Has mended naughty ways. On paper 2014 a disappointment for Nissan, but what’s happened behind the scenes positions it well for future growth. Cars are resonating more with buyers and for first time in a decade or so the whole organisation seems to be pulling in same direction.
Sales*: 54,973 (-15.1%)
2014 sales forecast: 65,000
Wheels prediction for 2015: 6th
*To end of October 2014
IT WASN’T long ago Nissan was talking of cracking 100,000 sales, which would have made it a top three player in Australia. Things went amiss, though, and this year it won’t even hit 70,000.
But 2014 isn’t an indicative year for Nissan, which was busy clearing 50,000 cars from paddocks around the country and getting its house in order under the guidance of new boss Richard Emery, who has brought much needed hope, long-term planning and enthusiasm to the once hard-charging Japanese brand.
While it’s strong in SUVs and utes, Nissan’s passenger car range has underperformed, with hallucinations of the revived Pulsar topping the sales charts crashing back to reality once the car went on sale early in 2013; it’s only the seventh-best selling small car and has never come close to knocking off the dominant Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla.
Fortunately a strong suite of SUVs – with Juke, Murano, Pathfinder, Qashqai, X-Trail and two versions of the Patrol, Nissan has more individual SUV models than any other brand – has helped bolster sales and provide a solid foundation.
Despite a broad model range (there are 19 in total), Nissan relies heavily on core cars such as the Pulsar, Navara, X-Trail and Qashqai – between them they account for more than half of the brand’s sales.
A NEW Navara is the big news for Nissan. Fresh styling and vast improvements to the way it drives promise to lift it towards the pointy end of the load lugger field.
Unsurprisingly, Nissan is expecting big things from the crucial new model.
The Micra is also due for a facelift earlier in the year, although it’s competing in a light car segment that is out of favour with buyers.
But Nissan is hoping to address one of those rare problems in the car industry – excessive demand – with the Qashqai and X-Trail SUVs. The new family-focused duo arrived in 2014 (the Qashqai replaced Dualis) and buyers have been queuing for them. Dealers are hoping to have more in stock throughout 2015, which should naturally boost sales.
Otherwise it’s largely quiet from Nissan.
But the Nismo performance heroes are slowly warming up and could make an appearance before the end of the year. While each will be a niche product – with Juke, 370Z and GT-R the most likely to initially have the performance wand waved over them – they would add fizz and fireworks to a brand that’s already got its fair share from the GT-R.
AFTER years of anger and angst, Nissan has its dealers back on side, which is crucial in the car game. That alone should help the sales graph point in the right direction – but in a natural, rather than forced, way.
That should see Nissan pull comfortably clear of Mitsubishi, which it’s only just ahead of in the sales race for 2014. And Volkswagen isn’t close enough to strike, while a hard charging Ford should hold on to its fifth place on the sales chart.
But what happens to Nissan’s market share is another story. Its SUV range is fresh and enjoying strong demand – with additional supply of the all important Qashqai and X-Trail expected in 2015 – and the new Navara will enjoy the shiny limelight in a market segment where 10-year waits between new models are the norm.
But the Pulsar is getting attacked from all sides in a hugely competitive small-car segment. And the Altima – the car that is (vaguely) the face of Nissan’s lukewarm V8 Supercar campaign – is up against a big headwind in the form of the Camry, Commodore and Falcon, three locally produced large cars chasing volume rather than outright profit as each winds down local production.
Nissan also won’t be celebrating two imminent free trade agreements – with Japan and South Korea – as much as other brands. Many of its models (Pulsar, Altima and some Navara) are already sourced from Thailand where an FTA is in place. Others are out of countries where the import tariff looks set to stay for the short to medium term – the Qashqai from the UK and Micra from India, for example.
The Japanese-made X-Trail and Pathfinder are exceptions; something that would allow price reductions in the order of three percent (the other option is to add equipment).