The biggest product push in a decade is about to flood Nissan showrooms with new cars, trucks and four-wheel-drives.
The onslaught has already begun with the compact Dualis family wagon but will pick up pace with everything from a tougher Navara to the prestige Maxima, sporty Z and diesel-powered X-Trail.
Godzilla, the Nissan GT-R supercar, will cap the action early in 2009.
“This is the biggest product push we've seen from Nissan since the alliance with Renault in 1999,” says the general manager of marketing at Nissan Australia, Ross Booth.
“We are now investing much more in future technology and innovation. That has resulted in a serious global product push. In a year we will have a major onslaught. That gives us a huge opportunity to lift sales, because our range has been ageing.”
Booth says the diesel X-Trail will be up first, with a 127kW turbodiesel engine with a manual gearbox and 110kW as a six-speed auto, followed by the King Cab version of the Navara. He hopes to get the same diesel engine into the Dualis.
“X-Trail diesel is on sale in July. The Dualis is down to global supply.
In Europe the wait in some countries is out to nine months,” Booth says.
“This engine gives us class leading power and torque in the manual and a very competitive automatic. There is no other major player in Australia and that's interesting, because diesel has been available with most big players for several years in Europe.
“We didn't perceive a demand for diesel in compact SUVs, but the tide has shifted. It became very clear to us, to deliver what customers want. And that's a powerful diesel engine.
“Suzuki have a diesel in the Grand Vitara, but that's only 98kW, and the Land Rover Freelander is technically not a rival for X-Trail.”
Booth says the updated Navara is the first Nissan with clamshell doors, freeing extra space for a pair of small back seats.
“The King Cab is definitely a growing segment, up by 40 per cent in the past three years,” he says.
“It's still definitely a vehicle for the tradesman, but the younger guy who can throw cricket gear in the back and take kids to school. It's the only major player with automatic, with RX the workhorse and the ST-X the work-and-play model.”
Further into the future, Nissan Australia is expecting the new Murano, Maxima, 370Z and GT-R before the halfway mark of 2009.
“Murano is early in 2009. That's new and based on the D-Platform from Nissan, which is also used for the Altima in the USA,” Booth says.
He will not be drawn on the other newcomers, even though the new Maxima has already broken cover and the GT-R is on sale in many countries, but believes the expanded and refreshed range will give Nissan Australia the chance to challenge Honda for fifth place in the sales race.
“Our target this year is 70,000 sales,” he says. “It's our best result, in volume and market share, since 1991, from the time we came out of local manufacturing.
“We haven't officially set targets for 2009, but we need to consolidate before we can expand our range — particularly in passenger vehicles.
“The next-generation Micra is also coming up, later in 2009. Our Micra range is quite efficient with one model line-up, but it would be good to have a manual option and potentially a three-door as well.”