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Nissan plans to ride sedans to number one

New range: Nissan Australia will release a number of new sedans in the next 18 months, including the mid-size Altima.

Three-sedan strategy key to Nissan plan for importer leadership – some time

Nissan logo28 May 2012

A NISSAN “sedan renaissance” will be the key to Nissan Australia’s aim of becoming the nation’s number-one full-line importer, according to the company’s new managing director Bill Peffer.

But Mr Peffer hosed down the company’s previously stated goal of achieving import leadership by the end of the 2012 financial year, saying: “Nobody is that good, calling a specific day that we are going to be number-one importer.”

American-born Mr Peffer said he would not regard it a failure if Nissan Australia was not ahead of its import rivals in the sales charts by a specific date such as April 2013.

But he said the company remained committed to import leadership, which he said would be driven largely by Nissan’s new sedan range – Almera, Pulsar and Altima – that all arrive in the next 18 months, starting with the Almera light sedan in August.

“It is the journey, as opposed to a specific month,” he said. “We are not backing away at all – we will get there.

“Will we hit 10 per cent? Absolutely. Do we have aspirations to go above 10 per cent? Sure we do.

“If our competitors stay where they are, that will make us number-one importer.

“We don’t have delusions that out competitors are going to sit idle. They are going to introduce their best offerings as well in order to either keep (market position) or grow.

“This market is a fairly stable market, a mature market, and so somebody wins and somebody loses.

“The forecast growth to 2020 is only a couple of hundred thousand pieces from where we are today, at a million or 1.1 million TIV (total industry vehicles).

“If we are going to grow, it is going to be at the expense of somebody else we recognise that.”

Nissan is sitting third in the importer sales race this year with a 7.2 per cent share of the Australian new-vehicle market, up 0.27 percentage points on the first four months of 2011.

 center imageFrom top: Nissan Australia managing director Bill Peffer Nissan Pulsar, Altima and Pathfinder.

Import market leader Mazda holds 10.1 per cent, up 1.0 percentage points, while the second biggest importer, Hyundai, has 8.5 per cent, up 0.1 percentage points on last year.

Mr Peffer, a former Ford marketing executive whose father worked for the Blue Oval for 36 years, said Nissan’s growth would mainly come from its new passenger car range.

“We need passenger car solutions for us to compete and grow in this country,” he said.

“Nissan is best known in this country for its commercial vehicles we have some unbelievably great halo products and we are rapidly growing in the SUV space.

“What we are about to embark on is a product renaissance in the sedan segments – C, B and D – that will allow us to compete.”

The C segment refers to the born-again Pulsar small car, which will succeed the slow-selling Tiida from early next year.

To be available in five-door hatch and four-door sedan configurations, the first shipment of Pulsars is due in Australia in December ahead of a January sales rollout.

Mr Peffer stopped short of predicting market segment leadership for its new Pulsar over the current champ Mazda3, saying: “I think it is a hugely competitive product in a hugely competitive segment.”

The B segment refers to the Almera light sedan, which is built on the same platform as the Micra hatch, although it is slightly larger.

The third part of the Nissan sedan trilogy will be the Camry-sized, D-segment Altima, which is increasingly likely to be sourced from Thailand for Australia.

Production of the American-developed sedan has just started in Tennessee, but Mr Peffer concedes the availability of a right-hand-drive model in Thailand might make this option attractive for Nissan Australia.

While the Altima might come from South-East Asia, the fourth-generation Pathfinder seems likely to come from the US.

“We haven’t locked it, but that is where the single source of the vehicle is today,” Mr Peffer said. “Our plan is tentatively to take it out of the US.”

The new Pathfinder – unveiled at the Detroit motor show in January – will be built on a car-like monocoque platform instead of the Navara ladder chassis, and thus attract a wider clientele.

Mr Peffer said Nissan’s compact SUV range, X-Trail and Dualis, had been given a kick along by the introduction of the ‘Around View Monitor’ camera technology on top lines.

He said the all-electric Leaf would generate some interest in the brand when deliveries started next month, with plenty of stock available.

“We can get all the Leaf we need,” he said.

Mr Peffer said while the light commercial vehicle market in Australia was becoming increasingly competitive, Nissan would do “whatever it takes” to maintain Navara’s strong position in the pick-up segment.

So far this year, the 4x4 Navara has outsold the Toyota HiLux equivalent, mainly because of stock shortages in the wake of the Thai floods disaster.

While Nissan also sources Navaras from Thailand, it draws some of its stocks from Spain, helping to mitigate the floods problem.

The vast majority of Navaras sold in Australia are 4x4 – 7360 4x4 versus just 350 4x2 so far this year – but Mr Peffer said Nissan had no plans to drop the slow-selling 4x2.

Before he replaced Dan Thompson as Nissan Australia MD on April 1, Mr Peffer was marketing communications and media director at Nissan North America.

Mr Peffer started his career with Ford, where he worked from 1993 to 2006.

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