Newly installed Nissan Australia boss Bill Peffer has reiterated the company’s bold plan to replace Mazda as the country’s leading full-line importer and increase the brand’s market share from 6.7 to 10 per cent within his first 12 months at the helm.
It might seem like an overly ambitious target, but when you take into account a steady stream of new product launches in the coming months, and a global marketing campaign that’s all about ‘Innovation that Excites’, Peffer’s plan begins to appear somewhat plausible.
Peffer is a highly qualified and experienced ‘car guy’. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Advertising Communications from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in International Finance from Duke University.
Before joining Nissan in 2006, Peffer was a second-generation Ford man, where his father had worked for 36 years, and he, from 1993 to 2006.
The Nissan boss believes creating a consistent brand message is critical to the foundations of successful growth in Australia. Speaking with a small group of Australian journalists, he said the local brand had not delivered in this regard and that past campaigns had largely been model-specific, disregarding the Nissan brand as a whole.
Peffer also acknowledged that Australia was a tough market to do business in, with a total of 65 individual brands vying for a share of just over one million new cars in 2011. That compares with 35 brands in the United States, which moved 12.8 million vehicles in the same period.
He believes the launch of the Nissan Leaf in June is critical to the brand’s positioning statement around innovation. Nissan has secured 13 Leaf dealers across Australia and with a price of $51,500 before on-road costs, it expects up to 80 per cent of buyers to be new to the brand.
Industry sales publication VFACTS reports there have been just 12 EVs purchased by private buyers in Australia in total, and only one so far in 2012. Such dismal numbers don’t seem to worry Peffer though, who said Nissan is targeting around 1500 Leaf sales per year across fleet and private sectors.
Following the Leaf, Nissan will introduce the Micra-based Almera light sedan in August. We got a brief look at the Almera and can tell you without hesitation that it is anything but small. The four-door sedan offers class-leading rear-seat legroom and an enormous boot.
Peffer told us the Almera would need to be aggressively priced at well below $20,000 for it to have a substantial impact within the segment. There will be two trim levels, ST and Ti, both powered by a 75kW 1.5-litre petrol engine available with either a manual or automatic transmission.
The limited edition Nissan Patrol Simpson 50th Anniversary is now available, adding $8500 worth of value to the full-size SUV before the new-generation model arrives in 2013.
Additionally, the Nissan Dualis Ti-L and X-Trail Ti and TL have been upgraded with Nissan’s ‘Around View Monitor’. The system uses four exterior-mounted cameras to provide a bird’s-eye view of the vehicle and its surroundings. It’s essentially a parking aid that should prove extremely useful.
Also for 2013 is the launch of the all-new Nissan Altima that effectively replaces the slow-selling Maxima.
The Altima is also set become the face of Nissan in Australia’s V8 Supercar series, where they will run four cars under the Nissan Motorsport banner (formerly Kelly Racing).
And let’s not rule out the Nissan Juke for Australia. Peffer says he is working hard to make it happen and told us to “watch this space”. It’s been popular in the United States and is likely to attract a cult following here as well.