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Prime-era ahead

Next contender: Primera (front) could join the new Pathfinder (left) and Murano in its next generation due in 2006.

Nissan to consider adding a mid-size contender to its line-up - the next gen Primera

13 Apr 2005

THE success of Honda’s Accord Euro and the Mazda6 has emboldened Nissan to consider adding a mid-size contender to its line-up – the next-generation Primera sedan.

Nissan Australia managing director and chief executive officer, Shinya Hannya, said the Primera could sell well here.

"We think the mid-size Euro and 6 have been successful not only because of their design but size-wise they have a good appeal to certain buyers who don’t want to have a large car," he said. "So there is opportunity, although we do not have clear, specific plans."The current front-drive Primera built and on sale in Britain offers a 1.8 or 2.0-litre petrol engines as well as a turbo-diesel. New Zealand buyers get the 110kW/200Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine mated to a CVT automatic transmission in ST, Ti sedan and wagon variants.

Mr Hannya said the Euro and Mazda6 had refocused buyer attention on the segment, which had been in decline as buyers fled to the booming mid-size SUV segment. According to the latest VFACTS figures, the mid-size segment now has a nine per cent share of the total vehicle market, after hovering around seven per cent for the past four years.

Back in 1998, the medium segment held a passenger car share of 8.8 per cent and more than 10 per cent back in 1996 when the segment was awash with competitors.

In a look to the future, Mr Hannya also said the Micra would now be a welcome addition to the line-up with petrol prices skyrocketing. But, again, he said concrete plans were still to be formulated.

"We continue to look into the possibility to bring a car in that segment, because it’s still growing. And also that market is becoming more and more price competitive," he said. "So in that sense I think that market segment is becoming more interesting for us."It will not come before five significant launches for Nissan over the next 12 months. In July, it will launch the new seven-seater Pathfinder, followed by the Murano luxury off-roader in August, Navara commercial range at the end of the year and the new Pulsar sedan and hatch early next year.

Mr Hannya also confirmed Nissan Australia was likely to stay with the Pulsar nameplate when the new car, called Tiida in Japan, is launched.

"It’s a natural choice for us," he said. "We have the opinion that the Pulsar has been a success for us and it is very widely known. Together with the Patrol name it represents Nissan heritage."The car will be more expensive than the current $18,990 Pulsar, but better equipped, more refined and have significantly improved quality, in keeping with Nissan’s newer models.

Mr Hannya also ruled out retailing the current Pulsar alongside the new car in "classic" form, like Holden has done with Astra.

Nissan’s five-fold new-model splurge is but a small fragment of the company’s global offerings between now and 2007, when it will have 28 new vehicles on sale globally.

On his wish list is the GT-R, due in 2007, a sporting three-door to complement the new Pulsar and possibly a high-performance Maxima. Mr Hannya said the global expansion of the luxury Infiniti brand was also good news for Australia.

"Personally, I want to have the Infiniti brand back in Australia but it’s not a top priority," he said. "There are no concrete plans for Australia, although Nissan globally is going to expand Infiniti which is now only in the US. But it is looking at Middle East, Japan, Korea and Russia ... so Australia is not one of the first markets for expansion. But we will continue to look at it."Mr Hannya has been at the helm of Nissan Australia for exactly 12 months and says he’s very aware of the competing demands of profit and market share. He says it’s important to have both.

"We call it profitable growth. That’s the Number One priority for Nissan globally. Not only for the short-term but in a sustainable long-term manner.

"We do not go crazy chasing volume because if you are not making profit you cannot invest in the future. And therefore if the Nissan operation is not making a profit then our HQ won’t see Australia as an opportunity we won’t get any new product.

"That’s why growing in a steady manner while making profit is the way to go."


Pathfinder - July 2005
Murano - August 2005
Navara - 4th quarter 2005
Pulsar sedan/hatch - 1st quarter 2006
GT-R - 2007

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