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New Nissan chief to shake up struggling Pulsar

Given a boot: Nissan's new boss says he has plans to boost sales of ailing models like the Pulsar sedan.

Nissan Australia’s new CEO to review market positioning of struggling vehicles

Nissan logo7 Apr 2014

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

NISSAN Australia’s new CEO and managing director Richard Emery will review the market positioning of its under-performing models, including the struggling Pulsar small car – a model he says “really needs to be firing”.

With a new strategy already put in place by caretaker boss Peter Jones in order to move Nissan’s large stockpile of unsold cars, Mr Emery said he would look at changes to product lines to ensure the problem was not repeated.

Mr Emery, who most recently served as general manager of passenger car sales for Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific, said Nissan HQ in Japan had already been notified of his intention to say ‘yes’ to the right product and ‘no’ to the wrong ones so as to avoid another massive wave of slow-to-sell inventory.

“I’m a product guy and I like to get my hands dirty in the product area,” Mr Emery told GoAuto at the launch of the new X-Trail last week. “And it’s certainly something I will throw my weight behind.

“I’m very conscious of making sure that we make our own decisions that are absolutely right for the Australian marketplace, and we don’t get driven down roads by global issues.

“My judgement in terms of product decisions may be noted for what I say no to rather than what I say yes to. And I was very upfront about that in the recruitment process.

“I already can see as an outsider things that I would really like to interrogate in the product plan, and in fact I’ve already had some of those discussions with the guys, who are incredibly passionate and keen to get the balance right, and in a couple of instances where a couple of product lines are not performing where we want them to be, we need to find ways to re-present those products to the market in a new light.” While Nissan is covered in the booming SUV market with new versions of the X-Trail and Pathfinder freshly launched, and a new Qashqai (Dualis replacement) just around the corner, Mr Emery said the passenger car side, particularly the 12-month-old Pulsar, needed work.

 center imageLeft: Nissan Australia CEO Richard Emery.

In the first three months of this year, Pulsar sales have slipped 20.4 per cent – and that is only within the first full year of the latest-generation model. Its volume remains a fraction of the market-leading Mazda3, Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i30.

Although Nissan’s global product boss Andy Palmer has already mooted the upcoming European C-segment hatch alternative as a Pulsar replacement in Australia after it debuts at the Paris motor show in October, Mr Emery said he is determined to make the current C12 hatch/B17 sedan from Thailand work.

“There’s also no doubt when you lose momentum in an industry like ours, and the heat drops out of a model, it is very hard to reignite it again,” he said.

“You can reignite it by throwing lots and lots of marketing dollars at it, but that’s very wasteful – or you can reinvigorate it through product and other things. In some cases there won’t be the opportunity to do that due to specification issues globally, but other models there might be some unique ways of us presenting those cars in the marketplace.

“So we have to make sure we present the Pulsar to the marketplace on its strengths … that we maybe haven’t accentuated in our messages. There are unique selling propositions in Pulsar that we haven’t taken advantage of.

“So if someone wants a banana, don’t try and sell them an apple. We need to hone in on what makes the car compelling and not get caught in the trap we have been caught in, and that’s that people buy Pulsar based on price. It’s one product that really needs to be firing.

“That doesn’t mean it needs to be number one outselling the Mazda3 or the Corolla, it just needs to be maximising its opportunities … and at the moment I don’t believe it is doing that.

“With the upcoming European small car … I’m not even sure it is available to us … I gather it is a European-driven product plan, but certainly we’d be mad not to have a look at what it offers, and it offers enough over the current car and the timing makes sense, then it is something that we’d certainly look at.

“But for now I’m looking for ways to reinvigorate Pulsar – however that’s possible.” Nissan has recorded a 38.3 per cent sales drop to the end of March, including big hits to its staple Micra (down 69.5 per cent), Dualis (-43.4), and Navara 4x4 (-45.9) as well as Pulsar.

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