FEATURE STORIES

Nissan Shifts Towards Southeast Asia

Nissan Shifts Towards Southeast Asia image

Text: Brent Co / Photos: Brent Co | posted November 15, 2007 00:00

An interview with Nissan LCV Boss Dr. Andy Palmer

Nissan as a brand has gone through a major overhaul in the recent years, under the helm of Carlos Ghosn who has steered Nissan back to its competitive edge in the Japanese, European and North American markets. More recently Mr. Ghosn has set his sights at the re-emerging post financial crisis ASEAN market. Nissan's turnaround in the Philippines was with the X-Trail for Nissan Motor Philippines Inc. (NMPI) when it was first introduced backed with the changed in corporate image of its dealerships as the beginning of a new direction for the company. UMC on the other hand didn't have it too easy, as they had the challenge of creatively marketing a handful of seasoned vehicles against new models from competing manufacturers. Despite the handicap, UMC still managed a remarkable job selling the Patrol, Frontier, and Urvan. Well enough to be noticed, and identified as a market with huge potential by Nissan Global.

Dr. Andy Palmer, Corporate Vice President of Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., Program Director for its Global Light Commercial Vehicle Business Unit, and President of Nissan Light Truck Co., Ltd., is a believer in this potential. His credentials like his enthusiasm do not stop there. Dr. Palmer's LCV Business Unit has been identified as one of the four breakthroughs under Nissan's three-year Value-Up business plan, exceeding the sales target a year ahead.

The Philippine automotive market is a very feasible market because Filipinos love their vehicles. They accessorize, show them off and take very good care of them. Owning a car is actually given bigger importance than owning a home in this unique market. In a developing country like ours, LCVs are the main market movers despite seemingly being boring vehicles compared to exciting cars such as the recently unveiled GT-R supercar and the 350Z roadster.

UMC has been doing a remarkable job addressing this, with its Frontier pick-up truck being a consistent seller in its market segment. Their flagship LCV, the Patrol has also been enjoying a good amount of sales in the SUV segment. But the most brilliant campaign yet, would be the "Ur Van Ur Business" program, which promotes entrepreneurship with the Nissan Urvan as a self-liquidating asset (being used in a shuttle business). Being aged in the automotive industry is not exactly a good thing as the market is very dynamic, demanding something new over and over again. Unless of course you're trying to tackle on reliability, age is usually never a consideration in buying an automobile. However, UMC found the perfect formula of reliability and entrepreneurship in this program and sold a considerable number of vans since the start of the campaign. The campaign is so successful that Dr. Palmer wants to adapt this for other emerging markets.

Dr. Palmer's optimism in the Philippine market is a very good sign for the local automotive industry, which will eventually result in expansion of its operations in the country. In Dr. Palmer's exact words, "The Philippines has a lot of room to grow." The eventual result of more exciting models for auto enthusiasts. He also revealed that the long overdue replacement for the Urvan is coming very soon.

He is looking forward to the market reaction to the all-new Nissan Frontier Navara which will official commence sales end of November 2007. Dr. Palmer claims the Navara gives the best value among its competitors, very much in-line with the company's belief of giving the "Best in Total Cost of Ownership" for all its LCVs.

Nissan has also been visibly absent from the hotly contested light trucks segment fought head to head by the Mitsubishi Canter and the Isuzu Elf. Having a good lineup of trucks, which are the Cabstar, Advan, F24 and Atlas 10, Nissan would definitely be a capable challenger in this segment. Dr. Palmer is also looking to develop this segment for the Philippine as well.

The long-term goal of Nissan is to develop the Southeast Asia as a production hub for LCVs, where it started with Thailand for the Navara. Thailand is one of the biggest pick-up truck markets in the world. With his optimism for the Philippine market, there will surely something coming for the local industry soon. Nissan is also looking at environmentally sound LCVs, which will incorporate their new Clean Diesel engine technology. And last but not the least, "LCVs need not be un-sexy," which means we will be seeing more aesthetically appealing Nissan LCVs on our roads in the coming years.

Dr. Palmer also took time to introduce stress on new NV200 concept, which is a brainchild of his. The project design is a combination of revolutionary ideas by the Nissan Design Center (NDC) Japan and Nissan Design Europe in the UK. The concept is aimed at changing the way people will look at the small van segment.

The combination of a dramatic looking front cab and a traditional box-like cargo space creates an emotional looking body unique to the LCV class. The vehicle is reminiscent of a Tailgate Party Machine made from an American SUV by the popular TV series Monster Garage.

The concept displayed at the Tokyo Motor Show is inspired by a professional ocean photographer, where the customizable retractable rear cargo pod houses diving equipment, while the cockpit becomes a mobile office with an integrated computer.