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Nissan still ‘on track’ for 10 per cent share

Big growth: Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Dan Thompson aims for the Tiida replacement to be a top three contender in the bustling small-car segment.

Nissan sticks to top-importer plan by early 2013 as future model program unfolds

9 Aug 2011

NISSAN Australia managing director and CEO Dan Thompson remains confident the Japanese brand will achieve its goal of becoming the number-one full-line importer and owning 10 per cent of the new-vehicle market in Australia by early 2013.

Despite supply problems out of Thailand for its volume-selling models and increasingly volatile global economic conditions, Mr Thompson told GoAuto last week the company has never deviated from the goals laid out under its ‘GT2012’ plan announced early in 2009, which also aims for a minimum 10 per cent segment share and a top-three ranking from its core models: the Navara ute, Micra light-car, X-Trail compact SUV and the Dualis compact crossover.

According to Mr Thompson, the Dualis will not quite reach those goals but the Navara, which is the entrenched number-two behind Toyota’s HiLux in the 4x4 ute segment with an 18.8 per cent share, “over-compensates”.

VFACTS figures released last week show Nissan currently holds a 6.8 per cent share of Australia’s overall new-vehicle market – up 0.7 per cent year-to-date on the back of a 4.5 per cent increase in sales (to 39,180 units) – to be in sixth position and some distance behind the brands it needs to topple to achieve its goal: Hyundai, currently on 8.7 per cent with 50,204 sales, and Mazda, which holds 8.8 per cent with 50,780 sales.

Nissan has not been as badly affected as some of its competitors by the crippling supply shortages following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, but nonetheless looks to have a monumental task ahead of it to bring its annual sales up to around 100,000.

Last year it managed 62,676 units, up 18.5 per cent on the previous year.

 center imageLeft: Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Dan Thompson. Below: Infiniti G coupe, Nissan Navara 4x2, Nissan Patrol.

Asked whether Nissan was still sticking to its ambitious target for its 2012 financial year, which ends on March 31, 2013, Mr Thompson said: “Absolutely. We’ve never come off that.

“We’re still on track. We have 19 months to go, and it will be the launch of the Tiida replacement that gives us that last lift or boost.

“We’ve picked up the boost from Dualis we’ve wanted – we’ve almost quadrupled volume out of Dualis – we’ve taken X-Trail up probably 25-30 per cent and that has a little bit more growth for us to come, Navara we’re about 75 per cent of the way there – we still have some work in the 4x2 space because we’re almost non-existent today in 4x2 – and then obviously Micra ... will continue to grow.

“I have all the confidence in the world that we will be one of those two or three brands that are significantly growing. I believe the Volkswagen Group and the Hyundai Group are probably in similar strong positions.”

Mr Thompson said Nissan had the greatest market share movement of any brand in its last financial year – up seven points, to 6.4 per cent – and that the goal is to repeat that growth in the current FY to seven per cent by the end of March 2012.

That will leave it 12 months to find another three per cent share, or about 30,000 additional units.

Key volume drivers will be increased supply of Micra – only now coming through, Nissan says, which was reflected in last month’s 1184 sales and an 11.3 per cent share of the light segment – and also from Navara, with plans underway to boost supply out of Thailand, Japan and Spain.

Gains are also expected from a host of new models and variants due next year, including an all-new Micra-based sedan, diesel-powered Dualis and, late in the year, new-generation Patrol SUV.

The electric Leaf and the Infiniti brand will also be launched in Australia next year, while the crucial new-generation Tiida small-car replacement – all but confirmed to be renamed Pulsar for our market – is coming early in 2013.

Mr Thompson said the Tiida replacement, which will be offered in sedan and hatch body styles and is likely to come with a diesel powertrain (in addition to the volume-selling petrol versions), would replace Dualis as one of its core models and will “no doubt” become a top-three contender.

