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Van range ‘on the table’ for Nissan Australia

Politics of NV: Nissan’s leadership in the van market in the UK means right-hand-drive models such as the Renault Trafic-based NV300 are easily accessible for Australia, but a local business case has not been locked down.

Nissan’s global LCV chief says van rollout ready if Australia gives green light

1 Mar 2018

NISSAN Australia has a clear pathway to introduce light-commercial vans to sit alongside its Navara ute in showrooms, but the company will not confirm whether a broader range of LCVs forms part of its current turnaround strategy.

Nissan Motor Corporation’s global LCV senior vice-president Ashwani Gupta told GoAuto at the launch of the Series III Navara last week that the one-tonne utility was the Japanese car-maker’s prime focus for this market, but that its European-bred, Renault-based NV-series vans were available to bolster the product range as soon as the Australian subsidiary, led by managing director Stephen Lester, wanted them.

“We don’t need to make any development because they are available in Europe in right-hand drive (and) because we are leaders in the UK. So any day Stephen is okay (to proceed), we are too,” Mr Gupta said.

“Sixty per cent of the Renault business in Australia is our vans – Trafic, Master, Kangoo – and Nissan has got access to Trafic and Master through NV300 and NV400. So the day Stephen decides, he has it.

“Clearly, the focus is on Navara. The vans can be a marginal business, or a complementary business, especially when you are talking to a fleet owner who is requesting pick-ups (and requiring vans/cab-chassis as well).

“Our focus will remain Navara for Nissan. If van is needed to support that business, obviously we will consider that. But it’s not vice-versa.”

Nissan also offers the bigger NT400 truck in the UK, plus the smaller NV200 lightweight van based on the Renault-Nissan Alliance’s B platform for compact cars, including a full-electric version known as the e-NV200 that uses technology from the Leaf EV.

Mr Gupta said the electric version was not immediately available for Australia, but emphasised that “we are always open as I said, the day we decide, next day you can have it”.

The availability of electric and/or hybrid powertrains – or other advanced technology – in commercial vehicles looks to be a determining factor for Nissan Australia, with Mr Lester saying that the ‘Nissan Intelligent Mobility’ catchcry would be used as a key differentiator for the Nissan brand in Australia.

In response to whether vans were part of his newly developed product strategy for Australia, Mr Lester told GoAuto: “Nothing is off the table.

“We’re at the stage in the business since my arrival looking at absolutely everything – wide, wide spectrum, nothing is a ‘no’, some things may be more difficult than others, how do we look at what the best root to that growth is and how do we find the products that are going to be right for Australians?“There’s no point in bringing a whole bunch of things in, and then having them, and looking around saying, ‘Oh, shoot, nobody wants these things that I brought in.’ “From a Nissan perspective, we so have so much access (to products in the alliance), now it’s about finding and building those business cases around which vehicles those are – whether it’s vans, whether it’s passenger cars, utilities and so on.

“The priority is very, very straightforward. The goal and the direction of the company around ‘Nissan Intelligent Mobility’ will be the guiding light from a product standpoint.

“And you’re seeing Nissan Intelligent Mobility being woven through all of our product. It’s very important that we utilise these as a key differentiator of our brand … It’s not just limited to electrified cars, though, it’s throughout the whole gamut of our products.”

Mr Gupta said alternative powertrains such as full-electric and hybrid electric (whether conventional or plug-in) in medium and large-sized commercial vehicles – particularly pick-ups such as Navara and Titan – were still some distance away, with electrification more relevant for vehicles with smaller payloads and limited-range requirements, such as ‘last mile’ van deliveries.

“We have every technology – we have EV, we have HEVs, PHEVs and everything,” he said.

“But I don’t think today that the (pick-up) customer is ready to accept that technology. We can be ready – we have no problem to be ready – but I don’t think the customer today is ready to have a full-electric pick-up with the output required 450Nm to tow 3.5 tonnes.

“We always study everything, to be honest with you, because we have the technology. But I don’t think it is in the plan today. Tomorrow? I don’t know.”

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