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Nissan targets passenger car growth

High note: Nissan Australia's expansion of its small car line-up could include the Note hatch (left) and the Juke compact SUV (bottom).

Backing up Micra with Almera and the coming Pulsar might just be the beginning

Nissan logo27 Aug 2012

NISSAN is contemplating a multi-pronged small-vehicle strategy for Australia that may see the introduction of three new nameplates over an 18-month period.

The company admits it needs to improve on its share of passenger car sales, which is less than 4.0 per cent, to grow its overall market share, which stands at 7.3 per cent this year.

A decision is due soon on the Juke baby SUV crossover and Honda Jazz-sized Note hatchback, which would both be positioned between the Micra ($13,490 to $19,000) and the upcoming $21,000-plus Pulsar, giving Nissan blanket coverage of the sub-$30,000 new-car market.

The new Micra-based Almera light sedan is now in dealerships from $17,000 to $21,000, effectively replacing the controversial Tiida.

Nissan Australia CEO Bill Peffer told GoAuto he is mindful of not overcomplicating the line-up, and wants to ensure that his company and dealers are in the best possible position for efficiency and profitability.

“We’re always looking at ways we can increase our B-segment penetration,” he said of the potential of introducing both Note and Juke, which are built on the same Renault-Nissan platform.

 center imageFrom top: Nissan Australia CEO Bill Peffer Nissan Almera sedan Nissan Pulsar hatch.

“They’re both wonderful product. I think they would do well in this market.

“But one of the things we want to do in this market is, as we grow, we grow through efficiency with our line-up.

“We have a lot of offerings right now, but they have to make sense. We don’t want to barrage the market with too many offerings. And I think the dealers would rather see scale with what we bring to market.”

Although previous CEO Dan Thompson ruled both Juke and Note as recently as March, Mr Peffer has reiterated that a passenger-car sales revival is the priority at Nissan Australia.

“The Almera is the first of many product launches,” he said.

“We are moving out of the product drought where we have not had a lot that’s new, to a period where we are introducing several new sedans, SUVs or refreshed model lines over the next 18 to 24 months.

“And, while we won’t get a lot of sales from the Almera – it is not one of our core models – it is the first evidence of the significant renaissance that we are embarking on.

“Pulsar will be (responsible) for 80 per cent of growth next year – on the back of hatch and sedan – but there’s also Patrol, the Altima (mid-sized sedan) and new Pathfinder after that.

“The Juke is a spectacular product and has been a big success in the US, and we want to bring it in Australia. We’re looking at bringing it in here, but it’s got to make sense for us.

“We’re trying to do it as quickly and as responsibly as possible. You have homologation rules, sourcing issues, packaging issues, pricing questions … we’re working on that on a daily basis, and all the executives in Japan know we want it here.

“(But) we are not penetrating the passenger car segment the way we want to.

“Since we started in Australia in 1966, that is something that we were known for – small cars and small trucks – so we have a lot of decisions to make.

“Because we have a suite of product from around the world, there’s a lot of speculation about what we go for, but we need to do that in a responsible manner because we don’t necessarily have all the marketing resources we need.

“Right now we get three to four per cent of the passenger car sales, and clearly those passenger car segments make up more than 50 per cent of the total market.

“We clearly have a plan to grow in passenger cars. We’re known for our commercial trucks and niche products we’re growing in SUVs and we’re growing very quickly, but passenger cars is where we need to grow to move with the market.”

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