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Nissan Australia still mulling Euro Pulsar

Streamlined: Nissan’s existing Thai-sourced Pulsar range will be revised in the next two months, with the ST-S out and the SSS sedan in.

Thai Pulsar to get a shake-up as Nissan says it will consider its small-car options

8 Apr 2015

NISSAN Motor Co Australia says it is sticking with its slow-selling Thai-sourced Pulsar for now, with a plan to beef up its appeal with a revised and streamlined range arriving within weeks.

But while the company says it is committed to the existing sedan and hatch that has been offered here since 2013, it also says it plans to take a closer look at the British-built alternative that emerged last year as a rival for the Volkswagen Golf.

Speaking with GoAuto last week, Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery said the company was observing the European model’s progress in other markets.

“There is a point in time when we potentially could look at shifting that (Pulsar) to another product,” he said. “We aren’t at that point yet – certainly not in 2015 anyway. We are watching how it is performing in Europe.

“Its cost base is different. Its spec base is different. From our perspective, the jury is out on whether it would ultimately be advantageous over what we have got.”

Mr Emery said it was not a foregone conclusion that the European model would replace the current version, but that discussions would happen later in the year.

“It was never slated for outside of Europe,” he said. “We will have to see how it is market-accepted in Europe whether that market acceptance would translate to Australia and how much better that would be than the current car.

“Because, if there is not substantial advantage, then you would have to question whether we would (switch models).

“So it is by no means a deep discussion yet. We probably wouldn’t start that conversation until the second half of this year.” Under previous management, Nissan had high hopes for the resurrected Pulsar when it arrived in 2013, but the overly ambitious targets were never met and the Pulsar became an also-ran in the sales race against the dominant Toyota Corolla and Mazda3.

VFACTS sales figures released this week reveal the Pulsar has found 2126 homes so far this year, an 18.3 per cent drop over the same period last year, and it now trails the Kia Cerato (2380), and it just ahead of the ageing Mitsubishi Lancer (2065).

Mr Emery acknowledged that some models, including the Pulsar “had too many derivatives” and confirmed to GoAuto that the Pulsar line-up would be trimmed, like the Juke.

Describing some variants as “orphans”, Mr Emery said the revised mix would be more manageable.

“So Pulsar will go from four models back to three,” he said.

“The one model we are pulling out is the ST-S. Four was too many in terms of stock. That orphan, we are going top pull it out of the line-up.

“If I was to say I’ve probably got a few too many ST-Ss in the network, but it's manageable. They will be gone within the next six to eight weeks.”

This leaves the base ST, mid-spec ST-L and SSS warm hatch. The long-mooted SSS sedan is still locked in for Australia, and it will go on sales later this month, replacing the Ti sedan.

Nissan appears to be sticking with its Micra baby hatch, despite a number of other Nissan light-car offerings popping up in other markets. These include Europe’s slightly larger Note and a production version of the Sway concept from last month’s Geneva motor show.

Mr Emery said the refreshed Micra, which arrives in showrooms this month at the same time as the facelifted Juke, will also feature a slimmed-down line-up.

He said any other potential new light car would have to provide volume for it to be considered.

“When you get to below $15,000 for a car, the $500 makes a whole lot of difference to the buying environment,” he said.

“We need to stay in that segment. Micra has a loyal following.

“It’s not a big contributor to our business but we need to be there. Note, Sway – we are always looking at what products are available, but they need to be substantial opportunities, rather than what we did in the past which was, ‘that looks good let’s grab 1000 of those’.

“I need sustainable robust products that offer significant opportunity.”

The Micra facelift surfaced two years ago, but Mr Emery said the delay was due to clearing older unsold stock, as well as his desire to get the best price and specification for Australian buyers.

“I slowed down some of the product plans, because I wasn’t happy with the spec and price discussions that were going on,” he said.

Nissan’s third-generation Murano SUV – revealed at last year’s New York motor show – remains uncertain for an Australian launch, despite having a loyal Australian customer base, as right-hand drive production is yet to be confirmed for the US-focussed SUV.

Mr Emery said the Murano threw up a “contradictory discussion” for the brand as it tried to reduce its models and variants that did not bring significant volume, while also maintaining some more interesting offerings.

“Murano volumes have been 1000-1200 a year,” he said. “It has a good loyal customer base, customers have had two or three and love it.

“Having said that volume is quite small compared with core SUV model lines. On the other hand I have said I want some excitement and emotion back into the brand so on one hand it delivers on the other hand it doesn’t.

“So I am probably saying it’s a debate.”

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