A year bookended by the launch of an all-new Navara pick-up and the new Micra could create “pressure points” in a Nissan dealer network battling to keep pace with increased volumes.
That was the appraisal of Nissan Motor (GB) Limited managing director Jim Wright as he was asked to reflect on the biggest challenges of the year ahead at the Geneva Motor Show.
Speaking to AM, Wright said that early indications were that the Navara would exceed sales expectations of 7,500 to 8,000 and he hoped that the Micra would bring a similar warm response from consumers as EV and crossover sales continued their rise.
He said: “Navara has been a big vehicle for us. Uptake has been very promising and the order banks are already full into May. That’s a good position to be in.
“We used to have 20% market share in pick-ups and, though there are now more rivals, we still want to be number one. With the NP300 there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be.
“New Micra arrives at the end of the year and that is a car that could create a real pressure point for dealers. We used to sell 50,000 Micras a year and it remains the biggest name plate in the Nissan brand, but we only sell around 15,000. The new model should change that.”
In 2015 sales of the Nissan Leaf soared by around 29%, to 5,236, as the total UK market for EVs grew to around 26,000. The launch of a new Leaf, offering a range of upto 155 miles, is likely to drive further EV success for the brand this year.
Wright added: “Ultimately, our growth has exceeded our expectations. A couple of years ago we were telling our dealerships that they would be selling 150,000 cars in 2015 and it turned out to be 165,000.
“That has created headaches for us but they are good headaches to have. Our dealerships are earning more and levels of profitability are higher than ever.”
Wright said that Nissan’s overall RoS stood at 1.4% at the end of 2015 – it’s highest ever rate.
RoI for dealers stood at £239k/1.3% at the end of 2015, meanwhile, driven by strong new cars sales in both retail and fleet.
Wright said that the Nissan brand’s 206-strong franchise was unlikely to grow in number – currently boasting 97% coverage – but said that did not mean “everything is in the right place with the right facilities”.
Nissan dealerships are currently part-way through a CI makeover, with 60 already complete, but Wright said that ongoing investment in staff training and facilities was a must.
Showing its future autonomous driving technologies and home energy solution V2G, which can see electricity from an EV used to power a household, it appears that dealers can expect more demands on their expertise than ever before in the changing market.
In 2017, the Nissan Qashqai will become the first Piloted Drive vehicle available in Europe when it is launched with a raft of autonomous technologies.
Wright said: “When we introduced Leaf we invested a huge amount in training but dealers were still apprehensive and, faced with switched on customers who knew more about the cars than they did. That can’t happen in future.
“Fully autonomous driving and V2G technologies are things that won’t happen overnight, but we have to start planning for that now.”