Asked whether his expectations for the car were massive, Mr Thompson replied: “Absolutely.” And does he really believe the redesigned small car – still to be called Tiida overseas – will increase its sales volume from less than 5500 last year to the circa-40,000 enjoyed by the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 in 2010, and in doing so overtake the likes of Holden’s Cruze and Hyundai’s i30, which in hatchback guise alone both attracted almost 30,000 buyers last year?“I have no doubt. The planning that’s gone into Tiida replacement, as we did for Micra and as we’re going to do for next Navara and X-Trail, they need to be top-three in the segment,” he said.

“Each model is a little bit different in what it offers the market, but we’re not going to invest the time and energy and dollars if we can’t deliver the car into that top-three segment position. The Tiida replacement, I have no doubt once we’ve launched the car, ‘seed’ the car, and have the full line-up in the market, that we’ll be nowhere else but top three. No doubt.”

Beyond ‘GT2012’, during which Mr Thompson expects the total Australian new-vehicle market to expand to between 1.1 and 1.2 million units a year, Nissan plans to bolster its market position with a new-generation X-Trail, redesigned Navara built in collaboration with Mitsubishi, a long-anticipated van range, an all-new mid-size car, a radically different (monocoque chassis) Pathfinder and other new models Mr Thompson confirmed are in the pipeline, including an all-new electric city-car.

Overseas reports point to an MX-5 rival and a reborn Silvia/200SX, among other models apparently in development.

New Infiniti models will also come onboard, including an electric model still to be revealed, while Mr Thompson committed to a host of alternative powertrain options – meaning diesel, hybrid and full-electric – across all segments except light.

“We’ve realised a developing demand for diesel so you’ll see diesel from us next year in Dualis, and we’ll do the same with all of our core models,” he said.

“That’s where the big payback is already coming through for us and will come through over the next five to 10 years – when you focus on four core models that are in growing segments, significant segments, you don’t flush yourself with spreading your investment for R&D and marketing over 13 products.

“We see some of the successes in this market with brands that have much narrower portfolios be much more successful and I firmly believe it’s because of our philosophy five years ago, 10 years ago, to try and do it all.

“The brand needs to be led by those four core models. They need to represent what Nissan is in this market, because if you sit in the middle part of each of the segments, you’re not top of mind anywhere, and you’re not driving Nissan to the top of mind for customers.

“We have no top-of-mind presence in passenger, which is 70 per cent of the market here. So that’s where Micra has started, Tiida replacement comes on top, then the puzzle for us in the short-term is set and then from there we build on it in powertrains – it could be hybrid, it could be diesel, and it will be different for every segment.

“I would suggest in almost every segment outside of light, you will see at least multiple powertrains. In some cases that will be diesel, in some cases that will be electric, and in some cases that will be hybrid – for Nissan, in Australia, absolutely.”

At a global level, Nissan Motor Co recently revealed a wide-ranging six-year business plan (ending March 2017) dubbed ‘Nissan Power 88’ that aims to achieve an eight per cent global market share and an eight per cent corporate operating profit.

The plan, which does not include sales from alliance partner Renault, equates to 7.5 million cars in its 2016 financial year - up from just over four million last year.

To do this, Nissan has vowed to deliver, on average, an all-new vehicle every six weeks for six years, growing the global portfolio to 66 vehicles covering 92 per cent of all markets and segments.

The company says it will introduce more than 90 new advanced technologies, averaging 15 a year, and that it will become the global leader in light commercial vehicles.

Nissan is aiming for a 10 per cent share of the Chinese market and significant growth in India, Russia, Brazil (where it will build a new plant with capacity to produce 200,000 vehicles annually) and the “next wave of emerging markets”.

The Infiniti brand is also expected to grow to half a million units a year, up from 150,000 last year.

On the retail front, Nissan plans to expand its global network from 6000 major points of sales to 7500 over the period.

“Nissan Power 88 is a demanding business plan, but our company has a proven track record of achieving challenging objectives,” said Nissan Motor Co president and CEO Carlos Ghosn.

“We will accelerate our growth, bringing more innovation and excitement to our products and services as well as cleaner, more affordable cars for everyone around the world, in line with the energy and environmental challenges of the 21st century.”

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