New car buyers can soon expect to see a more aggressive approach from Renault, Mitsubishi and Nissan as the brands push for greater relevance in the busy Australian market, following a strongly-worded press conference with the global head of all three brands this week.
The chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, Carlos Ghosn, told media at a roundtable event in Sydney that the company is "going on the offensive" to strengthen the Japanese and French brands, which he said “are not doing their fair share” in Australia.
“I think that, to be fair, for Australia, I consider, and each one of the brands considers that they are not doing their fair share to contribute to the Australian market,” Ghosn said.
“So you can expect to see Mitsubishi, Nissan and Renault much more on the offensive in the Australian market. Much more on the offensive not only from a product offer, technology offer, dealer services, et cetera.”
Exactly what “the offensive” means is yet to be defined by the heads of the respective brands, none of which were present for comment after the press conference.
However, it seems clear the growth strategy involves more product – that could have something do with Renault adding the sedan and wagon versions of the Megane range, and Nissan’s recent model clean-out that saw passenger small car offerings such as the Micra, Pulsar and Altima axed, while revamped versions of the X-Trail (just launched) and Qashqai (arriving soon) should help dealers remain busy in some crowded market space. Mitsubishi is expected to lose the Lancer at some point, and has seen the Mirage sedan given the flick, too.
Ghosn is at the helm of the automotive industry’s second-biggest sales player in the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which, from the start of this year to the end of April, had sold 3,471,808 vehicles – putting it just behind Toyota, with 3,526,343 vehicles. It is expected that Renault-Nissan will sell more than 10.4 million vehicles this year.
It is no surprise, then, that he finds the Australian market a conundrum: Renault-Nissan (and its affiliate brands like Infiniti and Mitsubishi) wouldn’t even get close to second overall here, where Toyota is the undisputed king of the market.
“If you think that the lion’s market share in Australia, which is about 18 per cent… I wouldn’t say [the brands have been under-performing],” he said.
It was clear to those in the room that Ghosn was trying to talk around the figures: to the end of May, Toyota’s Australian market share is 18.2 per cent (19.0 if you include Lexus), where Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi and Infiniti – combined – have just 12.5 per cent of the overall share.
“The Nissan brand in the United States has achieved 9.5 per cent [market share], and in North America more than 10 per cent. One of the most competitive markets in the world, the North American market, Nissan is making more than 10 per cent market share: I have a hard time understanding why Nissan cannot make more than six per cent market share in Australia,” he said.
Mitsubishi is by far the shining light for the Alliance, with 6.5 per cent of the total market, while Infiniti is 0.1 per cent, Renault is 0.9 per cent and Nissan is 5.0 per cent.
“I think the European presence can be much bigger than what Renault today enjoys. And both Japanese brands can do much better in my opinion.
“I would say, in a certain way, how can we perform better? That’s the way I would put it. I see it more as an opportunity than blame, more as a kind of encouragement to be much more on the offensive in Australia for the three brands,” Ghosn said.
We’ll wait and see what the brands have in store over the coming months.