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Tries hard but could do better. That would be the verdict on Nissan Australia if you were writing a report card.
The Japanese brand went through a tumultuous decade, dropping all of its passenger cars (in large part due to flagging sales) but also benefiting from the SUV boom by having a wide variety to choose from.
Despite having a comprehensive range of SUVs – Juke, Qashqai, X-Trail and Patrol – there’s not a lot else in the rest of the range, beyond the Navara, that can provide sales volume. Nissan’s other three models are all niche players – 370Z, GT-R and Leaf.
Which means there’s plenty of room for the brand to grow, and thankfully there seems to be plenty of options that already exist that could make worthy additions to the local line-up. We’re looking beyond the incoming new X-Trail and Pathfinder, and the US-focused passenger cars; because Nissan probably made the right call to leave those shrinking markets.
So here, in no particular order, are the new additions we’d like to see to the Nissan Australia showroom.
It’s an obvious choice, but for a reason. The growth of the premium ute market (those that cost above $60,000) has been nothing short of remarkable in the past five years. Undoubtedly the Navara is a key model for the local operation, but bringing in its US-built big brother would help cash in on the increasing interest in ‘full-size pickups’ that Ram and Chevrolet are enjoying.
Even Nissan has recognised the way Australians are embracing US-style ‘trucks’ with the adoption of the Titan’s ‘PRO4-X’ badge for the new Navara. The Titan would make a suitable Ram 1500/Chevrolet Silverado rival, with its 300kW 5.6-litre V8 engine, 4222kg towing capacity and tough, boxy looks.
Nissan gambled with the previous-generation Pathfinder, switching it from a Navara-based off-roader into a more car-like crossover as it felt that was the market direction. In part, that’s true with the likes of the Toyota Kluger and Hyundai Santa Fe selling well.
However, a large part of the Australian market has embraced the added capability that a ute-based SUV can provide, as seen in the sales success of the Toyota Prado, Isuzu MU-X and Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
The X-Terra is based on the Navara (and sold in selected markets), so it allows Nissan to have the best of both worlds – the suburban-friendly Pathfinder and the adventurous X-Terra. While that may seem like too many SUVs, the sales charts suggest that you can’t have too many – just ask Toyota.
Speaking of more SUVs … the Ariya is the company’s second all-electric model and has the potential to reinvigorate the brand locally.
While the Leaf has done a nice job of demonstrating Nissan’s knowledge of EVs, the Ariya takes that experience and packages up inside one of the most popular types of cars on sale today – a mid-size SUV.
Nissan Australia has, unsurprisingly, said it would like to add the Aryia to its arsenal, but with EV sales stagnant in our market compared to overseas there are no guarantees. But – and it’s a big but – Nissan can secure the Ariya at a competitive price, it has the potential to become the first mainstream EV hit and assert its position as a market-leader on EVs.
Nissan has reaffirmed its commitment to performance cars with the impending arrival of the new Zed and the promise of a successor to the aging GT-R. What it has confirmed is if it will finally give the Nismo brand the care and attention it deserves. Few performance brands have as much brand recognition and heritage as Nismo, yet it has only been used sparingly and sporadically by Nissan in the past.
The Juke Nismo was arguably the right car (arguably poorly executed) at the wrong time. With the upcoming arrival of the Hyundai Kona N and Volkswagen T-Roc R, it seems the market has shifted to embrace high-riding hot hatches.
The same is also true of the ute market, as mentioned earlier, so a Navara Nismo would also be a timely addition, sitting above the Navara PRO4-X and competing against the Ford Ranger Raptor, Volkswagen Amarok W580, and incoming Toyota GR HiLux and Mitsubishi Triton Ralliart.
Then there’s the Patrol Nismo, which was unveiled for the Middle East region earlier this year. It packs a 320kW V8 engine and even gets upgraded aerodynamics and suspension to ensure it deserves the ‘Nismo’ badge. It too could help Nissan Australia attract new customers, given our love of high-performance SUVs in the country.
Hybrid power has reached wider acceptance in Australia, as demonstrated by Toyota and the boom of the RAV4 Hybrid. Nissan has its own hybrid powertrain set-up, and it’s actually a step ahead of what Toyota offers.
In simple terms, in the Toyota hybrid system the electric motor supports the petrol engine, whereas with e-Power, the petrol engine supports the electric motor. Nissan claims this allows the petrol engine to run more efficiently whilst still providing the security of internal combustion if you need to take a longer trip.
Nissan Australia has made no secret of its interest in e-Power but hasn’t confirmed when and which model it will arrive in. The most likely outcome is both the Qashqai and new X-Trail will offer an e-Power option by the end of 2022.