Nissan Micra small ‘champion’
Nissan is considering a case for bringing the Europeansourced new-generation Micra light car to Australia as a replacement for its recently discontinued Pulsar small hatch, as the company shores up its future passengercar strategy.
The Japanese car-maker is currently without an entrant in the micro, light or small hatch segments in Australia, following its decision to drop the Indian-built Micra and the Thai-built Pulsar hatchbacks last year due to a lack of competitiveness.
Nissan’s sole offerings in the passenger-car segment – besides the GT-R and 370Z sportscars – are the ageing Pulsar small sedan and the Altima mid-sizer.
The company is heavily reliant on its SUV line-up in Australia, which includes the Juke, Qashqai, X-trail, Pathfinder and Patrol. It is currently the third-best-selling SUV range behind Toyota and Mazda.
Despite the fact Nissan is working on a new-generation global small sedan, Nissan Australia managing director and chief executive Richard Emery has left the door open for a different model, or smaller models such as the Micra, to fill the gap left by the Pulsar hatch.
“In terms of whether there is a direct replacement of that car or whether we take something like the Micra and perhaps other products that will certainly suit customers who would have previously looked at a Pulsar hatch, I wouldn’t take it for granted that we would directly replace Pulsar hatch in the future,” he said.
The fifth-generation Micra – revealed at the Paris motor show in September – has been repositioned and is now larger, more mature and features more safety and connectivity technology than the previous model.
It is built at the Renault-nissan Alliance plant at Flins-sur-seine in France and shares powertrains and underpinnings with the Renault Clio and Captur.
Mr Emery said a new global compact crossover for mature markets such as Australia could potentially fill the gap left by the Pulsar hatch, particularly as Australian buyers migrated from passenger cars to SUVS.
Nissan already sells the Kicks in emerging markets such as Brazil, but it is unlikely to be offered as a global product.
Mr Emery said the new Micra was not a short-term prospect for Australia given its current lack of specification suitability, having been launched in Europe with only a manual gearbox, and other factors such as pricing and supply.
“We would like to be in that segment, for sure,” he said.
“That car in its current form doesn’t have all of the elements that we need, to be honest – and those elements are as broad as specification, pricing base and availability.
“That car is certainly on our watch list and consideration set.
“At this point in time, there is a fair bit of water that has to go under the bridge before we make that live for Australia. I think it is going well in Europe.”
Mr Emery said there was no shortage of options for the company in terms of future small passenger cars.
“There is a generational shift in our product plan from late 2018-19 onwards, and our opportunity for our product offering in Australia expands quite a bit,” he said.
“There are probably too many for us to choose from.
“Obviously, we have got to home in on what is going to work best for us. So there is a lot of pre-work being done at the moment about what might suit Australia. And, might I add, what won’t.”
WATCH AND WAIT: Nissan is keen to introduce the newgeneration Micra to Australia, but is currently hampered by lack of specification suitability and other factors such as pricing and supply.