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Nissan Australia eyes top-three sales spot

Trail mix: Nissan’s X-Trail (left) accounts for the lion’s share of the brand’s year to date sales, with 15,945 new registrations to the end of September, while the 4x2 and 4x4 Navara (bottom) continues to sell strongly with a 12,320 tally.

Expanded portfolio and strong SUV sales expected to grow Nissan Australia sales

Nissan logo23 Oct 2018

NISSAN Australia, currently in eighth position in the marketplace, is gunning for a top-three spot in future with forthcoming new models, clear messaging and strong customer support, according to managing director Stephen Lester.
 
Speaking exclusively to GoAuto, Mr Lester laid out Nissan’s ambitions to take on market leaders including Toyota, Mazda and Hyundai, but stopped short of confirming exact details.
 
“We need to strive to be on the podium in terms of the top volume brands in the country, there’s no question about that,” he said.
 
“We’ve got to add products to the right segments, we’ve got to continue to do a good job from a marketing standpoint with our advertising, we need to obviously do a good job with PR … so the public will endear themselves to Nissan and we will endear ourselves in return to our customers by treating them very well at our dealers.”
 
So far in 2018, Nissan Australia sales are up a modest 2.9 per cent to 43,594 units in an overall market that remains strong but has slipped 0.9 per cent to the end of September.
 
This puts Nissan well off the pace of Toyota (164,988), Mazda (86,074) and Hyundai (73,120), while Mitsubishi – which is outperforming all the leading brands with 8.5 per cent growth (to 64,468 units) – is a clear fourth, ahead of a struggling Ford (52,970) and Holden (45,548). 
 
A strong-performing Kia (45,374) is also ahead of Nissan this year, although the different between sixth and eighth is just 1954 units. 
 
Last year, Nissan finished in eighth position with 56,594 new vehicle registrations, the brand’s lowest year-end tally since 2009 where it hit 52,901 coming off the back of the global financial crisis, which Mr Lester said was the low point from which the car-maker will now increase its share. 
 
“It was a challenging time for the brand as a whole having gone through the reduction in the model line-up, it got to the point, from a performance basis, (where) we do have to treat it as the bottom and look to grow up from there,” he said.
 
“What we have to do is to be laser-focused on our core product – Qashqai, X-Trail and Navara – performance and look at how Pathfinder and Patrol in particular … as well as Juke, support that build-up.
 
“The others, of course, 370Z and GT-R, these certainly fall in much smaller categories but I’m not going to define success or failure based on the ebbs and flows of those niche vehicles.
 
“The core models that we have are in the segments that are all growing, we need to capture our own fair share, and in a market that is challenged … means that we’ve got to find that in other ways and that’s really through a balanced portfolio.”
 
Last month, Nissan surged to fifth place on 5167 sales, up 29.1 per cent on September last year. Mr Lester said he was “pleased” with the result, but is clearly wary of unsustainable growth. 
 
“As I remind the team and remind the group, there’s really only about 600 units between fifth and 12th in the market at this point and, therefore, that is a small number to be considering in your actual position,” he said.
 
“What I’m much more focused on is how we help support the balanced and consistent volume growth.
 
“The reality is that September as a market last year we only did four per cent share. We’re not a four per cent brand, so we believe we are above a five per cent share brand and we need to work towards that.
 
“It’s a big number (September sales), it’s obviously not the expectation of the number of every month going forward. The dealers did a fantastic job, we have excellent performance through the vast majority of the network, we’re not all the way there yet, and so we’re going to continue working with those dealers to support them and to do a better job.”
 
Mr Lester confirmed the company had looked into the business case of returning to the passenger car segment since the discontinuation of the Pulsar, Micra and Altima in the previous few years, and hinted an announcement on Nissan’s mainline car future beyond the Leaf electric vehicle is forthcoming.
 
“We certainly have (looked at bringing back the Micra and Pulsar),” he said. “We’ll have some more details to announce at a later date … Whilst those segments are in decline, they still represent a significant portion of the overall market and would still be important to any car brand including ourselves.
 
“It still remains part of our mid- and long-range plan.”
 
As for the Kicks, which replaced the Juke in the United States and could be sold in Australia as a more conventionally styled small SUV, Mr Lester said the local appetite for crossovers helps its case.
 
“I can’t really comment on Kicks’ status, but I will say that the migration of customers in Australia away from passenger cars and into crossovers is well documented across the region,” he said.
 
“We don’t see that trend coming to an end any time soon, so we will continue to look at all crossover opportunities for future models that we can bring into Australia.
 
“Whether that is Kicks or Juke or both … will be determined over time.”
 
The Navara-based Terra is also a model which could come to Australia to bolster the brand’s already strong SUV line-up if it were made available.
 
When asked if any existing models such as the struggling Juke (-49.1%) and Pathfinder (-17%) are at risk of being discontinued like its former passenger car offers, Mr Lester said he did not “see any models at risk”.
 
“We feel that we don’t cover as much of the market as we should in this market, and therefore it is our job to rebuild that portfolio,” he said. “And we’re actively doing that.
 
“Whether other cars come and go from our line-up, especially small-volume ones, we work on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis … that’s a long and ongoing process at all times. (But) I don’t see any models at risk at this point.
 
“At the end of the day, we have to look at the maximum coverage by segment that we can achieve, and how best to create innovation that excites through those models.”
 
However, Mr Lester dismissed the idea of introducing a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty to rival Mazda, Hyundai, Ford and Honda, insisting that its current three-year/100,000km offering – matching Toyota’s assurance period – will suffice.
 
“When you take care of your customers very, very well, when you have tremendously reliable product … and when you stand behind and take care of your customers even in situations outside of their warranty … you don’t need to hide behind a warranty,” he said.
 
“We focus on the customers through the entire life and we will continue to do that going forward.”

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