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Nissan stands by targets

High growth: Nissan Australia boss Dan Thompson believes the company can sell 85,000 vehicles in the next 12 months, an increase of 22.3 per cent.

Top full-line importer title still the goal for Nissan Australia, says departing MD

26 Mar 2012

NISSAN remains committed to becoming the leading full-line importer in Australia within a year, despite being set back by the Japanese and Thai floods last year that left the brand much further behind title rivals Mazda and Hyundai.

Nissan Australia has long coveted the top importer title, as set out in its GT2012 five-year plan that culminates with the 2012 Japanese financial year – ending on March 31 next year.

In his final days in the job before taking up a new foreign posting, Nissan Australia managing director Dan Thompson said he was “absolutely” sure the company would achieve its ambition.

“Yes, we can do it,” he said in response to questions by GoAuto.

“It will come with Pulsar – we will take share, especially with Pulsar, so it is feasible and that’s the plan. That growth will also be enduring and sustainable.

“There will be some stall, a bit of a fade, from Mazda and Hyundai (because) Pulsar goes to the heart of Mazda and Hyundai. We will conquest from other brands.”

 center imageLeft: Outgoing Nissan Australia managing director Dan Thompson. Below: Almera and Patrol.

However, the new Tiida-replacing Pulsar small car is not due to be released in Australia until January or February next year.

Mr Thompson said Pulsar would “add thousands” to the company’s monthly sales.

Last calendar year, Nissan finished about 20,000 units behind its Japanese and Korean rivals – with 67,926 sales compared with 88,333 for Mazda and 87,008 for Hyundai.

Mr Thompson said tsunami-related supply shortfalls had cost Nissan Australia between 5000 and 10,000 sales last year, keeping its market share down to 6.7 per cent – well behind Mazda’s 8.8 per cent and Hyundai’s 8.6 per cent.

Nevertheless, he believes Nissan can achieve 85,000 sales in the next 12 months to usurp its rivals with an 8.0 per cent market share by taking sales away from Mazda and Hyundai.

Reaching 85,000 sales would represent a 22.3 per cent increase in the next year.

Despite last year’s stock shortage, Nissan Australia still recorded 8.4 per cent sales growth in the 2011 calendar year – second only to Hyundai’s 8.9 per cent among the volume brands – and Mr Thompson expects that to be even higher this year.

With supply back on schedule, he said Nissan set record sales in December, January, February and (though yet to be confirmed) March.

He expects considerable growth this year from the company’s four core models – the Dualis crossover, X-Trail compact SUV, Navara ute and Micra light car (which will get the sedan variant called Almera around September).

The new Patrol off-roader will be launched here in late 2012 and, before that, the niche-market Leaf electric car.

Although the Pulsar will be vital for the company’s volume ambitions, Mr Thompson said the company did “not just want new product to provide growth”.

“It is not about new product – we’ve had that in the past 20 years and only had four per cent market share,” he said.

“Investing and protecting franchises is most important. The growth will not come from new product or adding dealers.”

Long-term, Mr Thompson believes Nissan’s biggest growth opportunities in Australia are in vans and luxury cars.

While the latter will be addressed with the launch in August of the Infiniti brand, Nissan Australia is yet to embark on its quest to be part of Nissan’s global aspirations of becoming the global leader in light commercial vehicles by 2016.

Nissan Australia needs a medium-size van to compete with the market-leading Toyota HiAce and Hyundai iLoad, but is apparently still a long way from having a suitable model for this market.

Under the company’s latest global plan called ‘Nissan Power 88’, which takes the company through to 2016, the company expects to release 51 “all-new or major refresh” product – one every six weeks – including 15 in Australia.

After four years at the helm in Australia, Mr Thompson moves to Switzerland next week to become vice-president of finance for Nissan Europe, handing the reins to fellow American William Peffer.

He expressed disappointment that he will not be around to see the ultimate fruits of his labours, having restructured Nissan Australia, revitalised its dealer network, established Nissan Finance and set the groundwork for the launch of Pulsar, Patrol, Leaf, Infiniti and a new V8 Supercar race team (for 2013).

“But I will be watching from a distance and I’m confidant the guys and gals (at Nissan Australia) will be able to finish the job.”

What’s coming from Nissan:

June: Leaf electric car
August: Infiniti M sedan
August: Infiniti FX large SUV
September: Almera light sedan
November: Infiniti G coupe and convertible
December: Patrol
Jan 2013: Pulsar
March 2013: V8 Supercar team (Kelly Racing)
Late 2013: Altima sedan (Maxima replacement)
Late 2013: New Pathfinder
2013: New X-Trail
2013: New Navara
2013: Micra facelift

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