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Nissan is marching ahead with plans to overtake both Mazda and Hyundai to become Australia’s number one full-line vehicle importer by March 2013, including plans to make the new Pulsar city car the best-selling model in the country.

The Japanese brand says its 2011 sales were affected by last year’s Japanese tsunami and Thailand floods, but that an expansive range of new models, including the return of the Pulsar nameplate for its city car competitor, will help move it into the country’s top four most popular car manufacturers.

Nissan was the sixth most popular brand in Australia in 2011, though its 67,926 sales were well short of fifth-placed Hyundai’s 87,008 units.

In 2012 so far, 11,585 year-to-date sales is closing the gap to a retreating Ford (12,789) and Hyundai (13,925), though Mazda is significantly ahead with 17,168. Toyota and Holden remain in their now-common first and second positions in the sales chart, with 28,914 and 18,749 sales, respectively.

The model that is expected to see Nissan increase volume substantially is the new Pulsar, which is being officially unveiled at next month’s Beijing motor show.

The Nissan Pulsar is planned to be the biggest seller in its segment, according to Thompson. That would mean it could outstrip the Mazda3, Toyota Corolla and locally produced Holden Cruze in the hotly contested small-car segment.

“We have every intent with Pulsar to be number one in the segment… it’s the biggest segment in Australia. That certainly won’t happen at launch (because) the way we’ve decided to roll Pulsar out is staggered with sedan then hatch and then we’ve lined up two or three lifecycle product actions and we’ve given us six to 12 month breathers between (these) actions. So the first 24 months of Pulsar is just non-stop.” said Thompson.

Thompson says that’s the best way to drive sustainable success for the model, instead of dropping every variant in at the beginning and waiting three years for an update. He went on to say the Pulsar would have a noticeable impact on the market share of Hyundai and Mazda.

Speaking to the automotive media at last week’s 2012 Nissan GT-R launch, outgoing Nissan Australia boss Dan Thompson said it would soon complete its coverage of key segments with the arrival of more commercial vehicles and the launch later this year of luxury-brand offshoot Infiniti.

“At the moment we nearly cover every segment outside of vans. So vans and luxury [cars] are the two opportunity segments for us which we will cover through Infiniti and vans.”

Nissan’s GT2012 plan, which runs on the Japanese financial year, originally set Nissan’s aim to not only be the number one Australian importer (that’s not a local car maker) but also reach 10 per cent local market share. That ambition has been slightly modified now to number one importer and an 8.5 per cent market share by March next year.

“We have always tracked how the top 10 brands performed or have performed over the last four-year period, I’d say six of the top 10 brands have gone backwards quite significantly. It’s only really us, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Mazda that have seen significant progress over the last four years.”

When asked how realistic the number one importer position really is for Nissan Australia, Thompson was adamant that it can be done, with around 15,000 more sales required for the upstage. “We would’ve had 75,000 (vehicles sold for FY 2011) if not for natural disasters. We are going to take share from Hyundai and Mazda with Pulsar.”

By March 2017, Nissan Australia will have launched 15 all new products in the market, four of which will be coming out in the next 12 months. It will start with the Nissan Leaf in June, followed by the Nissan Almera in July-Sep, Nissan Patrol late this year and the new Pulsar January-March 2013.