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Nissan tops Ford, Hyundai in March car sales

Nissan sold more cars in Australia than Ford and Hyundai last month in what was the brand’s best result since becoming a full importer more than 20 years ago.

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Nissan Australia general manager of sales and fleet Ian Moreillon said March's 8317-vehicle record (up 6.8 per cent on March 2011) could be attributed to the brand's end of Japanese financial year promotions as well as a continued increase in demand for its vehicles, which has now seen Nissan Australia enjoy four record sales months in a row.

Moreillon highlighted Navara (2323 units), X-Trail (1771) and Micra (1448) as three of the best performers for the month.

Preliminary data shows Nissan accounted for both Ford and Hyundai by a few hundred sales, and trailed third-placed Mazda – which is also believed to have enjoyed a record month, including an impressive result for the new CX-5 – by less than 1000 cars. The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries will release its full March car sales report at midday.

Moreillon said the result kept Nissan on track with its ambition to become the highest-selling full importer for the 2012 Japanese financial year, which ends 31st March 31 2013.

He admitted achieving and maintaining the number one position would be dependent on the performances of Nissan’s key competitors – which he named as Mazda, Hyundai and Volkswagen – but Moreillon’s confidence stems from the belief that Nissan has “more upside” with its upcoming products than those other brands.

He said earning the number one title was not simply about bragging rights, but had more to do with strengthening the brand and the dealer network.

“You will only get that through a balanced portfolio of products, you will only get it through a strong network of dealers that are engaged. So it’s overall just a much better business model for everyone if you get to that point.”

Moreillon said it was not sustainable to reach that goal solely by reducing prices, insisting that offering the products that people wanted to buy was the most important factor.

“You will not gain the credibility … within the customers’ minds if you are seen as a discount-only brand. We want to give value for money, absolutely, but there’s a difference between value for money and discounting.

“Product is the number one way of doing it. If you have product that is desirable, if you have product that is attractive, that people want to buy, you can then slowly move away from a discount model … into a competitive model where you’re competitive on price. People will then pay for product that they want, that they aspire to own.”

Moreillon said Nissan was focusing heavily on that strategy over the next two years, with a particular emphasis on beefing up its passenger car range, which he admitted was “a little weak today”. Of the 8317 vehicles Nissan sold in Australia in March, only 3119 (37.5 per cent) were passenger vehicles (a figure that includes Dualis sales but excludes X-Trail sales).

Nissan Australia will seek to address that with the Micra-based Almera sedan in August, a diesel-powered Dualis before the end of the year, and particularly the Pulsar small hatch in January 2013. The Altima medium sedan - which will be Nissan's focus for its entry to the V8 Supercars championship - arrives in the second half of 2013, along with a number of other vehicle launches and upgrades.