cent this year in a market segment up 13.8 per cent.

Although Mr Thompson would not say it, the Tiida tag is obviously viewed as so tarnished in this market that even head office in Japan has agreed to allow the company to shed its preferred global name and revert to Pulsar with its greater brand equity.

The Pulsar was built by Nissan from 1978 to 2007 when it was replaced by the smaller Tiida. It was produced in Australia from 1987 to 1992, building a solid if not glamourous reputation for honest performance and reasonable value.

It was also sold under Holden badges as the Astra, using a Holden-made four-cylinder engine in the locally built version.

Mr Thompson said Nissan was down to two designs for the new Nissan small car, which he said he had seen.

“Both are fantastic,” he said.

Along with the new Pulsar/Tiida, a new global light sedan to be built from the new K13 Micra's 'V' platform and an all-new mid-sized car – a spiritual successor to the Bluebird – are also on the agenda for Nissan Australia which concedes that passenger cars have been its weak point in recent years.

Mr Thompson said Nissan had strong representation in commercial vehicles and SUVs.

“We don't need to match segment by segment our competitors sitting above us, because we have commercial strength that they can't match,” he said.

“It is passenger vehicles where we are outside the top ten and a long long way behind our competitors.”

Mr Thompson said the new Micra – to go on sale in the next few weeks as a five-door hatch with choice of three- or four-cylinder engines – was the first of a new-generation of versatile cars that would help to recapture Nissan's market ascendancy.

The new light sedan – to be unveiled in China in December – would also go into production alongside the new Micra in Thailand from where Nissan Australia could import it if it chose.

Mr Thompson said the new small sedan was a completely different design to the Micra hatch.

“Whether we use a different name, we will just have to wait and see,” he said. “It gives a completely different perception.

“So when we get to that point and we see what Micra is delivering and what the perceptions are of Micra in this market, we will decide.”

Mr Thompson said demand for light sedans was growing, filling a niche between the light hatches and small cars in the $18,000-$20,000 range.

He said Nissan's forthcoming small sedan could almost fill the space now occupied by Tiida, with Micra below it and the new Pulsar above it.

“Two years ago, we didn't have a high level of confidence that the light sedan sub segment would evolve,” he said.

“It is only 10 per cent of the light segment today, but, as we are seeing with some of our competitors moving into the sedan space now, obviously moving to Thai production, you might be able to get some value out of the sedan for the customers.”

Mr Thompson said Nissan Australia was also looking to expand its van range, taking advantage of alliance partner Renault's strength in that area, and also adding a medium 'soft-roader' SUV to cater for buyers would were moving away from rugged and heavy full-chassis SUVs such as the Pathfinder.

“Nissan today, outside Toyota, probably has the closest representation to a full model line-up of any brand, but we do have a few small segments that are not covered – vans is one,” he said.

“So we are looking at bringing a few vans back and filling that void, although that is a small segment.

“Also for us, medium cars have some opportunity, but we are looking at that down the track to fill that void.

“But in that medium and large segment, with the local manufacturers, it is hard to make good profit.

“Can we to get to 10 per cent and beyond without going into new segments? The answer is absolutely yes, especially if the sub-segments like vans throw a few thousand cars into the mix.”

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