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Nissan culls key models

Gone baby gone: The Micra will be dropped from the Nissan line-up in Australia, with stock expected to dry up by the end of 2016.

Pulsar hatch, Micra and Y61 Patrol ditched from Nissan’s Australian line-up

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Nissan logo22 Apr 2016

NISSAN will drop the Pulsar hatch, Micra micro hatch and the long-in-the-tooth Y61-series Patrol four-wheel drive as part of clean out of its Australian model line-up.

While the loss of the 18-year-old Y61-series Patrol is unsurprising given its age and looming emissions regulations, Nissan’s decision to withdraw the Pulsar hatch from the largest market segment in Australia comes as a shock.

In a statement today, Nissan Australia said it planned to “rationalise” the Pulsar line-up by ditching all hatch variants – the ST, ST-L and SSS – while the more popular sedan body style will remain on the market with the same variants on offer.

All three models will be withdrawn from the market by the end of this year, costing the Japanese brand about 6000 sales a year.

While sales in the overall small-car segment overwhelmingly lean towards hatchbacks, about 55 per cent of Pulsar buyers favoured the sedan version, according to the car-maker.

Speaking with journalists in Melbourne today, Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery acknowledged the “highly competitive” nature of the small-car segment and said the tough decision will benefit the brand in the long term.

“It was an action taken now to ready ourselves for some product offerings that come into the Nissan environment in 2018-19-20,” he said, reiterating comments reported by GoAuto last week.

Mr Emery said the future product offerings were “still to be determined”, and he added that dropping the Pulsar hatch would help strengthen the Nissan business.

“We looked at that product staying in the marketplace until that new model cycle starts, but on reflection, and if I take the disciplined and robust approach … we think it was the right thing to do for our business to concentrate on the sedan business over next 18 months, two years.

“In terms of us having a business environment that is quality driven rather than quantity driven, it was absolutely the right thing for us to do in terms of the business offering that those products offer.” Mr Emery pointed out that the Pulsar hatch was not seen as a major choice for consumers looking in Australia’s small-car segment, which had previously forced Nissan to be “overly aggressive” with its retail deals to get people to consider it against the strong competition.

He said the sedan was the “more robust” model in profitability, adding that globally, the Pulsar sedan (also known as Sentra and Sylphy in other markets) was the “mainstay” of Nissan’s small-car line-up, with the hatch not offered in many countries.

The Pulsar has struggled against competitors such as the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and the Mazda3 since it was launched in 2013. After shifting more than 14,000 units in 2013, Pulsar sales slid 25 per cent to 10,515 in 2014, before dropping again by 19 per cent last year to 8505, allowing it to be overtaken by the ageing Mitsubishi Lancer and Kia’s Cerato.

The Micra hatch that arrived in facelifted guise a year ago, has also been culled, with Nissan stating that “there is no longer an adequate business case for offering Micra for sale in the Australian market”.

Mr Emery highlighted the Micra’s ageing platform, its lack of adequate specification compared with newer rivals in the segment – such as the Holden Spark and Kia Picanto – as well as the looming Euro 5 regulations as reasons for the Micra’s demise.

“If you add all that together plus the competitive nature of that business (micro cars), it was right to make that call,” he said.

The decision on Micra was made despite a sales turnaround for the tiny city car, which is the second best-selling model in the dwindling micro car segment, with 528 sales so far this year – a 117 per cent increase compared with last year – behind the Mitsubishi Mirage on 559.

The Micra finished 2015 in fifth place behind the Mirage, Fiat 500, Holden Barina Spark and the Suzuki Celerio after a 49 per cent drop over its 2014 result.

Nissan dropped the Micra’s sedan sibling, the Almera, in mid 2014 after poor sales.

The Micra has a long history in Australia, with the first-generation version offered between 1995 and 1997 before it was discontinued until 2007 when the bubbly second-gen model arrived, replaced in 2010 by the existing model.

Nissan’s Y61-series Patrol has been sold alongside the newer Y62 model since it was launched in early 2013, offering buyers a diesel option, given that the new model is petrol only.

Mr Emery said regional dealers would be hit hardest by the loss of the iconic off-roader and its cab-chassis pick-up sibling, but added: “But they are realists, they know it has been coming for a while now.” Without going into details, Mr Emery said Nissan would do something special to celebrate the end of the line for the nearly 20-year-old 4WD.

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