The expectation is all three will be vacant from local dealerships by the end of this year.
“For the last two years our focus has been on developing a robust, disciplined business and as part of that we had to make mature decisions about our products and today’s announcement is the next chapter in that story,” explained Nissan Australia chief Richard Emery.
The same process earlier lead to the termination of the Murano mid-size SUV despite an all-new model debuting in North America in 2014.
Mr Emery revealed the small hatchback segment has been difficult for Nissan globally. In Australia, the small car segment is split roughly 70/30 in favour of hatchbacks, but for the Nissan Pulsar, sedans have actually been outselling the hatchback version to the tune of 55/45.
“Throughout the world the Nissan ‘Sentra’ sedan – our version is called the Pulsar – has been stronger than hatchback versions,” he said.
So all three Nissan Pulsar hatchback models, ST, ST-L, and SSS have been terminated, leaving Nissan and its Australian dealers to focus on the three sedan variants.
“We will focus on the Pulsar sedan until some time in 2018-19-20 when we will have alternatives to consider,” Mr Emery added. “We will have a number of alternatives to make an offer to hatchback buyers.”
The company says it would have been uneconomical (marketing and incentive costs) to sustain the volume of Pulsar hatchbacks while waiting for the model cycle to become favourable.
And Mr Emery ruled-out the European Pulsar model as one of those potential replacements – currently both body-types sold in Australia are sourced from Nissan’s plant outside Bangkok in Thailand.
The challenge comes in predicting what the small car market will be like in two years time and moving forward – there is currently a shift towards small SUVs over small sedans and hatchbacks but research shows Pulsar is still a name which resonates with small car buyers.
Nissan will replace the Micra compact hatchback some time in 2018-19 with a vehicle yet to be determined – but thanks to a quirk of model changeover timing, will have no micro car until then.
“We have a number of potential replacements but not in the immediate future and we expect to make a final decision on which vehicle we will take within the next 12 months,” Mr Emery explained.
For the Y61 Patrol and Cab Chassis models, the end of the road also looms.
Nissan says the hard-working Y61 Patrol has been hanging-on for a couple of years but updates and replacements have proved to be not available in Australian specifications, or too expensive.
So there will be no all-new model in this part of the world: “We’ll look at spec of the line-up going forward but we will not be adding new models,” Mr Emery said.
Nissan expects some sadness from rural dealers about the termination of the iconic tough off-roader and is working through details with major mining and other fleet customers including Telstra.
Surprisingly, the luxuriously equipped V8 petrol Y62 Patrol has surged in sales since it was re-specified and priced (Mr Emery said the pricing for that model he inherited when taking-on the CEO role two years ago was “arrogant”.)
All-up, termination of Pulsar hatchback, Micra and Y61 Patrol could cost Nissan around 6,000 sales in 2017, but as Mr Emery will tell the company’s National Dealer Council next week, upcoming model changes for the Qashqai, X-Trail and Pathfinder SUVs should boost sales sufficiently to make-up for the loss.
There had been some speculation the slow-selling Nissan Altima – the base car for the company’s V8 Supercar racing program – would exit Australia but Mr Emery says it is vital to maintain a presence in the small and mid-size sedan markets (Altima and Pulsar sedan) with an eye to future Nissan models.
And plans to expand Altima and Pulsar sedan sales will also be presented to Nissan dealers next week.
“Pulsar sedan and Altima will maintain our presence in those segments until the new model lifecycle favours us,” Mr Emery reinforced.
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