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How Nissan can revive its Australian fortunes

Nissan’s Navara has helped keep the brand front of mind for Aussie buyers, but a fresh product line-up will also help.

On the surface, rumours this week Nissan is planning to focus its efforts (and money) on the US and Japanese markets looks like bad news. But scratch a little deeper, and the plan should actually be good news for Australia.

According to the report from Reuters, Nissan is set to scale back its operations in Europe to rejuvenate its fleet and focus on its core markets - the USA, China and Japan.

However, that doesn’t mean it will withdraw from the rest of the world, and the Asia-Pacific region that includes Australia, is reportedly still highly profitable for the company so will be factored into the new plan.

What it means in detail is unclear, with the “operational performance plan” not set to be officially revealed until May 28. So before then we’ve got our own suggestions before then on how Nissan can improve its fortunes down under.

Refresh its SUVs

The report claims one of the biggest problems for Nissan is its ageing line-up of models. The average age of its fleet is five years but under this new plan, the company is aiming to bring that down to three and a half years.

Two of the most important new models will be the next-generation X-Trail and Qashqai that are set to launch in 2021. Recently, Nissan Australia boss Stephen Lester indicated to CarsGuide that both would receive hybrid powertrain options.

And because you can’t have too many SUVs these days, the suggestion that the Ariya concept seen at the 2019 Tokyo Motor Show could spawn a compact all-electric production version could also be a positive step forward for the brand.

As is the speculation that an all-new Pathfinder is on the way by 2022, which, when added with a relatively fresh Juke, would give the Japanese brand a young SUV line-up for the foreseeable future.

Expand its ute range

Another positive sign for Nissan in Australia is that entire rejuvenation project is being overseen by the brand’s chief operating officer, Ashwani Gupta, who previously headed the commercial vehicles division.

As such, Mr Gupta is a man that understands the importance of the ute market, ensuring the Navara keeps ticking along while also giving executive support for adding the US-built Titan to the local range.

Nissan Australia has made no secret of its desire to add the Titan, but regardless of this new global plan, it’s most likely that the local operation will have to convert it to right-hand drive itself. It has reportedly already explored that possibility with Premcar, the engineering firm that is involved with the Navara Warrior project. Perhaps some assistance from head office under this new regime could help get the project across the line.

Bring back the Pulsar

Nissan’s decision to abandon passenger cars was reportedly controversial behind-the-scenes, but when you look at the steadily declining sales figures of small- and medium-sized sedans it makes a lot of business sense.

While we’d argue Nissan is right to leave the Altima and Maxima in the past, the continued success of the Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i30 suggest a strong small hatch offering still brings value to a brand.

The Puslar name used to be a genuine rival to the Corolla, and while the last model was a flop, there’s still potential for the right car at the right price.

Previously Nissan Australia had spoken optimistically about bringing the Note ePower - a popular hybrid small hatch in Japan - to Australia but that has yet to materialise. The ePower’s combination of fuel efficiency with petrol-powered back up without large, expensive battery packs represents a new opportunity for Nissan.

Keep its performance heritage

One of Nissan’s greatest strengths has been its diversity - from the GT-R sports car to the humble Micra city runabout and the rugged Navara - the brand has catered to a wide audience.

The GT-R and Zed are two of the most iconic sports car badges in the automotive market, and while neither sell in high volumes, they do represent the heritage and capability of the brand and should be retained moving forward.

While news of the GT-R’s replacement is scarce, the increasing stream of news around a replacement for the 370Z should warm the heart of Zed fans. Expected to be called the 400Z and packing a twin-turbo V6 engine it should be a worthy rival to the likes of the Toyota Supra and Ford Mustang.