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Nissan not “fixated” on number one importer title

One of several: New models such as the next-gen Pathfinder, due in December, will help Nissan's local sales ticking over.

Mass model turnover continues for Nissan, but “dangerous” to publish bold targets

13 Aug 2013

NISSAN Australia CEO Bill Peffer says the company is no longer “fixated” on being the local market’s top full-line importer, but with a raft of new models on the horizon there is still plenty to be optimistic about.

Previous Nissan Australia management spoke at length of a bold plan, called GT2012, which included being the top-selling importer by the end of March this year, with the aim of taking 10 per cent market share and toppling fellow Japanese brand Mazda and Korean rival Hyundai in the process.

The company made gains by recording huge growth and record sales of 79,747 sales in 2012 (up 17.4 per cent), and continues to grow this year at a rate above Mazda and Hyundai on the back of the new Pulsar small car.

However, Nissan’s 49,139 year-to-date sales (up 6.7 per cent) and total market share (7.4 per cent) are still well below Mazda – with 60,812 sales and 9.2 per cent share YTD – and Hyundai, which to the end of July has racked up 55,988 sales, for an 8.4 per cent share.

Illustrating the importance of the popular new Pulsar to its continued sales growth, most of Nissan’s other ageing core models are down this year, including the crucial Navara 4x4 (-8.0 per cent), X-Trail (-23.4 per cent) and Micra (-43.2 per cent).

Among key volume-driving models excluding Pulsar, only the Dualis (up 15.1 per cent) is in positive territory.

 center imageFrom top: Pulsar sedan and hatch, Juke, Patrol and Pathfinder.

When Mr Peffer took over from predecessor Dan Thompson in February 2012, he did not reiterate the fixed timeline on Nissan’s aim to become the nation’s top importer, but maintained the goal of taking top spot – eventually.

However, with 18 months experience of the Australian market under his belt, Mr Peffer appears to have relaxed this goal, instead searching for a more manageable rate of growth from the local range – soon to be one of the newest on the market.

The company has launched a spate of new models over the past 12 months, including the Almera, Pulsar and Patrol. More importantly, it will introduce five brand-new or redesigned models – Juke, Pathfinder, Altima, Dualis and X-Trail – by next July.

This massive turnover of almost its entire range over a 24-month timeframe is unusually fast, but despite such an influx of fresh metal, Mr Peffer is evidently mindful of the pitfalls of making bold claims.

“Everybody has growth plans that if they were realised, the total industry volume would be three times what it is,” he told us last week. “The reality is, with a total industry volume that’s forecast to grow 2-3 per cent per annum, you’ve got to take it off somebody to get it.

“There’ll be winners and losers, and everyone’s optimistic.

“Number one importer, all that is is a function of your market share. Right now, the number one importer happens to have about 10 per cent share, but in time, number one importer could be realised with a lower market share.

“But we’re not fixated anymore on (being) number one importer. I think what we’ re committed to doing is continuing to grow and we’re getting the line-up to do that.

“It’s very dangerous to make a claim of a certain volume or a certain status by a certain date, because the market’s just too volatile. There’s a lot of angst around it, you either hit the milestone or get rhetoric about being a failure.

“We have a good story to tell, and it’s on a timeline which is internal, and I have a business plan and we work to it.

“We were the third-fastest growing brand last year – if you look back, judge us on what we’ve done, not what we say we’re going to do.”

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