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Nissan showcases local engineering unit

Local focus: Nissan’s engineering team is responsible for ensuring Australian-spec models are suited to local conditions.

New Navara workhorse receives tweaks from Nissan’s local engineering outfit

Nissan logo24 Mar 2017

By TIM NICHOLSON

NISSAN Australia has highlighted some of the work conducted by its small team of engineers to remind buyers of the company’s ties to Australia and its dedication to ensuring its models are tailored to local roads and conditions.

The Japanese-car-maker’s small but dedicated team of about eight people with varying responsibilities – and a further eight staff working in the local accessories development team – are all based at its Dandenong South headquarters, south-east of Melbourne.

Other car-makers, most notably Ford and Holden, but also Hyundai, Kia and Toyota promote the work conducted by their local tuning outfits in tailoring their products to Australia, but, until recently, Nissan has not promoted its local outfit.

The team contributed to the data package for Nissan’s just-launched Series II Navara workhorse, which helped inform the revised suspension tune of the pick-up.

Nissan Motor Company Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery told GoAuto at the Navara Series II and Pathfinder launch that the engineering department conducts a broad range work, including testing of vehicles at the request of its Japanese parent company.

The team also conducts durability and other testing on official Nissan accessories, which is big business for the company thanks to models such as the Navara and Patrol, while the results of some vehicle testing is fed back to Japan during development.

“We have a process called simultaneous engineering,” he said. “Which is, in parallel with the work they are doing on new models at their level in Japan or wherever, our guys are also feeding information back and forth.

“It is handy to have, particularly from an accessory perspective because there are quite unique requirements in Australia. But also in terms of fit-for-purpose in Australia, it is handy for them to be feeding back into the global R&D space.

“Even post-launch, that department feeds consumer feedback (to Japan) and when vehicles are in market and we are getting feedback from our dealerships such as, we having this problem coming back in, our guys feed back in through that process, which is quality after launch, not just leading into launch.”

When asked if it was important for Nissan to talk about its local testing so consumers understand that the vehicles are tailored to Australian needs, Mr Emery said it was “hard to tell” given there was “so much focus from some manufacturers about what local stuff they do”.

“We just want to remind people that, although we are not a manufacturer, it doesn’t mean we don’t have our own engineering skill base to support our projects for Australia,” he said.

“I think there seems to be a very strong bent with local manufacturers, there is an assumption that they do all of this local engineering and R&D, which of course they do.

“That doesn’t mean that because you are a full importer that you are not doing the same things. For us it is a reminder that, yes, we are an importer, and have been for quite some time, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have that engineering and R&D involvement in the process.”

Mr Emery said the company had started to emphasise its engineering unit to highlight to the public that Nissan Australia was a wide-ranging business that even has its own manufacturing arm, the Nissan Casting Australia Plant in Dandenong.

“For us it’s reminding people of the scale of our business. Yes, we are an importer in a true sense, but we have quite a unique mix of business units, which not all full importers have got that breadth of a business base,” he said.

“And we see it as potentially a business advantage going forward to have such a broad breadth of our business.”

Mr Emery also said the engineering team could be involved in a vehicle program early on to ensure it is suitable for the Australian market.

“This simultaneous engineering means that anything we are looking at taking in Australia, and even cars that it hasn’t yet been decided if they will go to Australia, our guys will have knowledge,” he said.

“Our guys will say, ‘If you are going to go ahead with that project, these are the things you will have to consider for Australia.’“Sometimes our guys know before I do because they will be asked specific questions around local conditions before maybe our product planning department find out. They have done a bit of homework in the background.”

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