Nissan Aus Returning To Good Health, Work Remains On Passenger Cars Photo:

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Tony O'Kane | Apr, 22 2015 | 11 Comments

With Nissan Australia logging healthy sales growth for the first four months of 2015 and overtaking Ford to sit in fifth place for overall vehicle sales, the brand is well on its way to recovery after enduring a number of years of mediocrity.

But Managing Director and CEO Richard Emery - who celebrates his first full year on the job this month - acknowledges that work still needs to be done to boost the company's fortunes in the passenger car market.

The bulk of Nissan's recent sales growth has come from the X-Trail and Qashqai, which both launched as all-new models in 2014.

The Pathfinder has also improved its position since the arrival of an all-new unibody model in 2013, though not to the same extent as the X-Trail and Qashqai.

The Altima has also seen a modest sales bump compared to the same period last year, but the Pulsar and Micra - which, as C- and B-segment hatchbacks should be core models for Nissan - have suffered.

"Clearly that’s an area we need to improve on," Emery said to TMR.

"Maybe we were guilty of concentrating our efforts too much on SUV and light commercial vehicles and not highlighting our passenger car business... which needs to perform better than it has.

"Part of that is perhaps due to some of our previous actions on the model lineup and specifications on Pulsar, Micra and to some extent Altima."

But according to Emery, work is already well underway on rectifying the situation.

"We’re moving on Pulsar, he said. "From this month Pulsar has been respecified and repositioned to make it more competitive.

"We believe that will provide a stronger business case for Pulsar in the marketplace. It won’t necessarily have a huge impact on volume, but it will certainly make the car a more of an option for consumers."

And the range restructuring and price movements on the 2015 Micra, which officially launched this week, will also set Nissan's most affordable car on the same path as the Pulsar.

The Nissan Altima (above), meanwhile, will soldier on with few changes.

"Altima is an on-going project for us, it’s smaller volume and that segment is obviously a lot of pressure," Emery told TMR.

"It’s dominated by Toyota product and obviously their economic position is very different to ours in the sense that they’re trying to keep the factory open.

"Could we sell more Altimas? Yes we could, but in order to do so and be [price] competitive, it wouldn’t be a viable position for us in terms of our brand.

"So, we’re happy to roll along with Altima as it is at the moment, and perhaps we’ll look at that segment once we know what that segment is going to look like post-Camry and Falcon and Commodore."

But while Emery is keen to turn around Nissan's fortunes in the passenger car market, we shouldn't expect an influx of new metal to help entice buyers into Nissan showrooms.

The European-built Pulsar hatch (above) definitely won't be part of Nissan Australia's product plan, largely thanks to an unfavourable exchange rate

"It’s available to us and it’s built in RHD in Europe," Emery said. "But because it’s built in Europe it comes with a higher cost base than the current car."

"If it was able to give us a material advantage in terms of volume because of its specification or in pricing, then we’d consider it.

"But at the moment, the advantages it would potentially give us versus the added cost base it’s not really a viable alternative to the car we have today."

The all-new Maxima revealed earlier in the month (below) is off-limits to us for a different reason, with that model likely to only ever be built in left-hand drive. Same for its SUV cousin the Murano, whose next-gen replacement was revealed last year.

Nissan's presence in the commercial vehicle market will also remain restricted to its Navara range of 4x2 and 4x4 utilities, with Emery confirming that Nissan's NV range of commercial vans aren't coming.

"Any new product, whether it be a van or anything else, really needs to provide significant volume," he said.

"It needs to be viable in terms of its economics, and at this point in time I don’t see any of our global van offerings being able to provide us with a stable enough, viable justification for bringing them into the market.

"We’ll always continue to look at them and we’ll look at where the market and segmentation is going, but right now I don’t think that vans are a viable option for Nissan Australia."

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