Nissan Australia has axed three of its best-known models — the Micra, Y61 Patrol and Pulsar hatch (not sedan) — in one fell swoop, with stocks to be cleared by the end of 2016.
The trio of former core models are being phased out for different reasons — the Micra business case doesn’t stack up financially, the aged Y61/UY61 Patrol is being retired, and the Pulsar hatch’s flagging sales and middling reputation aren’t helping Nissan’s wider cause.
Both the Micra and Pulsar hatch will be replaced over the next few years with more upmarket, global vehicles with significantly more polish built on joint Renault-Nissan architecture.
For now, Nissan Australia seems to be emphasising quality over quantity, by sweeping away three under-performing vehicles that somewhat add volume but don’t necessarily help the brand’s image.
The recently updated Micra competes in the declining micro-car market, recently furnished with some more modern offerings such as the Holden Spark and Kia Picanto that offer better infotainment and five-star ANCAP ratings — the latter not achieved by the Nissan.
“As a result of a regular review of its passenger car line-up, Nissan has decided that there is no longer an adequate business case for offering Micra for sale in the Australian market,” the company said today.
Interestingly, the Micra has grown its sales by almost 120 per cent this year thanks to sharp drive-away deals, and currently sits second in the segment behind Mitsubishi’s Mirage. But it appears that all the discounting has hurt Nissan’s bottom line. What cost volume?
The imminent death of the Y61 comes as no surprise, given its almost two-decade model run. Its ordinary safety score, and its lack of Euro 5 emissions status, have affected it globally. Stocks of the wagon and UY61 ute will be gone before the year is over.
The aged Patrol has served for some time as the sole large diesel offering in Nissan’s SUV range, with the more modern Y62 a petrol-only model in a diesel-dominated segment. Recent price cuts have helped Y62 sales, however, with demand exceeding supply.
Perhaps the most interesting model to be axed, though, is the Pulsar. When this car re-launched in 2013 as the Tiida replacement, Nissan Australia’s then-management had huge projections for the car, expecting Toyota Corolla and Mazda 3 sales.
It never managed those numbers, though. The Pulsar’s market share this year is 2.9 per cent, compared to around 20 per cent apiece for the Mazda and Toyota.
Importantly, the Nissan Pulsar sedan is not being axed, though it also won’t get the recent US-market update either. The sedan accounts for about 55 per cent of Pulsar volume, and is seen as the superior car with a viable business case.
Nissan Australia managing director Richard Emery said the company had taken “bold decisions” and would sit down with dealers over the next week explaining the decision.
The company believes it’s better off with a strong-performing core, led by the (supply restricted) Qashqai, X-Trail and Navara, which make up cumulatively about three-quarters of Nissan Australia’s total sales in 2016 so far.
“These decisions are in line with our commitment to running a robust business in Australia, led by strong products including Qashqai, X-Trail and Navara,” Emery said.
“Complete after-sales service and technical support for the affected models will continue to be available from our Australian authorised dealer network.
“Nissan is committed to maintaining a strong and healthy business in Australia, which includes our national sales company, Nissan Financial Services, Nissan Casting Australia plant, field quality centre and motorsport activities.”
Pictured: Nissan Sway concept
What comes next?
Nissan Australia says it will replace the Micra and Pulsar hatch in time, adding that next-generation products are in the pipeline for 2018/19, likely previewed the the recent Nissan Sway concept from last year’s Geneva motor show.
We’ve already seen the next-generation Micra, which is expected to be built on the Renault Nissan Alliance’s CMF-B platform, and share bits with the Renault Clio and next Nissan Juke. See our latest spy images of the next Micra testing here.
Emery also said a new small hatch would be available around the same timeframe, noting that “action is being taken to get ready for a new offering” in this part of the market. Do not expect the company to import the current European-market Pulsar that launched in 2014.
It seems clear that Nissan Australia is trimming back the range, clearing out some clutter and re-setting itself for a range of better new models due near the end of the decade. In the meantime, it hopes the Qashqai, X-Trail and Navara will keep things ticking over.