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Nissan Australia to increase volume and share: Lester

Trail blazed: Sales of the X-Trail only increased by 0.3 per cent last year, despite being in a growing segment and receiving a mid-life refresh.

Increased market share expected from Nissan Australia as new boss takes the reins

29 Nov 2017

UNDER the guidance of new managing director Stephen Lester, Nissan Australia’s is confident it can reverse its downward sales trend and bolster its dwindling passenger car range with e-Power electric vehicles (EVs) and other new models.

For the first 10 months of the year, Nissan Australia’s sales have shrunk 15.4 per cent year-on-year to 49,936 units in a new-car market that has grown 0.5 per cent.

Mr Lester told GoAuto that the company was working hard to boost its sales and realign the Australian arm with the wider Nissan Motor Company strategic plan.

“First and foremost, we don’t discuss future sales numbers, but I would say in general the objective, of course, is to increase volume, increase share, increase dealer mindset, improve on all KPIs (key performance indicators) of the business,” he said at the launch of the facelifted Qashqai this week.

“Part of that is certainly working with the team in Dandenong South and helping make sure we’ve got the business oversight and rigour required to operate at a very high level.

“I think we’re really starting to make some headway to get to that stage … and then of course to build into that mid-term plan and making sure that mid-term plan is in alignment with the global plan.

“And that we’re really doing things that is right for the Australian market.”

The decreasing sales volume was one of the reasons cited for the departure of former Nissan boss Richard Emery in August, but Mr Lester would not be drawn on specifics of the plan to reverse the car-maker’s fortunes.

“I’m not going to give you too much by way of the business strategy here other than to say I think that there is a lot of things we can do and can do quite quickly,” he said.

“The key is to focus on integrating the dealer feedback and to take the expertise within our organisation and create a culture that is both willing and capable of change.

“I’ve said a few times tonight, there are no sacred cows in the business, we need to really overturn and look at everything we’re doing, ask critical questions and decide how we are going to do things moving forward.

“Saying that ‘we’ve always done it this way’ is not an acceptable answer at this stage of the game.”

To give Nissan a stronger market presence, Mr Lester revealed that the Japanese car-maker would study the passenger car segments closely to see if a model could fill the “glaring gap” left by the discontinuation of the Altima, Micra and Pulsar.

“We’re always looking at the product portfolio, there’s no question about that,” he said. “The bright side is we have a portfolio that is SUV rich in a climate that is seeing SUVs continue to expand and passenger cars continue to diminish.

“That’s not to say they (passenger cars) are irrelevant and that’s not to say we don’t have a glaring gap.

“The topic really comes back to ‘how do we best plan which car or which cars are right for the Australian market specifically’, and there may be offerings out there that are not right or don’t fit or didn’t fit.

“The reality is we need to make some decisions very quickly and with good analysis of what a return to the car or passenger car segment will mean.”

Asked specifically about whether the Note e-Power hatchback could slot in alongside the next-generation Leaf due next year, as well as the ageing 370Z and GT-R sportscars in Nissan’s passenger car stable, Mr Lester replied “no question, that would be a possibility”, but stopped short of confirming the model for Australia.

“I have no question that there will be an e-Power at some point that comes to Australia for sure,” he said.

“Whether that would specifically be Note e-Power or not is yet to be determined, but I think absolutely there is space, not only in this country, but really there is space in the world for e-Power.

As previously reported, the current Note e-Power that was revealed in late 2016 will likely not arrive Down Under with Nissan’s local arm expected to push for a mid-life update of the hatchback planned around late 2018 or 2019.

The e-Power hybrid powertrain pairs an electric motor that drives the wheels with a small displacement internal-combustion petrol engine to charge the batteries.

Mr Lester also revealed that since arriving in the country, he has implemented some reorganisation to better align the brand for the planned uplift.

“The first step was to get together with the team and meet all of the departments on a very broad and very far-reaching basis, to get out and … meet the dealers, to hear from them,” he said.

“So we’ve restructured some aspects connected to the dealer council, which will then go on an enable us to generate feedback more quickly and to be more responsive to the marketplace.

“We’ve done some restructuring within the office, realigned some teams, moved some people around – and I’m very happy to say that it’s not a case where we’ve had to change the size of the organisation in any way, shape or form.

“This has really been key to helping focus the emphasis on performance.”

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