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Nissan not worried about Alliance brand dilution

Standing alone: The all-new X-Trail will be one of the new-generation Alliance vehicles to be shared between brands.

Nissan promises brand uniqueness in future despite Alliance platform, engine sharing

23 Jun 2020

NISSAN is confident that its increased levels of future platform, powertrain and technology sharing with Alliance partners Renault and Mitsubishi will not dilute the essence of the brand, which will still retain its own clear identity and brand DNA.


The three brands recently announced a revised business model which states that future vehicles will be developed using a ‘leader-follower’ strategy, in which one brand would be primarily responsible for product development, in an effort to cut model investment costs by up to 40 per cent.


The announcement fuelled speculation that future vehicles from the three brands will essentially be reskinned versions of each other, with differences between each brand’s product to only be skin-deep.


However, Nissan Australia managing director Stephen Lester told GoAuto that he was confident the brand will be able to retain its identity and differentiate itself from its Alliance partners, while reaping the benefits of technology and platform sharing.


“I’m really confident about what Mr Gupta and Uchida-san talked about in terms of how the Alliance will be used as a tool to help us leverage the Alliance partners for technology and overall development that can help us bring to market much more quickly technology, features and benefits for consumers all while staying within the Nissan DNA,” he said.


“I think that’s really the most important thing, that the team at global had given us a view that the Alliance will remain a tool and that tool will increase in its strength, but it will be very critical for Nissan to retain its ‘Nissan-ness’, and that’s great for us because there are a lot of elements of Nissan brand and Nissan itself that consumers have a lot of confidence in and going forward, we want to ensure we retain that.”


When asked what constituted ‘Nissan-ness’, Mr Lester said the brand would be able to differentiate itself in a number of ways including design, technology and electrification.


The type of vehicle the brand offers also plays into its identity, with off-road offerings like the Navara and Patrol, sportscars such as the GT-R and soon-to-be-replaced 370Z, as well as its Leaf EV.


Mr Lester said all these elements will help Nissan retain its unique DNA.


“You can certainly see within our exterior design of vehicles, the consistency and very specific notations of design elements, so that will most certainly be maintained,” he said.


“We can also see that in some of the interior and some of the tech features and packages we’ve brought to light. 


“We see it in powertrains and our views on electrification and how we’ll bring that technology through more and more vehicles. So those are all areas that will help us protect that Nissan DNA.”


He added that the concept of leader-follower will only be implemented at the highest levels of the product development chain, and would not be a factor for local operations.


In the Alliance announcement, Mitsubishi was given the role of leading brand for the Alliance in the ASEAN and Oceania regions, however Mr Lester said the label would not affect Nissan Australia’s operations, while Renault and Mitsubishi’s local arms will also remain distinct.


“Really this concept of ‘leader-follower’ is up-market or up-stream, if you will – it has nothing to do with the local operations,” he said. 


“So our local operations here will all continue to be Nissan-centric and to report into other Nissan-centric business units, so our region will still be a Nissan region and will have nothing to do with Mitsubishi, and we will have nothing to do with Mitsubishi in the local market or front-end operations.”


He pointed to operations such as the Alliance warehouse project and financial services group as areas where the brands have worked together for mutual benefit, without stepping on each others’ toes. 


A number of new Alliance vehicles are set for release in the near future, including the all-new X-Trail SUV (to serve as Mitsubishi Outlander/Renault Koleos) and the next-gen Alliance pick-up, which will be branded as the Nissan Navara, Renault Alaskan and Mitsubishi Triton.

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