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Nissan Aus pushing for Raptor-baiting Navara
No confirmation but Nissan Aus boss pushing for hi-po Navara ‘every chance I get’
26 Jul 2018
NISSAN Australia managing director Stephen Lester says he is actively pushing for a Ford Ranger Raptor-rivalling version of the Navara, as the company looks to improve the pick-up’s sales performance through a bigger fleet push.
A number of manufacturers have launched higher-performance or more rugged off-road versions of their workhorses in the past year, including Holden with the HSV Colorado SportsCat, Toyota’s HiLux Rogue, Rugged and Rugged X trio, and Volkswagen’s more powerful V6 Amarok.
Mercedes’ Navara-based X-Class with a Daimler 190kW/550Nm V6 also lobs in December, while Ford has just launched the Raptor in Australia and Mitsubishi is also rumoured to be working on a high-end version of its popular Triton.
As previously reported, Nissan Motor Corporation senior vice-president of LCV Ashwani Gupta told GoAuto in February that the company was evaluating the viability of a high-performance sports version of the Navara, following meetings with Nissan Australia executives who were pushing for such a model.
Mr Lester told GoAuto at last week’s X-Trail N-Sport launch in Queensland he was actively pushing Nissan HQ for a sporty Navara at “every chance I get”.
“I can show you pictures of the great-looking customer vehicles that I see around Australia at our dealerships and elsewhere of people putting all sorts of aftermarket packages, both genuine and non-genuine – of course we are pushing for all genuine parts,” he said.
Left: Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester
“But what is shows and demonstrates to me very clearly is the enthusiasm of Australian consumers for this in the ute segment, and this would be an absolute killer if we can get something like that.”
It is unclear if a sporty Navara is in development yet and if it is, what powertrain it would use, but Mr Ashwani said back in February that the company could call on the expertise of some of its alliance partners, including Renault Sport or Nismo, to help with chassis development.
Mr Lester said it was helpful to have the support of Mr Gupta, as well as and other key Nissan LCV executives, some of whom were in Australia recently to discuss the market segment.
“We talked about brands and what different vehicles can do to help your brand, and there is no question that ute plays an enormous role in consumer’s view of your brand.
“There is absolutely no question that there is a direct tie to it, and that means some of our competitors are wise to that as well and do everything they can with their product offerings to showcase that.”
To the end of June this year, the Navara is currently sitting in sixth place for combined 4x2 and 4x4 sales in Australia, with 8422 units shifted. It trails the segment-leading Toyota HiLux, as well as the Ford Ranger, Mitsubishi Triton, Holden Colorado and Isuzu D-Max.
Navara 4x4 sales are down by 8.8 per cent compared with the same period in 2017, while 4x2 sales are up by just 0.7 per cent.
Mr Lester said while the company was happy with the Navara’s sales results in the Japanese fiscal year (April 1- March 31), he admitted that it could do better, suggesting that more special editions and a greater fleet push could help.
“We had a pretty strong year overall through the fiscal year with the Navara. It was not a bad year by any stretch.
“I think we can most certainly do more and there are some opportunities we launched, also the special N-Sport Black Edition last year, which we sold out rather briskly of the 500 units we brought to market. We will look to do some similar things later this year.
“I think that better utilising other sales channels like fleet. With our fleet team that (national fleet manager) Danielle Wise has led and now (sales director) Ed Butler on board, we can be focused on that broader spectrum.”
When asked if Nissan had seen any cross-shopping between the Navara and X-Class, Mr Lester said it was “early days”.
“Like with all vehicles or competitors in the marketplace, we are keenly interested in knowing what is going on and how they are performing and what is helping drive that performance.
“So we will, as we do with a myriad of other competitors, keep a close eye on that and watch how it’s going.”
Mr Lester said the constant comparisons to the Navara in media relating to the X-Class was neither helpful nor a hindrance, adding that there were other more pressing concerns in the segment.
“I don’t think it helps or hinders at all to be honest,” he said. “I think what we offer to Daimler is significant by way of underpinnings of the vehicle, and we wish them the best of luck with their version of that
“ But honestly, I think the rest of the market is so hyper-competitive, and in that tough ute segment, I have got a lot of other bigger things to worry about than X-Class to be honest.”
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