Nissan looks to cull SUV line-up

Too many SUVs? No such thing if you listen to a car industry obsessed with high-riding soft-roaders that look the business but will traverse little more than some half-flattened road kill.

Yet the boss of Nissan Australia, Richard Emery, has broken ranks with the current logic that all SUVs are good for profits and suggested the Japanese maker may cull some of its off-road and soft-road models.

Emery listed the compact and boldly styled Juke as the most likely to get the chop, while the two-pronged Patrol line-up will face a natural death by the end of 2016.

Even the swoopy Murano could be on the endangered SUV list as Nissan re-evaluates its seven-strong SUV line-up.

“We do have too many models, there’s no doubt about that,” said Emery more broadly about the Nissan range, citing an imminent culling of variants within some model ranges, including the Pulsar.

But Emery pointed specifically to SUV models that in the longer term may be exiled.

“We’re one of the few Nissan markets in the world … that has Juke, Qashqai, X-Trail, Pathfinder, Murano, Y61 and Y62,” he said. “It may well be that we’re forced to choose between some of them, even though we might be able to mount a case for all of them.”

Emery pointed to the twin-pronged Patrol line-up – comprising the 16-year-old Y61 that’s sold to those who tow and those who go off-road and the newer Y62 that’s for those who dream of going off-road – as an obvious place to start.

“You don’t need Y61 and Y62 in an ideal world, so there’s one down,” he said.

“The next decision we’ll have to make is probably sometime this year about the next Murano. Current Murano runs out later next year.”

Emery said the Murano’s distinctive design and loyal customer base could be enough to give it a stay of execution and that he wanted to keep it on the books (the next generation model was previewed as the Resonance concept in 2013).

But he hinted there was crossover between it and the now softer Pathfinder with which it shares some mechanicals.

“My preference would be that you have a [single] product around Murano and Pathfinder that’s both petrol and diesel,” said Emery.

But Emery named the quirky Juke as the SUV most likely to be placed in front of the firing squad.

“That probably is the one car that is questionable,” he said. “The car comes out of Europe, so it’s expensive to make.”

But he said it provided some sexier relief to the staid Pulsar and created “a little bit of interest into that four-cylinder hatchback [market]” as well as “a little bit of niche difference in terms of how the car is styled”.

Emery said Australia would get the facelift of the current Juke, due in 2015, but that an all-new generation Juke – due about 2018 – was less solid than a NSW parliamentarian.

He said the Juke was currently soaking up the under-supply of Qashqais but that “if we can get the sort of Qashqai volumes that we want … and if we’ve established Qashqai strongly enough, you’d question whether you’d continue with Juke, but that decision is two or three years away”.

With all this talk of potential model cuts Emery also has his eyes on new models, even if they put pressure on existing models.

A mooted SUV version of the Navara – which was essentially what previous Pathfinders have been – could deliver the rugged ability and towing capability that would be lost with the Y61 Patrol.

“Hopefully there will be an opportunity for us for an SUV-based off Navara.”

And he reaffirmed that SUVs would continue to be an important part of Nissan’s future locally.

“We’ve got quite a reputation for having a strong SUV line-up and we don’t want to walk away from that.”

Then, of course, there’s the apparent anti-logic of ditching an SUV in an era when makers as diverse as Mazda, BMW, Lamborghini and Bentley are rushing to fill niches within niches of high riding wagons.

But Emery is not convinced the decisions to bring in some SUVs have been made rationally.

“That’s been a lot of kneejerk decisions by local car industry people that grab everything they possibly can to pick up their market share.”

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