The Nissan Altima large sedan has averaged just 130 sales for the first six months of the year, yet Nissan Australia managing director and CEO Richard Emery says neither the car itself nor the V8 Supercars program fronted by the nameplate is a failure.
Despite the Altima being outsold in the first half of 2014 by even the medium cars of racing arch rivals Holden (Malibu, 982 sales) and Ford (Mondeo, 1636 sales), Emery argues that “if you go into motorsport by saying it’s got to pay its way by sales, then you won’t do it”.
“That’s certainly not my attitude,” he adds.
“If you have the adage that you’ve got to win on Sunday to sell on Monday, then don’t do motorsport. Not anymore, maybe 25 or 30 years ago that would have been true.”
The new Nissan Australia boss (above) also confirmed the reasons Altima hasn’t been selling strongly is both because of the attitudes he recently helped to change within the company to not discount to chase sales, and also because Toyota has been strongly discounting Camry.
“Would we be like to doing some more [Altimas]? Of course. [But] we’re living in an unreal world at the moment, to be fair.
“That segment’s under pressure, it’s not a big segment anymore, and just as Altima was arriving Toyota went on the offensive because of their factory [closure] announcement.
“We’ve decided not to chase Camry, from a cost or discount perspective, because our motivations are completely different. They need to keep their operations running between now and 2017 or whenever it is, so they have no alternative but to be aggressive. I could chase that, but it wouldn’t be particularly economic for us to do that, and it wouldn’t be particularly beneficial to Altima.
“There’s a place for Altima, but it’s not a key model for us. It’s probably worth two or three hundred cars per month ... but I would only commit myself to getting the Altima number on the basis it was sustainable.
"Nissan of the past perhaps would have chased that down.”
Emery also wanted to dismantle myths that the reason Nissan Australia entered into the V8 Supercars program was to support the Altima.
“Firstly, I think there’s a role for Nissan in motorsport,” he starts.
“It’s a part of our DNA, it’s a part of who we are. No debate. That’s an easy decision.
“In Australia what is the best vessel for you to be involved in motorsport that provides the best professionalism, the exposure, the leverage, those sorts of things? Ultimately, right now, that’s V8 Supercars.
“I think there was a misconception that we went into motorsport to support Altima. No, the Altima just happened to be the car that fits the category. So it was motorsport first, V8 Supercars second, and what car fits? Well, that’s Altima. I think some people drew too much of a conclusion that that was the main marketing thrust for Altima.”
Accord to Emery, the V8 Supercars program doesn’t even need to deliver consistent pole positions and wins to be viable as purely a brand building exercise.
“We don’t need to win. Do we need to be more competitive than we are now? Yeah, of course.”