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Nissan Warriors to deploy overseas?

Australia-developed Navara Warrior could spark automotive exports for local industry

30 Nov 2021

OVERSEAS interest in Nissan Australia’s Navara Pro-4X Warrior program could generate a win for Australian industry, with Nissan’s New Zealand and South African offices enquiring about bringing the Warrior to their own markets. 


The pre-update Navara N-Trek Warrior was exported in small volumes to New Zealand, but that model only got a brief production run before the Navara’s facelift arrived.


Its replacement, the Pro-4X Warrior, arrives roughly a year after the unveiling of the Navara’s facelift, ensuring a much longer production timeline for Australian firm Premcar, which both engineered the Warrior’s modifications and assembles the finished cars as conversions of regular Navara Pro-4Xs at its facility in Epping, Victoria.


“Obviously North America is not going to get it – although I'm sure it’s going to start a lot of questions about the process of how we actually got a conversion going – but New Zealand is interested in the product and we're working with them to determine if we can if we can make it work over there. The South African team has reached out as well,” said Nissan Oceania managing director Adam Paterson. 


“Their (South Africa’s) Navara is locally built over there and I'm not 100 per cent clear on the spec differences between (Australian and South African Navaras), but it's not the exact same car that comes to us – it’s similar but not exactly the same,” he continued.


“I don't think they're that far down the road as to understanding how they would execute it, but the conversations have started.”


While differences in specification and sourcing would preclude full cars being exported from Australia to South Africa, a more realistic outcome is for Premcar to engineer, manufacture and export conversion kits to be installed by Nissan South Africa.


Such a production contract would be a boon for the Melbourne-based engineering company, formerly known as Tickford Engineering and Prodrive Australia, which built a name for itself developing high-output Ford Falcons for FPV such as the GT-F and F6 Typhoon.


Since then, Premcar has expanded in more recent years into being a one-stop engineering shop for OEMs and automotive startups. 


Employing 85 people directly and around 100 engineers in its labour hire side business, Premcar has also caught the eye of global industry with German firm RLE International buying a 25 per cent equity stake in Premcar in 2017. According to Premcar’s engineering boss Bernie Quinn, the future is looking bright for the company.


“We still hit our EBIT target last year and our revenue target. This year will be a little more of a struggle, we’ll go close to our EBIT target and go a little under our revenue target, but the forecast is really strong,” Mr Quinn told GoAuto at the launch of the Navara Pro-4X Warrior.


“We don’t just do work for Nissan, there’s a bunch of OEMs that we talk to every day and we’re delivering projects currently. We do a lot of work for Ford still, but there’s others that we do work for and a lot of them are not in the dual-cab space. We completed a project earlier this year for an EV for a Chinese customer for example, so we do all that stuff, all the time.”


With EVs rising in importance globally, Mr Quinn says Premcar will be able to adapt and pivot when necessary.


“We don’t have a choice if we want to not only remain relevant, but also remain in business,” he said. “We have to move with the rest of the car market and be working with EVS.”


But no matter what the future holds for powertrain technology, Quinn expects Premcar’s growth trajectory to continue. 


“I think it’s quite likely that we’ll grow to three or four times our (current) size, and with multiple operations in other states. That means efficiencies in terms of logistics of getting cars around Australia, because at the moment every car has to come through Melbourne.”


“In terms of the work we do, I think the future looks fairly similar to what we’re doing right now: secondary manufacturing. Australian consumers are very focused on getting a vehicle that is customised to their tastes, so while the industry is getting more generic globally, the specific tastes of Australian consumers are not being met by those generic global models.


“So there’s a gap in the market around ‘how do we customise those generic global models into something that’s appealing to an Australian customer?’, and that’s where we step in from a secondary manufacturing perspective. 


“Turning a Pro-4X into a Pro-4X Warrior – that’s where we see the demand, and we’re ready to do it.”


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