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Exclusive: Nissan Navara to claw back sales

Picking up: The Navara had its worst sales result in nearly 10 years in 2015, but Nissan’s Australian chief says it will be more competitive this year.

Nissan aims for return to top three pick-ups with Navara

Nissan logo15 Apr 2016

NISSAN’S NP300 Navara will return to the top three best-selling pick-ups in the country, according the company’s Australian chief, who said he has no concerns about the impending arrival of Mercedes-Benz and Renault’s take on its latest workhorse.

The NP300 Navara launched in June last year in dual-cab guise, with the single-cab and king-cab variants only joining the range in late-November.

The protracted launch for the Navara impacted sales last year, with the Nissan workhorse finding 13,897, its lowest result since 2005 – the year before the arrival of the previous-generation D40 Navara – when it recorded just 9857 sales.

Nissan had claimed the number-two spot each year between 2007 and 2012, always outpaced by the dominant Toyota HiLux, until 2013 when it slipped to third place behind the Mitsubishi Triton.

In 2014 it was pushed back to fifth by the newer Ford Ranger and Holden Colorado, before slipping an extra spot to sixth last year, with Isuzu Ute’s D-Max beating it by 743 units.

In an exclusive interview with GoAuto, Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery said the stunted launch hurt sales last year, while new rivals compounded the challenges in the “highly competitive segment”, but predicted a much better result for Navara in 2016.

“We are confident we will do better with Navara this year,” he said. “Now that we have seen what the market looks like in terms of specification and structure. We launched and then three months later Ranger and HiLux launched, so we will make some adjustments to the line-up and spec through the year, as you’d expect.

“We are confident that we can get ourselves into the number-three position in the segment based on what our plans are. By the time we get to the middle of this year, that’s when we will see what Navara's true performance is going to be like. We are happy with it.”

Mr Emery acknowledged that leapfrogging and staying ahead of models such as the strong-selling Triton would be a challenge, but said that consistent sales month on month would be the key to sales success.

So far this year the HiLux and Ranger make up the first two places in the light pick-up segment, followed by the Triton on 6104, the Colorado on 4335 and the Navara not far behind on 4277.

The segment is set to get even more competition with Mercedes-Benz and Renault launching pick-ups based on the NP300 Navara in about 2018, but Mr Emery said there was enough room in the market for all three versions.

“Australia is a mature, competitive marketplace, everyone has the right to bring out any car they want.

“Obviously they are three global product decisions made across the three companies. So the final specification, positioning, structures will differ between the cars. They are still a long way from finalising those things. I am not concerned so much about that.”

Some car-makers have released range-topping high-spec sports-style pick-ups to boost the appeal of the range, including Ford’s Ranger Wildtrak which is priced from $57,890 plus on-road costs ($60,090 for the auto), Holden’s Colorado Z71 ranges from $54,990 to $57,190 and Volkswagen’s Amarok Ultimate 4Motion TDI costs $63,990.

Mr Emery said Nissan has no plans to introduce a kitted-out Navara to compete with the Wildtrak, and highlighted the popularity of its range-topping ST-X that is priced from a relatively modest $54,490.

“ST-X has been our most profitable and our most accepted (Navara) product. ST-X is the top of the range on Navara and it has blown us away as to how much volume we have gotten out of it. It‘s beyond our expectations.

“Do customers want something more than that in terms of big black wheels and things like that? I don’t know that. Wildtrak is a little bit more expensive than ST-X. We still get reports from dealers of customers taking an ST-X and spending another $5000 on accessories and bullbars to jazz it up.

“Would we do that from a factory perspective? I am not sure. We are pretty happy where ST-X is at in terms of mix and contribution. If there is some specification available to us that does jazz it up a bit then yes, we would consider it but we are pretty happy with where we are at.”

Mr Emery also ruled out re-entering the busy light-commercial van segment with models such as the NV200 and Renault Master-based NV400 that are offered in other markets, suggesting that it would not make business sense to bring them in.

“What’s the business case for some of those, do they add to the business? Vans are a good example of where if you are purely after volume, there is volume there, but in terms of a business case, it is pretty skinny.

“It could just complicate things. We always look at every product that becomes available and is made available but we put it across certain criteria. Some of those get knocked out pretty quickly and van is not on our radar at the moment.”

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