Having been firmly entrenched in the 4x4
camp in recent years with its X-Trail, Murano, Pathfinder and Patrol models, Nissan is upbeat about its opportunities at the small car end of the market.
Last week AM attended an unveiling of its Cube, a city car which will battle the Ford Ka and Fiat 500. Although the first two generation Cubes never came to Europe, the third generation will go on sale here in late 2009.
Alfonso Albaisa, vice- president of Nissan Design Europe, said: “As a designer you must change as cars lose their relevance. We are now designing cars for 2012 and 2014, and emissions is the big thing.”
Comparable to Nissan’s Note in terms of CO2 emissions, in the UK the Cube will be available in 1.5-litre diesel and 1.6-litre petrol variants.
Pierre Loing, Nissan’s European vice-president for product planning, said: “We do not have huge expectations in terms of volume, but we do think it epitomises what our brand stands for. Nobody is indifferent about this vehicle.”
Nissan has found that the UK and Spanish new car markets have been hardest hit in Europe by the economic downturn. Loing said that, nevertheless, the industry has such a long development cycle that it has to prepare for what comes after this.
He added: “We launch about 10 cars a year globally and, like everyone else, we are reviewing our product plans and trying to protect our investments.
“We believe there will be a life after this and we are not in such a dramatic position as some others. It is better to be in a company where you start with your head above water so you can still breathe when the water rises.”