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No worries, says Nissan

Under the microscope: Nissan continues to evaluate Micra (above) for Australian sales. Below: Simon Sproule.

Nissan admits to ‘mis-steps’ Down Under but looks to future models to boost sales

Nissan logo13 Jun 2006

A SENIOR Nissan Motor Co executive has hosed down suggestions the Japanese parent was concerned about flagging sales from its Australian operations.

Vice-president of global communications and investor relations Simon Sproule said the "fundamentals" of Nissan Australia’s business were sound, despite a slipping market share in what is still a booming market.

Nissan Australia’s year-to-date market share stands at 5.4 per cent, down from 5.9 per cent for the same period last year. It is managing to hold sixth spot on the top 10 sales ladder, but its continued softening performance is worrying, largely fuelled by a lack of light cars in a market that has swung away from large cars.

Last year Nissan Australia sold 56,032 vehicles for a 5.7 market share, down one per cent over its 2004 result, in what was a record sales year.

Nissan has five per cent of the global market and Australia is one of the larger markets for the company outside Japan, North American and Europe, sitting in 10th spot.

Mr Sproule admitted there had been some "mis-steps" with Nissan locally but he believed it would recover lost ground.

"We’ve talked about Tiida and the controversy over the name change and some of the other products that we’ve introduced last year (Murano)," he said. "Some got into the market faster than others. There have been some mis-steps.

"Are we completely happy with the performance of any market? No, we should never be satisfied.

"But I think Australia in the last year has learnt some interesting lessons about new markets and segments. Are we worried? No, we’ve got a good team.

"I think volume was down last year, so that was a concern. But you’ve got to look at why your volumes are down ... is it because people don’t like your cars or because you’re selling less to fleets and daily rentals?"Mr Sproule acknowledged that part of Nissan’s problem was that it did not have a light-car contender, a segment that has grown more than 20 per cent this year.

 center imageHowever, he was buoyed by the fact that Nissan would roll out a raft of new products globally over the short term, including the Qashqai 4WD, which will sit above the X-Trail but below the Murano and an all-new Patrol largely based on the Terranaut concept car.

Nissan planned to launch a new vehicle every "two or three months" over the next few years, he said.

A big part of the company’s strategy was to engineer all future models as global vehicles.

"There’s not a cookie cutter approach to every single product," Mr Sproule said. "But the basic engineering of bringing the car to market is what we want to make as flexible as possible."The emerging markets of China and India were also under the microscope, with Nissan looking at Renault’s success in building the low-cost, no-frills Logansedan for eastern European markets.

Such has been its success that Renault is now planning to launch it in other Western European markets.

Mr Sproule said that the Renault alliance had done the groundwork with the Dacia brand, which builds the Logan, and this could work well for Nissan in building a low-cost car for India and China.

"If you look at India, for example, we only sell one product there with three dealers," he said. "So we’re really nowhere in the market, but it’s clearly a market where we have to have a presence.

"We’re going to need a lot more product and product that’s a lot more suitable for that market, which is primarily at the low-end."Nissan Australia marketing general manager Ross Booth, confirmed that two Micras were in Australia for assessment. But he said the cars did not represent a confirmation of a local launch.

The company was also considering the Note and possibly the next-generation Cube, he said.

Nissan-Suzuki deal

NISSAN and Suzuki have agreed to expand the scope of their business collaboration with a number of new projects.

From the end of this year, each Japanese manufacturer will supply the other with a small vehicle – a mini-car from Suzuki and a small MPV-style vehicle from Nissan – for sale in their home market.

Furthermore, Nissan will supply a compact pickup truck to Suzuki for sale mainly in North America from 2008, while Suzuki will provide a new A-segment (compact) vehicle for Nissan for sale mainly in Europe.

The pair will also share manufacturing facilities in "new emerging markets", starting with Suzuki’s plant in India.

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