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by Tim Beissmann

The Nissan Juke may be imported to Australia after the Japanese brand’s local outpost contemplates a U-turn on its original decision to ignore the quirky-looking compact crossover.

Nissan Australia has previously said it would consider only the next-generation version of the Juke, but the company’s new CEO and managing director Bill Peffer has revealed that overseas executives will be in Australia this week to talk specifically about the model’s potential for our market.

“We continue to have very frequent conversations about Juke,” Peffer said at the launch of the Nissan Leaf electric car in Sydney. “In fact, we have some visitors coming out [this] week and that is one of the primary topics [of discussion].”

Peffer has breathed new life into Nissan Australia’s bid for the Juke since taking the reins in April. The company’s previous management said it had struggled to make a convincing business case for the car.

An unashamed fan of the jacked-up hatchback, Peffer witnessed the Juke’s success firsthand in the US in his previous role as director of Nissan North America’s marketing and communications department, and believes Australians could warm to it like consumers have in the US and Europe.

“If you look at our brand in Australia … we’re not that different from Europe,” Peffer said. “We do well with commercial vehicles, we have some spectacular halo products, we’re growing in the SUV space … this is where we’re strong.”

Nissan is the second-highest SUV distributor in Australia behind Toyota. So far in 2012, Nissan’s SUV sales have increased 33 per cent on the back of strong growth from the Dualis (+30 per cent) and X-Trail (+59 per cent), giving the brand a 12.1 per cent share of the market.

Peffer says this popularity provides further encouragement to add the Juke to the mix as the brand’s entry-level offering.

“We’re the number two SUV provider right now so it makes sense to provide a full complement of SUVs from the B-segment all the way through to large Patrols,” Peffer said.

“I’m looking at what Europe’s doing and Europe has been very successful doing that.”

Despite its striking looks, Peffer said the Juke has the potential to be more than a low-volume image car for the brand in Australia if it appeals to customers and is priced right.

“The beauty of a product like the Juke is that it’s a segment-buster. I don’t think people go into a dealership and say I’m a B-segment buyer, I’m a C-segment buyer.

“They’re looking at their needs, and so if you have something that fits their price range or fits their needs they’ll move back and forth, we’ve seen that.”

Toyota and Kia have had limited success with their image cars, the Rukus and the Soul. Both models have endured double-digit percentage declines so far this year, but Peffer is not deterred, believing the Juke will compete with more upmarket, European rivals.

“Look at cars like the Mini, the Countryman, and the small Audis … we’re looking at that space.”

The Nissan Juke has been on sale for more than two years after making its debut at the 2010 Geneva motor show. It is produced in Japan, Indonesia and the UK.

Sharing its platform with the Leaf EV and the upcoming Pulsar, the Juke is available in both front- and all-wheel-drive and with a number of powertrains, including an 86kW/158Nm 1.6-litre petrol, an 81kW/240Nm 1.5-litre diesel and a 140kW/240Nm 1.6-litre turbocharge petrol. Combined cycle fuel consumption ranges from 4.9 to 7.6 litres per 100km.

Last week, Nissan confirmed it will launch the sporty Juke Nismo early next year with an uprated version of the turbo petrol engine.

In the UK, the Juke is positioned between Nissan’s small car, the Note, and the Qashqai (Dualis) compact SUV, priced from £13,395 to £21,495 ($20,800 to $33,400). If it is launched in Australia, it is likely to fill a similar role between the Pulsar and the Dualis.




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