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Australia to guide Nissan Navara development

Advance Australia: Nissan’s global LCV development team is now using feedback from Australian customers to guide the development of its future models.

Nissan looks to ‘Australian customer voice’ in planning next-generation Navara

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Nissan logo27 Feb 2018

By TERRY MARTIN

NISSAN Motor Corporation now sees Australia playing a significant role in guiding the future development of its Navara one-tonne utility and related vehicles after previously considering this market as simply “a consequence and not an objective”.

In Australia last week for the launch of the Series III Navara, Nissan’s global LCV senior vice-president Ashwani Gupta revealed that Australian demand for vehicles with “authentic capability” – genuine off-road ability combined with on-road comfort and dynamic performance – had led to not only significant mechanical and specification changes in the Navara but would influence the development of further updates and next-generation models, planning for which is now underway.

While Australia has always had a degree of input into Navara product planning, Mr Gupta said the Australian “customer voice” would now, for the first time, be integrated at the earliest stage of planning for a global rollout that spans 120 markets.

He admitted that the company previously focused on countries where it has a manufacturing base, particularly its two biggest markets, Mexico and Thailand, as well as Spain, Argentina and China.

“We really need to work on future portfolio which is based on authentic capability,” Mr Gupta said.

“What is very important is to integrate the customer voice at a very advanced stage of the product planning, and this is what, for sure, we are going to do with Australia from now.

“The objective is to have the integration of the Australian customer voice at an advanced stage – and we will do it.

“It used to exist – I’m not saying it didn’t exist – but it was not in the very advanced stage.”

Australia, which is currently the third-biggest market for Navara behind Mexico and Thailand but is expected to slip behind China this year, was not involved in advanced product planning of the current Thai-built D23/NP300 Navara launched here in 2015.

However, subsequent feedback and criticism prompted an overhaul of its suspension introduced with Series II last year, and another round of mechanical changes with Series III focusing again on vehicle ride and handling (and also steering), which will now be implemented in other markets starting with Latin America.

“Australia, in most of the products, becomes a consequence and not an objective, just because of the simple reason that we don’t have an industry location (manufacturing base) here,” Mr Gupta admitted.

“So at the end, we say, ‘Okay, this is available in Thailand (so) this suits the conditions in Australia.’ “But we have changed it. We have changed it from this improvement (Series II/III), and again in future, with the lifecycle plans, we have integrated the local customer feedback.

“We will be having more integration of the country’s voice – from customers, from you (media), from the teams we have, in a very advanced upstream way.”

Nissan’s global LCV chief product specialist Pedro de Anda, who was also in Australia last week for the Series III Navara launch, explained that there were two phases on the product planning side – advanced, which is now in progress for the next-generation Navara, and regular planning, which comes later.

“On that advanced phase is where we are going to need more input,” he said.

“It might not be the biggest market, Australia, but it’s very relevant for the trends – for the usage and also for the safety (specification).

“Australia has always been important to Nissan, and to the development.

However, when we built this Navara we launched in 2014 in Thailand, there was a lot of attention to the Thailand market.

“What we have learned is Australia might not be the biggest in volume, but it’s clearly the one that is setting the trend for performance and the attributes of capability that customers need.”

Mr Gupta added: “It’s not the leading market in terms of market size but it is the leading market in terms of aspiration and the way the people use the truck.

“The truck is used at extreme conditions and tough terrains which is very unique to Australia.

“It’s a combination of workhorse and lifestyle but the product should be adaptable off the road and on the road, and this is unique to Australia, which gives us a big challenge to really start thinking: what should the next animal look like.”

Mr Gupta emphasised the challenges of developing a one-tonne pick-up for so many markets, but said he believed Australia’s requirements would be adopted by many other markets – including those in Asia – as they matured.

“When we do this global product development, the challenge for us is to integrate all the customer expectation which is coming from all the countries, and then it always becomes a challenge with what ... to incorporate and what not,” he said.

“We did the global product development (of D23/NP300) based on the global customer expectations, but then when we realised that the Australian customer is leading the aspirations – which we believe that all the global customers will follow one day – then we thought to have a very deep look at the expectation of the Australian customer.”

Mr Gupta said Nissan had enough technical capability to develop the next-generation Navara from Japan and other locations, meaning Australia’s role would be limited to input on customer requirements that would then feed into advanced engineering planning and the subsequent full-blown engineering program.

These requirements should also translate to related vehicles, such as the forthcoming just-revealed Navara-based Terra SUV that could be on sale in Australia inside the next 12 months.

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