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Nissan looks to bounce back in 2021

Helping hand: Models like the new Qashqai (left) and Navara (below) will help Nissan increase its market share in 2021.

New products, greater fleet and rental sales to help Nissan Aus move past COVID

26 Nov 2020

NISSAN Australia is confident it can bounce back from a COVID-interrupted 2020, with a raft of new products and stronger channel mix to help the brand claw back its segment share which has been reduced over the last 10 months.


To the end of October, overall sales for the Japanese car-maker have fallen by 28.9 per cent – more than the 18.8 per cent average fall for the broader automotive industry – leading to the brand having its overall market share drop from 4.7 per cent in October 2019 to 4.1 per cent.


Speaking to GoAuto, Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester said he was happy with the way the company dealt with the pandemic in 2020, saying the Australian arm could only work with the cards it has been dealt.


“I’m really impressed with the resilience of the team and dealers first and foremost, and everybody is going through a variety of challenges relating to COVID, and the outcomes and result of other decisions being made that you can’t impact means that you’re forced to continue to control what you can control locally, and as a result I think people have done overall an exceptional job battling, recovering and putting on a positive face on how to get the job done,” he said.


“And from a commercial standpoint, the results, I think we’ve got along quite well this year.”


When GoAuto talked to Mr Lester last December, he said Nissan was already expecting difficult sales conditions in 2020, before COVID-19 further ravaged the new-car market.


However he did say he hoped Nissan would grow its segment share, a hope which has failed to materialise. 


Mr Lester said the primary reason for the loss of share in 2020 was due mainly to fleet and rental sales, which have understandably dropped off significantly this year.


“It all comes down to channel mix, as I was mentioning we’ve had really strong growth in retail channel (private and ABN sales) which is positive,” he said. 


“When you look at the market share erosion it’s really coming from the fact that in particular some of the fleet and rental channels, and even things like company cars where we’re not doing as much because people aren’t driving as much or rental’s not there.


“From our standpoint it’s not where we want to be aspirationally, but looking forward to new products like Navara will continue to help support that overall share recovery and again re-balancing the channels as we go forward and of course all that’s been affected this year by COVID.”


As for how to correct the sales downturn – Nissan’s last year of growth came in 2018 where it saw a 2.0 per cent overall lift – Mr Lester said the prosperity of the wider industry hinged on the outcome of COVID-19 and the production of a vaccine, however a range of incoming new product would help bolster the brand’s appeal.


“I think we’re all at the mercy of the pandemic in terms of what happens vis-a-vis restriction changes or some sort of jab that helps as a preventative measure for further spread,” he said.


“For us the year – not withstanding those uncontrollables – is looking really promising, we’ve made a really good push in retail sales volume and retail mix, which has been quite positive and bodes really well when we start looking at new products coming to market for us. 


“We just unveiled two weeks ago the story of Navara which is really good, and that builds on some of the momentum we’ve built with Juke and more stories to come into ‘21. 


“So all of that really I think sets the Nissan brand up and our dealers up really, really well to meet the continued demands and interests of Australian consumers.”


In early November Nissan revealed the updated Navara pick-up, the brand’s second-best selling model behind the X-Trail medium SUV which should see a welcome uptick in sales for its workhorse.


The hardcore N-Trek Warrior version will follow early next year, continuing Nissan Australia’s partnership with third-party engineering firm Premcar.


Furthermore, a new-generation Qashqai small SUV – built on the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance’s CMF-C platform – will be revealed next year, with an Australian arrival sure to follow soon after.


The new model will likely come to Australia with the option of the e-Power hybrid variant, which provides the driving characteristics of an EV without the need for constant charging.


GoAutounderstands a new-generation Pathfinder seven-seat large SUV is also around the corner, with spy shots floating around of a camouflaged Pathfinder undergoing testing in new-gen guise.


While the lucrative sub-$70,000 large SUV segment has contributed 71,132 sales to the end of October, the Pathfinder has only made up 950 of those, down 56.1 per cent year-on-year and making it one of the slowest-selling offerings in the segment, behind only the Chinese Haval H9 and LDV D90 as well as the SsangYong Rexton and hardcore off-roading Jeep Wrangler.


The enhanced Patrol Warrior upper-large SUV is also expected to materialise at some point in 2021, however Nissan is still yet to provide concrete timing as to an on-sale date. 


Some excitement will be injected to the Nissan line-up when the new Nissan Z coupe is revealed and brought Down Under, however timelines for a local arrival are still up in the air.


When GoAutospoke to Nissan in late 2019, Mr Lester said the brand was on the search for a small hatch to add volume to the brand’s bottom line, however it appears the search is still on with no appropriate suitor found from Nissan’s global portfolio.

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