Nissan Australia is underperforming in local sales volume and its Supercars involvement beyond 2018 is now being reviewed, global bosses of the Japanese brand have confirmed.
Questions about Nissan’s future in Supercars came after the local division’s managing director Richard Emery – a major supporter of the program – was this month replaced by former Infiniti Canada chief Stephen Lester partially due to the flagging Australian sales.
Speaking with journalists at the media reveal of the Leaf hatchback in Tokyo, Nissan head of Asia & Oceania Yutaka Sanada confirmed that the purpose for changing the guard at Nissan Australia was, “One of the reasons is yes, we want to expect a further presence.”
“I think knowing our worldwide presence in a similar market, we believe we can attract a customer more,” Sanada added. “I think not only product actions, but maybe more marketing actions … can attract those extra customers. We can perform more.”
Asked whether Nissan globally would continue to allow the local division to support the Supercars program, Sanada said: “This future plan is under discussion now.”
“[But] I think we are always keeping some intention and trying to join some motorsports activity,” he continued. “Our customer expects some activity in this field, and also you have Nismo brand – we recently launched 370Z Nismo.”
Under Emery’s three-year reign the Altima large sedan was dropped from showrooms due to poor sales, following the Micra and Pulsar out the door and leaving Nissan Australia’s passenger range limited to 370Z and GT-R. Despite the Altima still being used in Supercars, however, Nissan regional sales and marketing executive Vincent Wijnen added that, “I don’t think it’s the issue of whether the car is the Altima.”
“What is the role in motorsports going forward?” he pondered. “[But] there’s no conflict in being in motorsport and having a Nismo brand and investing in a car like Leaf. The motorsports brings excitement and you’re also seeing more and more electrifying [of racing], maybe not yet in Australia … so in that sense we do need to evaluate.
“[But] there is no specific decision on this.”
With Mercedes-Benz and Volvo branding out of Supercars, and Ford withdrawing involvement, a Nissan departure would leave Holden as the single manufacturer throwing support behind the native racing series.
According to sales data, Nissan Australia shifted 4572 Pulsar and Altima models from January to August in 2016, compared with only 339 over the same period in 2017 due to being dropped from the range. It has contributed to sales of the Japanese brand’s range being down 14.1 per cent year-to-date, down from 44,693 to 38,369 units.