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Nissan’s Tiida set to grow up

Struggling: Nissan's Tiida has fallen between two stools as a small/light car - a mistake Nissan will not make in the next generation.

Nissan boss reveals 2012 ‘Pulsar’ will be two generations ahead of the Tiida

1 Mar 2010

NISSAN Australia managing director and CEO Dan Thompson has revealed that the 2012 ‘Tiida Replacement’ (TR) will not only be a genuine small car, bigger than the current segment-straddling model, but also a top-three contender in sales, design and engineering.

Speaking to GoAuto in New Zealand, Mr Thompson added that the much-speculated return of the Pulsar badge was not an automatic certainty for the TR, as a direct result of the future small car’s myriad advancements.

No other details were forthcoming about the TR, other than it definitely does not have a diesel engine as part of its Australian program.

Mr Thompson said the TR effectively would end Nissan’s segment-straddling strategy formulated when the C11 Tiida was developed in the middle of the last decade, that has since necessitated similar positioning for the current Micra below the Tiida as well as the larger J10 Dualis above it.

“The Tiida Replacement will be a proper C-segment small car, covering the entire segment with all offerings that once again competitors are bringing to market – except for diesel as we have no plans for diesels in the small car segment,” Mr Thompson said.

“Certainly Tiida straddles high-end light and low-end small. But (next) Micra will come in and that will cover light, (current) Tiida will cover the very high-end of light and entry-level small, and (current) Dualis will expand from the mid-25s up, so that is our bridging strategy.

“But once we move into the next-generation TR, it will cover the small segment on its own as a stand-alone core model for us.

“Am I excited by the car? Absolutely. It can’t come soon enough. It’s well advanced.

12 center image Left: Nissan's compact car, thought to be the Micra. Below: Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Dan Thompson.

“The biggest change is styling. Number two would be – and it’s probably not fair, but if you compare Tiida with what as is today, versus what its replacement offers, it is a giant leap forward in every respect. Some of that is because in the small segment the Tiida has slipped to near the bottom side of it and we’re not competitive in a lot of areas today, but it’s like the TR is taking two big steps.” Mr Thompson admitted that, in hindsight, the Tiida project had only been successful when it had been positioned as a large light – rather than a compact small – car class alternative, and that the company should not have found itself in such a compromising position.

However, as a result of this, all stops have been pulled out to make the TR an exciting proposition as well as a massive player for Nissan in its segment.

“There are lessons learnt globally,” he said. “Tiida was a global car and a global project. It tried to cover both B and C segments. If you look at where Tiida is successful like the US and China, Tiida is positioned as a B-segment car, and it delivered as a B-segment.

“But in markets like ours, where it was positioned as a C-segment car, it hasn’t worked as well. So that learning, and this was three years ago that learning has gone into all of the development of the TR.

“That’s why it’s so exciting. It’s a crime for a brand like ours to be sitting here today or even three years ago to be sitting here with no light car, and we have a light/small car, and there are 500,000 cars sold in that space and we’re selling 500 a month.

“So when we’re talking about growth – and it’s massive going from six to 10 per cent (as Nissan hopes to do within the next three years) – when you look at where we are from a commercial and SUV perspective, we’re fine (but) you come over here to passenger and we’re often outside the top 10. So it’s an obvious, glaring gap. And once again we’ll get back into the proper portfolio across the key segments.

“That’s why our core models are a light car, small car, SUVs and commercials.

“It’s been obvious to everybody, but yet it hadn’t been addressed properly in product planning for a long, long time.

“So (the TR) was the first chance we had to make a difference two years ago … when we asked what is it exactly we need (five years down the track) … and if there’s anything we need to do to further enhance its acceptability in Australia, because our business is becoming very global, especially from a sourcing perspective with Thailand.

“It’s really critical with Thailand that we get ahead of the curve … and if you’re not aggressive you will end up with product that doesn’t quite fit … and that’s not going to happen with TR.

“Sitting in the top three in the segment is our goal with all of our core models.

Mr Thompson said Nissan had the flexibility to call the TR ‘Pulsar’ if it chose to.

“When the time comes, we’ll be able to tell you,” he said.

“Pulsar has tremendous equity as a name in Australia, and an incredibly strong link to the Nissan brand. The Nissan brand today is known as the Pulsar and Patrol – and we know the great equity there is in the name.

“It’s just a matter whether the Pulsar brand – and the attributes associated with the name – can be transferable over to the new product.

“So when we’re talking about the TR being two generations ahead of the Tiida, we’re talking three generations from the last Pulsar with this one, so we’ll be very careful to ensure that if we elect to use the Pulsar name that it delivers what the car delivers.

“So the good news for us though is that there is not a global one-naming strategy for that vehicle like there was before.

“Every year we’re not in market with Pulsar it starts to lose some of the awareness and some of the strong attributes, so we’ll just have to be careful that it matches what the TR delivers.”

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